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Share Your Story To Inspire Others

We all have a story to tell encompassing both difficulties and successes.  Sharing your story allows you to write about your experiences and challenges to help encourage others.

Barbara Sanchez

Barbara Sanchez first experienced domestic violence while in a relationship with an old boyfriend who she was dating early in her career as a publicist.  In this industry, you have to get out, network and put your face out there.  However, she found herself staying in and not even seeing her family. While a part of her knew it was an unhealthy life, Barbara made excuses to assure herself that it was actually good.  One night, a previously non-physical existence changed when she mentioned that she had to leave one night to cover an event, drive talent around or something else related to her job.  Her boyfriend didn’t believe her, became extremely angry, physically violent and attacked her. Barbara called 911 and spent the night at the hospital, after learning that she had lost the pregnancy she was in the early stages of.  Between the loss of the baby and words from close family and friends, she knew she had to leave the relationship.  Following this, Barbara vowed to not only keep herself out of violent relationships, but to help other women as well.  She wants women to know their worth and that they are more than their partner.  Barbara has teamed up with organizations like The Bella Foundation to actively commit to ending the cycle of domestic violence.

LaTonya Gaston is an author who started writing after spending time with her sister, who has had a brain tumor for 25 years.  It was the middle of fall, and LaTonya was watching her sister, and when they were together, would ask questions to keep her mind and motor skills sharp.  She asked a specific life experience question that led to her first book.  The question was: “It was almost Christmas time and you do not have a job, but you have six children which are all named after Christmas.  What are you going to do about paying your bills and buying gifts?”  Together, they came up with an interesting story, when LaTonya’s sister dared her to write a book saying “You are not going to write a book” to which she responded, “Yes, I am.”  Thus her first book, “Ring Bells of Joy: It’s Christmas Time Let it Ring” was written.  As a teacher, LaTonya is always telling her students to be aware of the talents they have and how they can be used to motivate or inspire someone.  She also feels that everyone has a talent or dream that can be developed with the help others and your faith to achieve the dream.

Sharifa Raouf

 

Sharifa Raouf is living the American Dream.  She grew up in Afghanistan and left due to the Russian invasion. She traveled through Europe for 3 years and settled temporarily in Frankfurt, Germany.  It was there that she decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer, by studying and working for designers.  In the early 1980s, Sharifa and her family emigrated to the United States, moving to Denver, Colorado.  She started as an assistant designer with Anne Barge, designing custom garments.  When she and her husband moved to California in 1985, along with two young children, Sharifa enrolled in Diablo Valley College to earn her degree in Fashion Design, which she did in 1989.  She continued her education with classes at FIDM.  Between contacts and her resume, Sharifa became the designer for the California Miss USA beauty pageant, where she created custom garments for the contestants, which continued until 2006. In 2006, upon leaving the Miss USA Pageant system, Sharifa created her own design house, The House of Couture in Walnut Creek, California.  At The House of Couture she designs and creates beautiful bridal and evening gowns, as well as men’s suits.  She also offers sewing classes both in person and virtually. Sharifa is a perfect example of having the dreams and making them a reality.

Cathy Marshall has overcome low self-esteem and abuse throughout her life, until only a few years ago, when through professional counseling, she realized what had led to it.  As the second oldest child out of 13, she and her older brother, Fred, were the “adult children” meaning that they were the ones responsible for taking care of the younger siblings when their parents were not home.  Cathy learned to put her wants and needs aside to take care of her siblings.  As a child, she didn’t understand the dynamics of relationships, and unfortunately ended up accepting emotional and physical abuse in relationships.  She would give her all to close friends and family members, but didn’t receive the same back.  Today, Cathy is happy, confident, resilient and courageous.  She is a survivor and proud of all she has accomplished.  She is a mother of five, entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and registered nurse.  Cathy created her “I LOVE ME” inspirational hoodies, to help inspire others to love themselves first and foremost from the inside out, because there is only one you on the planet and you are a masterpiece!

Tiffany Marler

 

Tiffany Marler was born and raised in Kirkwood, Missouri, a suburb of Saint Louis.  When she was 6 years old, her parents divorced, due to a man who entered their lives, and molested and trafficked Tiffany and other children. When she was 10, Tiffany told her parents, but they didn’t know what to do and did what they felt was the right thing at the time.  Her father hid her and her older sister, and due to his own issues, prevented her from seeing her mother.  According to Tiffany, the sins of the parents can be turned upon the children, which does not always mean actions, but in many cases, it’s what is taught with words and actions.  She moved back in with her mother in her junior year of high school when her past caught up with her.  After being back for a year, Tiffany was again raped during her senior year.  With no family support, she decided that she needed structure and joined the Navy as the 4th generation to join the military, becoming a Hospital Corpsman. Due to an ice storm, no family was there to watch her graduate boot camp.  Over Liberty weekend, Tiffany went out with some of her Navy “brothers,” who raped her in the back of a limousine.  The Senior Chief told her to take a shower and not talk about it when she returned to the “ship” or a.k.a. Building 1 on Recruit Training Camp, Great Lakes, Illinois. This incident led her to thinking that women were meant to be used and abused, and that there was nothing she could do about it.  Tiffany struggled with alcoholism and prescription drug abuse following multiple injuries and this eventually led to her collapse into more powerful street drugs.  In 2000, she met up with her son’s father who abused her domestically, until she said “no more”, when her son was 2 and a half in September 2004.  Her son was her saving grace.  Tiffany joined counseling and support groups, and had multiple surgeries to repair her medical injuries, including several near death experiences.  She stayed clean and sober for 8.5 years until she met someone she had known in high school, who had his eye on her for a while.  They married, but he was another abuser and trafficker.  Tiffany soon reached a point when she said enough is enough and escaped him in 2015, and securely divorced him in 2017.  Since this last experience, Tiffany has been fighting for justice and restoration of the judiciary process, working to eliminate the issues with victim shaming and blaming. She is a voice to end the narrative where traffickers and abusers have a say in the victim experience, but victims do not.  Tiffany created her nonprofit, Nomoretears21:4, to be able to have a voice in states where gag orders, along with corruption in all levels of the police and government prevent victims from expressing themselves.  She writes poetry and novels, and speaks and advocates for those without a voice.  She utilizes the training she received, along with her ability to stay alive during her horrible situations, to help others do the same.  As Tiffany states, “This is a Fight for our Freedom from our own families selling us and our loved ones doing this to us. This is what I fight everyday and it is a dangerous Evil we fight!”  Tiffany is definitely a survivor and uses her knowledge to help others do the same.

 

Norma Walker has put her personal experience to work in her career.  As a young adult, she was directly involved with her father’s care when he was having kidney issues and required dialysis on a regular basis.  She would bring him to the facility and put him on dialysis prior to his kidney transplant.  Using this experience, Norma started working in a nursing home as a Certified Resident Assistant and Certified Dietary Aid.  Today, she serves as a dietary aid for an assisted living facility where she is directly involved in preparing resident meals, serving the residents, reminding residents to take their medications and trains new assistants.  Through her personal experience, Norma guides the new assistants in their careers and shows that it is a rewarding job. 

Tracy Burch

Tracy Burch was raised in Detroit, the heart of Motown.  From a young age, she was taught to be positive in everything she attempted and not to let anything or anyone interfere with her success, regardless of the challenges or obstacles.  This education from her mother was brought home, when in college, Tracy was in a serious car accident that required a neck fusion to prevent paralysis.  Unfortunately the accident forced her to drop out of school as she needed to take time to heal from both the accident and surgery.  When she was healed, Tracy put her education back as a priority and went back to school for social work to counsel youth as she wanted to utilize her personal experiences as a teenage victim of bullying to guide others in the right direction and away from gang violence and drugs.  Although finances blocked her from pursuing this dream, she decided to go in another direction by becoming a substitute teacher as she had the credits.  Tracy is currently laid off from teaching due to the pandemic and hopes it will end soon.  She still hopes to work on her social work degree as she feels that you should never give up on your dreams. Tracy writes inspirational books to help others by providing guidance.  According to her, if you put in the work and make things happen by maintaining a positive attitude, even in the midst of hardships, you will triumph.

Sakimah Coleman was a normal young woman in her early 20s and attending nursing school when her life changed completely.  School became too difficult to manage.  She started trusting no one and believed that the government and her family were conspiring against her.  She thought that the government had planted cameras and listening devices all over her home and tracking devices in her tooth fillings while at the dentist so they could track her wherever she went.  Sakimah was sure that her family was sending information about her to the government as well.  She progressed so far that she was forced to drop out of nursing school and put her life on hold.  When she was finally diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, Sakimah found out she was pregnant with her second child and was already the mother of a six year old daughter.  Her boyfriend was concerned about her, and asked if she was sure if she wanted to bring a new baby into the situation, but she was sure she wanted to.  However, when he offered to bring food over for her to satisfy any pregnancy cravings, she would turn it down as she was concerned about being poisoned.  She was not on any medications during the pregnancy as they were not sure what the meds might do to her unborn baby.  Soon after their daughter was born, she was officially diagnosed with a mental illness called Delusional Disorder, but that diagnosis was soon after changed to Paranoid Schizophrenia by a different doctor who delved deeper into her thoughts and behaviors.  Sakimah started attending weekly group therapy and tried many different medications.  She finally found one she could take without making her feel like a zombie. This one was called Invega Sustenna.  With two young children and a boyfriend, later turned husband, to take care of, she needed a medication that would allow her to function normally.  After a few months on the medication, Sakimah started to feel like her old self and her mind started to come back.  Following years of staying inside due to her illness, she was ready to take her life back.  While she wanted to go back for her nursing degree, her husband felt she should take it slow and start with a nurse’s aide program to be sure she could handle it again.  She did and soon earned her nurse-aid certification.  Following this, Sakimah took the prerequisites needed and was accepted into a nursing program.  She feels like she is finally where she wants to be with her life and is moving forward with her dream of becoming a nurse.  Sakimah has also written a book about her story and her experiences of living with mental illness.

Erica Stouffer

 

Erica Stouffer has been fighting for her life almost since the day she was born.  She, her twin sister and adoptive brother were fortunate as their adoptive mother treated them as her own, along with the foster children she cared for and showed a better life.  Much of how Erica survived her later years, from becoming a teenage mother with little income and an absent parental partner, to now as a 34-year-old single mother working full time, came from her mother’s support and perseverance.  From the time she discovered she was pregnant, she relied on her mother to have a roof over their heads while she applied for government assistance and worked towards a better life.  Erica had several health issues while working, going to school and taking care of her daughter, along with issues with her daughter’s father.  Even to this day, she watches her daughter struggle to be okay and has made sure that she has mental health care.  However, until the court truly hears their story and puts a stop to the obstacles that her ex puts in their way, they will never be really okay.  After everything she has experienced, Erica now sits on the opposite side of the desk at the welfare office helping others.  She helps to break the silence, takes a stand for what is right and works to break the cycle of oppression.  She knows that women deserve an equal chance.  Erica also knows that no matter what life throws at you, you have the choice how you react.  In her own words, “Wisdom subconsciously feeds our inner spirit to fight for what we believe in. Motivation strengthens our passion by igniting our inner spirit to activate our energies and compassion to our very soul, which drives each of us, to accomplish anything we want or need.” ~Erica R. Stouffer~

Over the years, Jennifer Shepherd has overcome many adversities and roadblocks along her journey.  She became a teenage mother, when at 19 she gave birth to her daughter and became a victim of domestic violence.  She faced a period of homelessness and received government assistance when her daughter was only 2.  With the support of the Maternal Infant Health Program, Jennifer was provided with support and guidance.  Due to her experiences, she understands the struggles many women and families face daily. While she is humble, grateful and conscious of the person she has become, Jennifer is driven and determined to help others along their way.  She earned her B.S. in Psychology from Wayne State University and is in the process of earning her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Walden University.  Jennifer serves as the Executive Director and Program Coordinator for the Great Start Maternal Infant Health Program and founded the Great Start Foundation in 2017.

Melinda Currul

Melinda Currul was living a traditional life when things unexpectedly changed. She was married and mother to 4 beautiful children, now ages 26, 19, 14 and 12. While her husband was busy building his business, Melinda stayed home raising her children and working part time.  On May 4, 2018, her life changed when her oldest son was severely injured and paralyzed due to a bad fall. While Melinda focused on her son’s recovery, not knowing if he would survive, her husband, unable to run his business and take care of the house, hired a nanny to help with the children.  Soon after, Melinda’s husband started an affair with her and took her on extravagant vacations.  Upon finding out, Melinda moved out and moved in with her childhood best friend, Julie, who was also undergoing a separation after 25 years of marriage. Between the two of them, they had 5 children, were both driving school busses and working part time as estheticians.  They soon realized that this would not pay the bills.  As they were now both single mothers, Melinda and Julie decided to start their own painting business, since both knew about house painting as Julie’s father was a painter.  Utilizing their knowledge and eye for color and décor, they opened Two Moms Painting and have not had a day off since they started!  They now have 5 women working for them and they have added home staging to their repertoire.  Melinda works more on the administrative tasks while Julie concentrates on the painting, supplies and detail work that makes their customers happy.  Melinda’s and Julie’s story proves that you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to and overcome the adversities life might throw at you.

Jacqueline Gates is the epitome of power and resilience. When she was 21, she gave birth to her daughter, Joelle Rosebush, but within six months suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. Unfortunately she suffered many more breakdowns over the years, but kept going with the support of her family. In 1987, Jacqueline’s world was thrown into chaos when her daughter was struck by a car and left in a persistent-vegetative-state for 18 months. The fight to remove her from life support has set precedence for future similar cases. Jacqueline journaled for 20 years and wrote poetry to release her emotions and recently published her book, “Joelle’s Cry for Justice” to help others find the positive side of grief. In 2012, she attended a conference at the Day at the Capital event in Oklahoma where she spoke in front of 500 people, including representative from NAMI and local mental health groups, telling her story. In 2015, Jacqueline was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and has since moved into remission. Her incredible story of survival proves that no matter what you are facing, if you take care of yourself, mind, body and spirit and develop a close support system, you can overcome anything and know that you are not alone in anything you are experiencing.

Joan Enering

Joan Enering is a perfect example of the never give up spirit. She was born a month premature, and was diagnosed at a young age with ADD, ADHD and learning disabilities. Because she struggled in school, both school officials and medical professionals told her parents that she would never finish high school, much less go on to graduate college. Even her parents tried to convince her to drop out! However, that just pushed Joan more and she has truly proven everyone wrong. Joan has earned five college degrees starting with an A.A. in Media Arts, a B.A. in Sociology, an A.S.N, a B.S.N. and a M.S.N! She has been a Certified Reflexologist and a Certified Healing Touch Therapist for over 24 years. Joan has written two books, A Christmas Surprise which is a children’s book and The Innovative Road To Greater Success In Job Hunting And Changing Careers. This from a person who even medical professionals had written off as never being able to finish!

From the time she was young, Lauresa Tomlinson was taught that life is what you make it. She was raised with a very strong sense of faith in herself and in the Creator, who according to her grandmother gave everyone common sense or gut feeling as to what needs to be done. This came into play at the young age of four years old when Lauresa woke up one day not being able to move anything more than her eyes and breathing. Her mother called the doctor and her grandmother. The doctor did an evaluation and determined that there was nothing to be done, but to save for an iron lung within a few months. Her grandmother on the other hand asked if she wanted to play with her friends, with an affirmative answer, she prayed and Lauresa was able to get dressed and run out to play. This power came into play a few years later when, at the age of seven, she again took ill, growing weaker by the day. After tests, the doctor determined that she had leukemia and had maybe six months to live. The only solution the doctor gave to Lauresa’s mother was to remove all salt from her diet. Again, her grandmother stepped in with her faith and prayer, and today, at the age of 72, Lauresa is a mother, grandmother and author of 13 books, with more on the way. She has definitely learned through the years that faith can move mountains and to keep fighting for what you believe in. Lauresa started telling stories at a very early age to entertain the other children in the trailer park. She traveled all over the United States working on jobs. Beyond oral storytelling, she didn’t write anything down until 1995, when she took a writing class while in California. When the teacher asked the students to write a Sci-Fi story at the end of the class, Lauresa was inspired to write the story that she had in her head for over a decade. Originally thinking it would be about five pages, it has now become a trilogy. In addition to writing her own stories, Lauresa enjoys helping others print their stories.

Tisha Dolby

Tisha Dolby is a survivor and overcomer of various life challenges. From birth Tisha was exposed to alcoholism and drug addiction. By the age of five she was enduring child abuse and domestic violence, a cycle of abuse which continued through her mid-20’s. Tisha endured the revolving cycle of being removed and placed back in the abusive situation spending time in various shelters, group homes, and with family members. After aging out of the system she moved in with a family member and fell victim to sexual abuse. Tisha suffered in silence thinking no one would believe her about the situation because she was 18. The sexual abuse only ended once she became pregnant with her first child (not her abuser’s). Tisha went from one abusive relationship to another over the next seven years with each relationship progressively getting more abusive. While carrying her fourth child, she knew things weren’t getting better but worse. Tisha vowed to do what was necessary for her children. She made the decision to raise her children in a single parent home and focus on God, healing, growing and maturing. Tisha began to take the steps to break the cycles that plagued her and her family for years. In 2015, Tisha decided to relocate to California to give her children an opportunity to thrive in their chosen career paths and to give herself a fresh start. She quickly found out that God had a different plan. The transition to California was met with numerous life-altering situations including a 16-month homeless situation, a second cancer scare and being diagnosed with Chronic PTSD. The move allowed her to purge, finish healing and walk with purpose. Tisha believes that God completely removed all things of the old to give her what was always intended for her in the way He intended for her to have it. Prior to moving, Tisha would make excuses for why she couldn’t and shouldn’t do what she was called to do. At the encouragement of her children she stepped out on faith. In 2016, she created her faith-based nonprofit organization Power ~ Passion ~ Purpose Inc. bringing to life the vision that God had preordained for her many years prior. Tisha has dedicated herself to helping others by utilizing her 25 plus years of experience working with various organizations in roles such as mentor, guest speaker, facilitator and support services. She provides a source of relatability for the clientele she serves since she’s been there, which allows the clients to open-up and feel comfortable. Tisha works closely with families, schools, doctors, community partners and local government to provide outcomes, plans and services that will benefit all parties involved. She assists clientele with basic computer skills, job search, training classes, parenting skills, coping with abuse (verbal, emotional, mental, physical and drug), loss of a child and support services. Power ~ Passion ~ Purpose Inc. focuses on love, support and understanding without judgement or condemnation. The company nurtures them through whatever the situation is for as long as it may take.

Shahla Shahmiri has experienced much in her life. She grew up in a small town in Iran, married and immigrated to America. After going through some painful and tough times in her life, Shahla realized there are only two options, stay down and just let life crush you to the ground or dust off the past and keep on moving forward. She realized that her American dream was about the latter and refused to let the negatives affect her dreams. Shahla decided that she was here for a bigger purpose, which was to create a legacy for women just like her who came to America for a better life. She knew that one day she would be speaking in front of thousands of women, and this is what spurred her towards her goal. In writing her book, “Tears of Onion,” Shahla felt that it would reach millions and help others live their dreams by telling the stories of people she has met in her life. Today, she is a cookbook author, mother, health food activist, philanthropist and chef owner of Saffron Girl where she cooks and works with cancer patients while sharing her passion for creating healthy, delicious meals to speed their recovery. Using this platform, Shahla is having a positive impact on the lives of others.

Freedom Alex Burns

Freedom Burns is a survivor and “overcomer,” escaping from domestic abuse, spousal addiction, poverty, homelessness and health issues. The domestic violence and spousal abuse forced her into hiding, the spousal addiction and debt took her savings and forced her into homelessness, her health and medications took her enjoyment of life, but she has overcome. With her faith, and the support of family and friends, Freedom has not allowed these experiences to control her life. Instead she uses them to continue to move forward using her writing skills. Today, Freedom is a creative artist, motivational educator, storyteller and much more. She writes, performs and creates for a wide range of audiences using her expertise as a speaker to coach women into creating their own lives, gain financial freedom and overcome the negatives in their own lives. Freedom has constructed her business and life to meet the needs of people. She strongly believes that life and society is dictated by personal responsibility and strives to provide a public voice to address societal issues. She is a firm believer in paying it forward and living her best life using her faith in God as an anchor.

Carmel Foster

Carmel Foster is the epitome of creating the American Dream. She came to America when married to her ex-husband and was building her dream life when they divorced. Unfortunately, the judge handling her divorce did not provide her with necessary funds to support herself and her daughter. Being resourceful, Carmel became a domestic worker, but soon realized that most immigrants and minorities in these positions were being exploited, working in a modern form of slavery and that their rights were being violated. Instead of employees, these workers were considered independent workers, which meant that they didn’t receive benefits and were not able to use their references to gain better paying positions. As Carmel wasn’t satisfied with just watching this happen to those around her, she created My Character Reference, LLD. Her organization allows workers access to their previous references and as she states is working towards ending the exploitation of workers. Carmel works with her clients and provide them continuing training to move into better paying positions. She also advocates for better support in overlooked industries especially care-giving. Her hope is that through her example, others can have better lives and possibly become entrepreneurs. While My Character Reference is not a nonprofit organization, Carmel aligns with nonprofits to improve the lives of domestic workers and those in other service industries. She truly is an inspiration to those around her.

Wendy C. Ruby

Wendy Ruby followed the typical dreams of motherhood and gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Olivia, on August 17, 1992. Things changed by the time she was 2, when she ran high temperatures with no other symptoms, and all tests were negative with the exception of her platelets being low. By 4 years old, Olivia was diagnosed with both an enlarged liver and spleen. As a parent, Wendy began to do her own research after the hematologist recommended a liver transplant. She contacted a pediatric gastroenterologist who specialized in liver diseases and Olivia was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, Congenital Hepatic Fibrosis and later was treated for Ascending Cholangitis, an infection of the bile ducts and a complication of the original disease. Wendy helped Olivia with her I.V. medications for the next 10 years and her condition stabilized. Unfortunately, due to her disease, Olivia had complications in the 8th month of her pregnancy, when her splenic artery ruptured. While they lost the baby, and Olivia’s spleen was removed, she survived and Wendy is forever grateful for it. As a parent, you never want to see your child in pain, but Wendy has always been there for her daughter, who is definitely a miracle and fighter.

Birgit Barron

Birgit Barron truly embodies empowerment and inspiration. Growing up in a small farming town in Germany, with parents who did not have a lot of money, she was not afforded some of the things many take for granted. Being a girl, she was not able to go to school, become a nurse, or join the military as she wanted. This changed when she married an American soldier and moved to the United States soon after. Birgit became a mother, learned about military life while learning a new language and culture. Earning her driver’s license was her first step to independence, as she had never driven a car prior to this, only motorcycles and farm equipment. She learned everything she could, started working in the Officers Club kitchen and soon moved up to waitressing in the dining room. Unfortunately she was soon divorced due to the stress of being a military wife. She married her second military husband, raised a blended family and joined the Army Reserves, working towards becoming a combat medic. She worked hard and completed several military trainings, earned an A.S. degree and advanced in rank in the military. She was able to spend time with her family, showing her children the benefits of hard work and achieving a better lifestyle. In 2000, Birgit received her citizenship, became a Certified Law Enforcement Officer. After 9/11, and following a second divorce, she continued to grow with the military and became a teacher for new soldiers to become a combat medic. She remarried and her blended family continued to grow. Raising 8 children, she was called for overseas duty, where she was deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan. She earned more promotions and in 2017, after over 24 years, she retired as a Sergeant Major. She is currently working on earning her Doctor of Emergency Management, while also building a small business from home. Birgit is definitely an example of overcoming adversity and is a true inspiration.

Maribel Almeida

Maribel Almeida was diagnosed with Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that caused a rash or urticaria which would not ease no matter what she tried. After realizing that the chemicals in soap affected the irritation, she researched how to make natural soap and started making her own. While she is not cured, Maribel states that her skin became less irritated, itchy and burning, and has more moisture to it. Starting from a medical reason, this has become a passion and now she makes soaps, lotions and body scrubs for people who prefer only natural ingredients in their skin care products. Maribel sells her products to doctors, plastic surgery nurses and estheticians, who sell them to their clients. According to her, the person who became her inspiration is Kimberly McNutt who uses essential oils in her soap recipes, which really work. Maribel wants to inspire other women to make their dreams and passions come true, bring them to life and celebrate them.

Sarah J. Graves

Sarah Graves was born with Hydrocephalus and as an adult was told that doctors never expected her to live to see her 5th birthday. She turned 41 in December 2018 and has a daughter, Laney (aka Jellybean). In an effort to leave a bad living situation, Sarah and Laney created Jellybean’s Fizzy Bombs, LLC. They made bath bombs, soaps and candles. In July 2018, just a month after starting the business, Sarah got sick and was not able to make her products while waiting for brain surgery, so she started stringing beads, which added jewelry to her business. In February 2019, she was recovered enough to start rebuilding the business and they have now added sugar scrubs, whipped soap, bath salts, scented candles, bath bombs, bar soap, jewelry and wax melts. They are in the process of adding lip balm and other items soon. Everything is made with love and by hand and is dedicated to giving back 20% of all profits to charity, including handing out food and water to the homeless. Sarah states that everything she does is for her daughter, and the business is her legacy. She has become the official event planner for Benefit Hub USA in the state of Maryland, which is an organization that supports families with a terminally ill member of all ages. Between Jellybean’s Fizzy Bombs and Benefit Hub USA, Sarah is giving back in a new way and with new ventures.

Barbara Steingas

After graduating college, Barbara Steingas was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which is deemed to be an incurable autoimmune illness of the intestinal tract. After following the traditional prescribed medication regime for several years, and weighing a mere 80 pounds with severe vaginal-rectal abscesses, she found a different process to piece her way back to health mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Barbara has been off medication over 15 years now, and is enjoying renewed health, happiness and joy. Now she helps others find their missing pieces to living a fully radiant life. However, along the way, Barbara endured two more major challenges: the deaths of both her husband and fiancé. After the second loss, she felt like she wouldn’t be able to continue her mission, but instead used the knowledge and skills from her past experiences to pull through these horrific life events and arduous grieving. As a result, Barbara knows she has the ability to help others heal from the pain of losses and life’s challenges.

Heather Potter

Growing up in Fort Lonesome, Florida, as the youngest of 7 children, Heather Potter did not lack in strong female presence in her life. Between her mother, step-mother, aunt and older sister, she learned about having a good work ethic and following her religious beliefs. She married her high school sweetheart, and at the age of 19 had her first child. She went to college to earn her A.S. in Criminal Justice, but realized that being a mother was where her heart was. As her children ages, and her daughter started her senior year of high school, Heather realized that she now wanted to go back to work. Having no work history for 18 years, she was having trouble, when her husband reminded her about her experience with odds and ends jobs she enjoyed doing and suggested she start her own business. Thus Handyman Task Force Services LLC was born. Heather started by mowing lawns and has since done lawn care and landscaping, home repairs, exterior and interior painting and paving installation. She truly does it all. Heather is an example of truly being able to live your dreams, especially with a strong support system by your side. She knows there is nothing she won’t be able to accomplish!

Angela Foxworth

As a young girl, Angela Foxworth held many of the same dreams and goals of most girls her age. In high school, she was voted Most Popular (the first black student to earn this honor), second black homecoming queen and the first black female to become a Key mascot. Like most of her classmates, she was headed to college with big dreams, which included becoming the next Oprah Winfrey. However, after her second year of college, Angela got pregnant, and had to drop out of college as she soon became a single mother of a young boy. In an effort to provide a better life for her son, Angela moved away from her family in Jacksonville, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia. She soon met her husband and gave birth to her daughter. Like many women, Angela shifted her life from furthering her dreams to becoming a mother, housewife, PTA parent and employee. After 20 years, she realized that things were not moving forward. After being laid off from her corporate job, her marriage was struggling and so were her children. This caused Angela to have a breakdown, which also led to her vision of a better life and her dreams were reinstated. She followed the dream and today is working to educate, motivate and prove to others that they can do the same. From single mother to hosting her own talk/radio shows, The Angela Foxworth Show, Hot Wife Hot Life and Unzipped Conversations – Unleashing the Naked Truth, from housewife to Mrs. Georgia Woman US Majesty 2019, from laid off employee to co-author of Real Talk, an Intimate Discussion of Life, Love and Relationships and The Pain Behind a Smile, Angela Foxworth proves that anyone can change their lives, pick up and live their dreams and change the world for the better as well.

Melissa Malzahn

Melissa Malzahn is the description of a survivor, having survived 2 marriages with domestic violence and addiction. In her first marriage, she was addicted to drugs, but quit when she married for the 2nd time. During her second marriage, she became addicted to alcohol, but quit drinking in 2006, and has been sober ever since. She was married to her second husband for 20 years. Her husband, who was also an alcoholic, died in 2013 after developing complications from pneumonia. She founded her 501c3 organization, Reclaiming You Inc. to fight homelessness, domestic violence and addiction. Melissa is working on improving her life and those of others in similar situations by returning to school. She has almost completed her B.A. in Human Services specializing in child and family welfare and is only 6 classes away from earning a M.S. in Human Services specializing in organizational and social services. She hopes to show others that no matter what your situation, you can improve your life.

Sonya Williamson

Sonya Williamson was born disabled, with Hydrocephalus of the brain and legally blind. As a child, she was always in and out of hospitals, and has undergone 9 brain surgeries to date. Knowing she could become fully blind at any time, by 8 years old, Sonya decided to learn how to play multiple instruments by muscle memory and as she got older, spent 10 years traveling the United States playing concerts whenever and wherever she could. She made people smile and happy with her music, which also made her happy. In her 30’s, she got married and felt like she was finally living a normal life, where others didn’t see her daily struggle. Unfortunately, on her 40th birthday, Sonya was diagnosed with further conditions, Fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and Lupus due to the multitude of medications she had been on for most of her life. Her doctors told her that there was nothing she could do, changed her medications and instead of listening to her when she said she felt worse, just kept increasing the doses of the medications. She was told that her only option was to stop moving, stay home and be put in a wheelchair for the paralysis she was experiencing. However, Sonya knew there had to be a better answer. Not long after, she was introduced to CBD in the form of a salve, which she used on her hands. This rub helped within 5 minutes and the pain eased dramatically. She tried to play guitar for the first time in years, and did so with no pain! She started using CBD in various forms, and within a short time had regained the use of her legs, started working out and eliminated all of the prescription medications she was on. Sonya switched doctors as her previous ones were not happy with her taking the CBD, even though she was getting better. Her blood tests showed that she had put her Lupus into remission; she had no more seizures or paralysis. She has regained her life.

Sarah Benezue

Growing up in a small town in southern Mississippi, Sarah Benezue was abused as a child, but couldn’t say anything, due to being related to just about everyone. At 19 and pregnant, she earned her AAS in x-ray technology, where she went from job to job prior to discovering ultrasound, which became her passion. She began marketing a chain of Outpatient Imaging Centers, until 1996, when she began to notice symptoms such as extreme fatigue and numbness. Sarah was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at this time. As she was unable to work full time, she opened a nail salon, which unfortunately closed soon after. When she went back to work full time, she started to perform echo’s but again was hit with extreme fatigue. She was then diagnosed with Systemic Lupus, which also caused diabetes. Unfortunately, this diagnoses placed her in a nursing home on hospice for 4 years. Sarah moved into an assisted living facility for 6 years, but while there, felt like she wasn’t meant to be there. She felt like there was more that she should be doing for the greater good of those around her, and in the residence, she was not able to. In 2014, Sarah moved into her own apartment and went into remission. However, after being placed on long term steroids for the lupus and MS, she had realized that she had gained 200 pounds. When she looked in the mirror and realized that she didn’t know who she was any more, Sarah went through everything in her kitchen cabinets and realized that everything was processed with high fructose corn syrup, which bodies don’t process well, and which turns to fat immediately. As she loves sauces, especially ketchup and bbq sauce, Sarah started experimenting and created her own with no added sugars, no corn syrup and no high fructose corn syrup, and started her company J & L Sauces. Through using these sauces and healthy eating in general, she has lost 186 pounds and is no longer considered diabetic. She has used her personal experiences to help others change their lives as well. One thing she has seen from her own life is that no matter what you have been through, giving up is not an option. If you want it, you can do it.

Selera Perryman

Selera Perryman has overcome much in her life to be successful. She grew up living with her single mother and sister, with an absentee father. She was molested as a child, and a single mother at the age of 16. By the time she was 22, Selera already had 4 children with 3 different fathers, including a set of twins. Much like her mother, she worked 2 to 3 jobs in order to provide for her children. She often gave her own portions to her children to be sure that they always had enough to eat and not go to bed hungry. Several years later, Selera moved to Californina, with her 5 children, having divorced her husband, and father of her youngest. Soon after living there, she got sick and ended up in a coma, where her mother stayed with her while in the hospital. It was there that Selera discovered her calling to be an evangelist, even though she originally refused to accept it. It was while recovering from her coma that she learned that she first had to love herself and forgive herself for what had happened as a child, and forgiving those who had hurt her in life. She learned what true love is and learned to accept herself and own up to her mistakes. A short while later, Selera met her mentor, Judy Jacobs, who inspired her in many ways. It was she who convinced her to write a book about her experiences, even though she was a high school drop out. Selera started writing, and her story has since been published. This was the start of her desire to empower other single mothers and young children to follow their dreams and encourage them to be themselves. Selera founded Face to Face Ministries, Inc, which is a 501c3 organization and has become a publisher, coach, trainer, and speaker with the John C. Maxwell Team. In her own words: “If you could see it, I know you could achieve it now.”

Merry Citoli

Merry Citoli is an award winning singer/songwriter who is now developing a children’s music and game app. The idea was started due to her own journey of low self-esteem that was precipitated by an abusive childhood and alcoholic father. After years of challenges in the music industry, she never quite felt like she fit in as her music was very whimsical with a unique and magical side, something that didn’t quite fit into the mainstream. Like many middle aged women, Merry developed anxiety and insomnia at menopause and was put on a benzodiazepine after over a month with no sleep. Also, like many, she was never well informed about the potential side effects and dependencies this medication came with. After just a couple of months on the medication, Merry started getting odd infections and other symptoms. Not one single doctor she saw suggested it might be from the medication. She went from one doctor to the next until she was nearly skeletal from what she was told was a parasitic infection. She incurred a skull fracture at one point from dehydration and ended up out on the streets as she had to wait close to a year to get any sort of help from disability as she was totally unable to work. Her health journey went on for nearly two decades before she found a compounding pharmacist who helped her get off of the medication. The withdrawal was worse than coming off heroin, and she was not prepared for the other harsh realities that the drug had caused. It left her with two more concussions, cognitive difficulties, balance issues, tight painful muscles, electrical pains, nerve damage and a number of other challenges even with being off the medication for over two years. During her recovery, she found that thousands of other people in online support groups were suffering with the same challenges from the drug and the medical community in general just wasn’t listening to any of them. She started a non-profit called The Follow Your Bliss Foundation, where she educates the public on how to get off these medications and what they will be up against with her blogs and videos. She is currently healing herself with a Ketogenic Diet, TM and yoga and working on her new passions. Broken and discouraged during her withdrawal from the drug, and after years of rejection from the mainstream music community, she wrote a trilogy of animated musicals for families. She wanted to do something to not only entertain, but to inform people about the dangers involved with taking some of these medications. In the process, she felt that giving children the kind of positive reinforcement that she never received in childhood, might be a way to change how the next generation of children interacts and socializes in a new way. Her music is about self- empowerment and creating a new world for ourselves and future generations that is compassionate and just. The children’s app she is currently creating, is designed to teach children self-empowerment through an interactive virtual reality platform and by engaging them with magic characters who teach the power of Abjurer. An Abjurer is one who embraces their own personal empowerment by going through a self-mastery, apprenticeship program that is taught by these magical characters. They lead the apprentice through levels and lands that teach transformative habits and use magical songs and stories as rewards. Merry feels that if children develop good lifestyle habits early in life and deal with their root issues, they can avoid needing to lean on other substances from years of burying un-recognized pain and self destructive behavior patterns that can begin early in life.

Cheryl Kinney

Cheryl Kinney is a former rape victim, who took 3 and a half years to heal from the trauma. By using her belief in God and his healing power, Ms. Kinney helps others find courage, heal the scars and recover from their own trauma. In her words, “Where does Courage come from? An inner strength and that inner strength can only come from God.” She had to stand before a judge and protect herself from her perpetrator. She faced scrutiny but stood with courage and has four beautiful children all serving the Lord today, and her daughter and son in law are in ministry, but it was not an easy road and as a single mom, it took courage. If you break down the word COURAGE, you get “Called Out Under Righteous Anger for Good to Emerge.” Can anger be used for good? To bring change? Yes, it can to help someone through their trauma. If directed in the right direction to inspire and help others heal. There is strength in numbers in healing, in women bonding together to not only overcome but heal. Ms. Kinney’s story is probably some other woman’s story maybe many, but they will overcome with God’s love caring and support. She states that she is not an overcomer. She is a business professional who writes beautiful poetry and runs a Home Décor/ Interior Design business, doveworld373, for 8 years now. Ms. Kinney was a model in her church for 5 years for the community fashion shows that were set up to bring women together. She has received modeling certificates for her years of service. She has also earned 2 degrees in business. Ms. Kinney wants women to know that God wants them safe, He wants them smart and he wants them to Succeed. “When you put down an anchor its steady’s the boat to a dock.” According to her, the Anchor to your soul is “Christ’ and he will steady you through the storm of Trauma and not only heal you, but help you inspire others. She wrote two poems “The Art of Apology” because you must forgive for your healing and the “Journey” even though you may have gone through the Journey of trauma you can inspire others. As she states: Dream Big on your Journey. You can change the world one life at a time. Be empowered to succeed.

Kerri Ledoux

Kerri Ledoux created a new business called Heart InSouls during a time of intense grief, pain and darkness, following the loss of her son, Johnny, in a car accident. During these times, she turned to scripture and God’s promises to guide her. Within His word, she found the inspiration and comfort she needed to not only survive this difficult time, but to thrive as “God works all things together for His good…” Romans 8:28 Heart InSouls are for the Believer who knows the power of God’s word and wants to literally stand on His truths. Made out of genuine goat skin, each insole is imprinted with a scripture, designed to serve as a daily reminder of God’s promises. As Heart InSouls desires to be more than another profit-driven contributor to the massive economy of consumer footwear, a percentage of all proceeds will be donated to the LiveLikeJohnny Organization, the 501(c)3 namesake organization for the Heart Insouls founder’s son, Johnny Callan. The mission of the LiveLikeJohnny Organization is to support the engagement of at-risk, underserved and often times overlooked young people who have the potential for personal and professional success. The faith based approach is designed to ignite the passion for living an extraordinary life…just like Johnny.

Nicole Badrudeen

Ms. Nicole Badrudeen is an entrepreneur and author of The Gorgeous Skin Handbook. She wrote the book and built an automated sales and marketing system to market and sell it. She has started building similar systems for other businesses and wants to give back to the world through her social missions, which include teaching girls about sexual violence and helping those in need. As she states: “Life has given me a second chance and it is my duty to give back.” Ms. Bardudeen used cocaine and pills and suffered from depression. She even tried to commit suicide at 17. She states that she didn’t think big, was a dermatologic and plastic surgery medical assistant. She earned a GED and never finished college. With this history, she accepted defeat and felt that she would never amount to much. Three years ago, Nicole hit rock bottom when her lifestyle caught up with her and she lost everything. She sat in her bathroom, contemplating suicide, thinking that she was out of options and her only option was death. However, soon after, she discovered entrepreneurship, and her life was changed. Ms. Badrudeen started learning new skills and building her dreams. This has shown her a new way to think and live. Entrepreneurship is all about mindset, and she realized that she would never reach her goals if she didn’t change every aspect of her life, and she started to do so and continues to do so today. While she sometimes gets insecure or scared talking about her past, Nicole ultimately knows it will inspire others to change theirs as well. Too many people are scared of the unknown, feel they are shackled to their fears, insecurities and past. She wants everyone to know that they are not! No matter how hard their goals or “dream life” may seem, it is within reach.

Connie A. De La Rosa

As a member of a religious youth group, Ms. De La Rosa remembers visiting convalescent hospitals to sing and spend time with the elder patients at least once a week and she enjoyed it a lot. Bringing a smile to someone who had little to no visitors made her feel good and she knew that her journey would involve helping others feel good by showing compassion, love and giving them the most valuable aspect in a elders world, “time”. Growing up in a single mother home taught Ms. De La Rosato be a lot like her mother, who exemplified discipline, hard work, integrity and helping out your neighbor. Her neighborhood consisted of many single moms who all lived in low income apartments that were owned by the Housing Authority. Her mom worked in a packing house as a grader and always pushed Connie to live a better life, owning her home and have a job that paid well with benefits. She decided to be a Social Worker and knew that she had to get into the Welfare Department. She worked her way up from Clerical, Supervisor in Clerical then Benefits Specialist. During her employment, Connie’s mother became very ill with COPD and she had to care of her in her home. There were many visits to the hospital, convalescent, back home, etc. Ms. De La Rosa become frustrated with not understanding the kind of care her mother needed and if those needs were being met by professionals, was overwhelmed and required much attention. Once her mother passed, in 1991, she decided to work harder and become a Social Worker so that she could learn more about medications, rights, and know the resources to help others whether they had a similar situation to hers or not. After becoming a Social Worker III for several years, Ms. De La Rosa retired at age 50 and started her business in helping families find the right kind of care and offer guidance, resources, etc. This is much of what she needed during the time she cared for her mother. Her found passion and experience has joyfully led her to assist families (with no costs involved) in finding the right care home such as tours, background checks and follow up visits to ensure the care for their loved one is provided.

AC Moon

Born and raised in the off grid isolated mountains of Northern California, A.C. Moon early on developed a strong love for plants, nature, helping people and creating things. With the help of her cancer ridden survivalist mother, she learned quickly about the botanical resources around us and the drive it takes to make it in this world. After many years of living on her own and traveling to cities where the cancers of the world condemned society most, she started Harvest Moon Munchies Co., (a legal organic medical Cannabis Bakery) by age 21 and dedicated huge amounts of time to advocating for the health benefits of cannabis. As she attended college she lived off the grid, raising her son alone and often traveling for business. She managed to obtain a degree in Environmental Horticulture with a minor in Forestry studies and applied them to the newly evolving medical cannabis industry. By age 25, she had a professional growers permits and was working as a partner to cannabis collectives in California. She also began writing for advocacy groups and attending events that would later pave the way for an exciting life in the industry. Through years of battles in the constantly changing society of legal cannabis, Ms. Moon decided to try her real dreams at becoming an inventor and innovator. She began this journey with her first patent pending invention Croptopsgreenhouses.com. Her instant popup greenhouse has been featured in several magazines and events for Botany and is only one of the many innovations she hopes to create and evolve to help people grow in diverse environmental conditions. A.C. Moon speaks out that even helping save one lemon tree in your yard without a garbage bag, is worth it to the planet. (Please grow Organically!) More recently, AC Moon was voted one of Skunk Magazines “Women of Weed”, obtained several certifications and continues to offer her services in her co-ownership and partnership with Golden Blaze Consulting Inc. of Northern California. In this consulting venture, she helps newly legal companies, brand, market, innovate and grow organically a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to cannabis commerce in all ways. She also continues to work on gaining investors and partners for her inventions and continues her work as both a student and teacher in several fields from cooking to creations. Her passion and drive for helping people diversify, reach for their dreams and never give up will hopefully encourage others past fears and let them know… “Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, passion is the fuel to catch your dreams on fire….”

Devshree Golecha

Ms. Golecha started her journey at the age of 17 as a door-to-door sales person selling bank accounts in the scorching heat of Mumbai, India. With her inability to speak good English, she had a hard time convincing customers at the bank, so her manager thought she would be better off sourcing customers in the field. She was driven, passionate and persistent and, with her hard work, managed to outperform all other sales people to become the Best Sales Person across all bank branches in India. She kept her journey going and in no time, she landed a job with Citibank as an NRI Customer Executive. Ms. Golecha’s career was going well until she realized she was not good enough for the job as she did not have an MBA. Her peers would often criticize her for the lack of a good Master’s degree. She worked hard to pursue an MBA and ranked 21st nationally on her entrance test and went to one of the top B-Schools in India. Her placement post MBA was one of the highest packages at the campus. After getting married, Ms. Golecha moved to the US, leaving her high paying job as a Commercial Banker in India. As she came to the US on a dependent visa, she was not allowed to work. Her husband was very supportive and motivating. With his suggestions and her own desire to bring her life back on track, she decided to volunteer her time as a Research Assistant at the University of Chicago. She also volunteered at a Risk Management company. During that time, her husband introduced the concept of ‘Six Sigma’ to her and recommended she study for the Green Belt certification. She had just given birth to her baby and thought it was a great idea to use the time at home and started preparing for the exam. She was so intrigued by principles of Six Sigma, the rigor and discipline of this methodology made her so excited that she decided to make a career in this field. She cleared her exam and became a Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Ms. Golecha started working as a Process Engineer with a major Insurance company, leading enterprise wide process improvement and optimization projects. After spending several years optimizing business processes, and having gained substantial experience, she pursued the path of Black Belt and earned certification by ASQ (The Global Voice of Quality) as a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt. Currently, Ms. Golecha works at United Healthcare as a Six Sigma Black Belt driving millions of dollars in benefits to the organization and coaching Green Belts. She calls herself a Process Psychologist as it gives her immense pleasure to listen to customers and fix their business processes by making them lean and effective.

Charlean Maxwell

Ms. Maxwell was born in Los Angeles, California, moved to Sacramento and now resides in Rancho Cordova. She loves helping others and is a kindhearted person. She is a very dedicated person and does not like to give up. Ms. Maxwell never takes life for granted because it’s not promise. If she can’t do something, she will learn how. Not long ago, she suffered with pneumonia for 7 months, which made it hard to do things like walk, talk, and breathe on her own. She was basically was just existing, but she never gave up. She kept pushing herself and every day she prayed that she would overcome and she did. Ms. Maxwell still has some issues and challenges, but she does not let that get her down. She loves to dance and was not able to do that at that time. She was really stuck in a hard place in her life. She got an awaking by God through her body and it was deep. Ms. Maxwell kept telling herself that when she recovered, she would get out of bed. She had faith and recovered. She enrolled in a dance class at Studio Urban Dance Academy where she found hope and security. Dance was an escape for her, which was a good thing. Ms. Maxwell wants young women to know that despite hardship in your life you can reach for the stars. She continuously expresses her thanks to Helen, her mentor, Miss Alison, her teachers at Studio T Urban Dance Academy, her mother for pushing her to be the best, and her son Tyler for all of their support.

Sundra Michele Bauman

Ms. Bauman is the CEO, Proprietor and Director of Shellie’s Early Start Learning Centers, well established grade an nursery schools in Phoenix, Arizona. After working in a variety of industries, she founded her first daycare center in 1998, following a cancer diagnosis the year before. She refused to let her diagnosis defeat her and decided to open up the center feeling she had a positive influence on youth. Ms. Bauman wanted to be able to work from home and be available to her own children. Since 1998, she has opened a total of 4 schools dedicated to children ages infant through 12 years old. The school’s mission statement is to seek to be a leader in providing high quality, focused early education for the whole child. She strives to engage and inspire parents, students and the broader community toward a deeper understanding of the wonders of childhood. Ms. Bauman’s focus is on delivering excellence in childcare for the children, staff and surrounding community in a nurturing environment where the uniqueness of each child is recognized, respected and children are learning, growing and safe.

Fern Mehler

When Fern Mehler was growing up in the Bronx, all the kids, boys and girls, would play together on the streets; marbles, bottle caps, Acey/Deucy (handball against the wall but the ball had to first bounce on the ground before it hit the wall). There was only one rule. You couldn’t go home crying because a girl (or boy) beat you at a game. Everyone who played had a chance of winning. Her family moved to Queens when she was 13 and still wanted to play handball with the boys, but was told by girlfriends that, if she played with the boys, she had to let the boys win. “Why?” she innocently asked. “Because they’re boys.” they answered, as if it were the most logical answer in the world. Well, that didn’t work for her then and it still doesn’t. Ms. Mehler started out in college as an actress. In fact, she has a master’s degree in Theatre. While working on her advanced degree and trying to get acting jobs, she worked in a bank. At 28, Fern realized that acting was not the money making field she thought it would be, so she reluctantly took banking seriously and began working full time for Citibank. She had became a sales person, selling mortgage products. In 1988, the mortgage crisis hit New York and it seems that she was personally responsible for all of the bad mortgage loans in Citibank’s portfolio. At that point she felt that she needed to change her life and get out of banking. At 35, Ms. Mehler went back to school at night and became an attorney. She presently work for a large law firm in Manhattan, specializing in residential real estate. Her newest adventure is as a board member of W.A.R.E., Women Attorneys in Real Estate, a new group of women attorneys practicing in New York who specialize in real estate. They are establishing a network of women attorneys to collaborate, mentor, communicate and support each other in our practice. What she has learned from all of these changes is this: even though you think you want something, life can throw you a curveball and you have to take the swing at it. As a person, you can adapt to the changes that are thrown at you and find a new path. The skills Fern learned in the playground (fair play), as an actor (memorization, attention to detail and listening to others) and the skills learned as a sales person (organization, time management, prioritization, client contact and managing expectations) all help her in her practice as an attorney. Every step we take always helps us throughout our life. Lessons learned!

Julia Galloway

Ms. Julia Galloway started selling Avon online because of her disability. In 2006 she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had to go on SSDI. She felt that since she was not able to drive or work well with others, she needed something in her life to give it some meaning. Julia found Avon online which works perfectly for her as she doesn’t have to interact with people face to face. Since the online store is open 24 hours, customers can place their orders whenever they wish. Ms. Galloway loves what she does because she sets her own hours, and work more when she is having a good day. Due to health limitations, this is perfect for her. She is looking forward to the networking opportunities that P.O.W.E.R. will provide to help her business grow.

Elaine Adevai

Ms. Elaine Adevai is the Executive Director and Founder of New Vista for Families, Inc., which is a national nonprofit providing services that assist families in need. She has been with this organization for the past 8 years. She also handles community outreach to raise donations and helps the women and children referred to them to get back on their feet and find permanent housing. Elaine was inspired to open a shelter because she, herself, was an abused woman who had to make it on her own with four children as there were no shelters of this type available at the time. When she began working with abused women at Safe Horizon Shelter, she knew that one day she would open her own shelter. Opening the shelter has been the highlight of Ms. Adevai’s career thus far. She looks forward to expanding her psychoeducational and counseling services and expanding the shelter. If you are interested in learning more about New Vista for Families, Inc. contact: [email protected]

Jacqueline Gates is the epitome of power and resilience. When she was 21, she gave birth to her daughter, Joelle Rosebush, but within six months suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. Unfortunately she suffered many more breakdowns over the years, but kept going with the support of her family. In 1987, Jacqueline’s world was thrown into chaos when her daughter was struck by a car and left in a persistent-vegetative-state for 18 months. The fight to remove her from life support has set precedence for future similar cases. Jacqueline journaled for 20 years and wrote poetry to release her emotions and recently published her book, “Joelle’s Cry for Justice” to help others find the positive side of grief. In 2012, she attended a conference at the Day at the Capital event in Oklahoma where she spoke in front of 500 people, including representative from NAMI and local mental health groups, telling her story. In 2015, Jacqueline was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and has since moved into remission. Her incredible story of survival proves that no matter what you are facing, if you take care of yourself, mind, body and spirit and develop a close support system, you can overcome anything and know that you are not alone in anything you are experiencing.

Joan Enering

Joan Enering is a perfect example of the never give up spirit. She was born a month premature, and was diagnosed at a young age with ADD, ADHD and learning disabilities. Because she struggled in school, both school officials and medical professionals told her parents that she would never finish high school, much less go on to graduate college. Even her parents tried to convince her to drop out! However, that just pushed Joan more and she has truly proven everyone wrong. Joan has earned five college degrees starting with an A.A. in Media Arts, a B.A. in Sociology, an A.S.N, a B.S.N. and a M.S.N! She has been a Certified Reflexologist and a Certified Healing Touch Therapist for over 24 years. Joan has written two books, A Christmas Surprise which is a children’s book and The Innovative Road To Greater Success In Job Hunting And Changing Careers. This from a person who even medical professionals had written off as never being able to finish!

From the time she was young, Lauresa Tomlinson was taught that life is what you make it. She was raised with a very strong sense of faith in herself and in the Creator, who according to her grandmother gave everyone common sense or gut feeling as to what needs to be done. This came into play at the young age of four years old when Lauresa woke up one day not being able to move anything more than her eyes and breathing. Her mother called the doctor and her grandmother. The doctor did an evaluation and determined that there was nothing to be done, but to save for an iron lung within a few months. Her grandmother on the other hand asked if she wanted to play with her friends, with an affirmative answer, she prayed and Lauresa was able to get dressed and run out to play. This power came into play a few years later when, at the age of seven, she again took ill, growing weaker by the day. After tests, the doctor determined that she had leukemia and had maybe six months to live. The only solution the doctor gave to Lauresa’s mother was to remove all salt from her diet. Again, her grandmother stepped in with her faith and prayer, and today, at the age of 72, Lauresa is a mother, grandmother and author of 13 books, with more on the way. She has definitely learned through the years that faith can move mountains and to keep fighting for what you believe in. Lauresa started telling stories at a very early age to entertain the other children in the trailer park. She traveled all over the United States working on jobs. Beyond oral storytelling, she didn’t write anything down until 1995, when she took a writing class while in California. When the teacher asked the students to write a Sci-Fi story at the end of the class, Lauresa was inspired to write the story that she had in her head for over a decade. Originally thinking it would be about five pages, it has now become a trilogy. In addition to writing her own stories, Lauresa enjoys helping others print their stories.

Tisha Dolby

Tisha Dolby is a survivor and overcomer of various life challenges. From birth Tisha was exposed to alcoholism and drug addiction. By the age of five she was enduring child abuse and domestic violence, a cycle of abuse which continued through her mid-20’s. Tisha endured the revolving cycle of being removed and placed back in the abusive situation spending time in various shelters, group homes, and with family members. After aging out of the system she moved in with a family member and fell victim to sexual abuse. Tisha suffered in silence thinking no one would believe her about the situation because she was 18. The sexual abuse only ended once she became pregnant with her first child (not her abuser’s). Tisha went from one abusive relationship to another over the next seven years with each relationship progressively getting more abusive. While carrying her fourth child, she knew things weren’t getting better but worse. Tisha vowed to do what was necessary for her children. She made the decision to raise her children in a single parent home and focus on God, healing, growing and maturing. Tisha began to take the steps to break the cycles that plagued her and her family for years. In 2015, Tisha decided to relocate to California to give her children an opportunity to thrive in their chosen career paths and to give herself a fresh start. She quickly found out that God had a different plan. The transition to California was met with numerous life-altering situations including a 16-month homeless situation, a second cancer scare and being diagnosed with Chronic PTSD. The move allowed her to purge, finish healing and walk with purpose. Tisha believes that God completely removed all things of the old to give her what was always intended for her in the way He intended for her to have it. Prior to moving, Tisha would make excuses for why she couldn’t and shouldn’t do what she was called to do. At the encouragement of her children she stepped out on faith. In 2016, she created her faith-based nonprofit organization Power ~ Passion ~ Purpose Inc. bringing to life the vision that God had preordained for her many years prior. Tisha has dedicated herself to helping others by utilizing her 25 plus years of experience working with various organizations in roles such as mentor, guest speaker, facilitator and support services. She provides a source of relatability for the clientele she serves since she’s been there, which allows the clients to open-up and feel comfortable. Tisha works closely with families, schools, doctors, community partners and local government to provide outcomes, plans and services that will benefit all parties involved. She assists clientele with basic computer skills, job search, training classes, parenting skills, coping with abuse (verbal, emotional, mental, physical and drug), loss of a child and support services. Power ~ Passion ~ Purpose Inc. focuses on love, support and understanding without judgement or condemnation. The company nurtures them through whatever the situation is for as long as it may take.

Shahla Shahmiri has experienced much in her life. She grew up in a small town in Iran, married and immigrated to America. After going through some painful and tough times in her life, Shahla realized there are only two options, stay down and just let life crush you to the ground or dust off the past and keep on moving forward. She realized that her American dream was about the latter and refused to let the negatives affect her dreams. Shahla decided that she was here for a bigger purpose, which was to create a legacy for women just like her who came to America for a better life. She knew that one day she would be speaking in front of thousands of women, and this is what spurred her towards her goal. In writing her book, “Tears of Onion,” Shahla felt that it would reach millions and help others live their dreams by telling the stories of people she has met in her life. Today, she is a cookbook author, mother, health food activist, philanthropist and chef owner of Saffron Girl where she cooks and works with cancer patients while sharing her passion for creating healthy, delicious meals to speed their recovery. Using this platform, Shahla is having a positive impact on the lives of others.

Freedom Alex Burns

Freedom Burns is a survivor and “overcomer,” escaping from domestic abuse, spousal addiction, poverty, homelessness and health issues. The domestic violence and spousal abuse forced her into hiding, the spousal addiction and debt took her savings and forced her into homelessness, her health and medications took her enjoyment of life, but she has overcome. With her faith, and the support of family and friends, Freedom has not allowed these experiences to control her life. Instead she uses them to continue to move forward using her writing skills. Today, Freedom is a creative artist, motivational educator, storyteller and much more. She writes, performs and creates for a wide range of audiences using her expertise as a speaker to coach women into creating their own lives, gain financial freedom and overcome the negatives in their own lives. Freedom has constructed her business and life to meet the needs of people. She strongly believes that life and society is dictated by personal responsibility and strives to provide a public voice to address societal issues. She is a firm believer in paying it forward and living her best life using her faith in God as an anchor.

Carmel Foster

Carmel Foster is the epitome of creating the American Dream. She came to America when married to her ex-husband and was building her dream life when they divorced. Unfortunately, the judge handling her divorce did not provide her with necessary funds to support herself and her daughter. Being resourceful, Carmel became a domestic worker, but soon realized that most immigrants and minorities in these positions were being exploited, working in a modern form of slavery and that their rights were being violated. Instead of employees, these workers were considered independent workers, which meant that they didn’t receive benefits and were not able to use their references to gain better paying positions. As Carmel wasn’t satisfied with just watching this happen to those around her, she created My Character Reference, LLD. Her organization allows workers access to their previous references and as she states is working towards ending the exploitation of workers. Carmel works with her clients and provide them continuing training to move into better paying positions. She also advocates for better support in overlooked industries especially care-giving. Her hope is that through her example, others can have better lives and possibly become entrepreneurs. While My Character Reference is not a nonprofit organization, Carmel aligns with nonprofits to improve the lives of domestic workers and those in other service industries. She truly is an inspiration to those around her.

Wendy C. Ruby

Wendy Ruby followed the typical dreams of motherhood and gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Olivia, on August 17, 1992. Things changed by the time she was 2, when she ran high temperatures with no other symptoms, and all tests were negative with the exception of her platelets being low. By 4 years old, Olivia was diagnosed with both an enlarged liver and spleen. As a parent, Wendy began to do her own research after the hematologist recommended a liver transplant. She contacted a pediatric gastroenterologist who specialized in liver diseases and Olivia was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, Congenital Hepatic Fibrosis and later was treated for Ascending Cholangitis, an infection of the bile ducts and a complication of the original disease. Wendy helped Olivia with her I.V. medications for the next 10 years and her condition stabilized. Unfortunately, due to her disease, Olivia had complications in the 8th month of her pregnancy, when her splenic artery ruptured. While they lost the baby, and Olivia’s spleen was removed, she survived and Wendy is forever grateful for it. As a parent, you never want to see your child in pain, but Wendy has always been there for her daughter, who is definitely a miracle and fighter.

Birgit Barron

Birgit Barron truly embodies empowerment and inspiration. Growing up in a small farming town in Germany, with parents who did not have a lot of money, she was not afforded some of the things many take for granted. Being a girl, she was not able to go to school, become a nurse, or join the military as she wanted. This changed when she married an American soldier and moved to the United States soon after. Birgit became a mother, learned about military life while learning a new language and culture. Earning her driver’s license was her first step to independence, as she had never driven a car prior to this, only motorcycles and farm equipment. She learned everything she could, started working in the Officers Club kitchen and soon moved up to waitressing in the dining room. Unfortunately she was soon divorced due to the stress of being a military wife. She married her second military husband, raised a blended family and joined the Army Reserves, working towards becoming a combat medic. She worked hard and completed several military trainings, earned an A.S. degree and advanced in rank in the military. She was able to spend time with her family, showing her children the benefits of hard work and achieving a better lifestyle. In 2000, Birgit received her citizenship, became a Certified Law Enforcement Officer. After 9/11, and following a second divorce, she continued to grow with the military and became a teacher for new soldiers to become a combat medic. She remarried and her blended family continued to grow. Raising 8 children, she was called for overseas duty, where she was deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan. She earned more promotions and in 2017, after over 24 years, she retired as a Sergeant Major. She is currently working on earning her Doctor of Emergency Management, while also building a small business from home. Birgit is definitely an example of overcoming adversity and is a true inspiration.

Maribel Almeida

Maribel Almeida was diagnosed with Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that caused a rash or urticaria which would not ease no matter what she tried. After realizing that the chemicals in soap affected the irritation, she researched how to make natural soap and started making her own. While she is not cured, Maribel states that her skin became less irritated, itchy and burning, and has more moisture to it. Starting from a medical reason, this has become a passion and now she makes soaps, lotions and body scrubs for people who prefer only natural ingredients in their skin care products. Maribel sells her products to doctors, plastic surgery nurses and estheticians, who sell them to their clients. According to her, the person who became her inspiration is Kimberly McNutt who uses essential oils in her soap recipes, which really work. Maribel wants to inspire other women to make their dreams and passions come true, bring them to life and celebrate them.

Sarah J. Graves

Sarah Graves was born with Hydrocephalus and as an adult was told that doctors never expected her to live to see her 5th birthday. She turned 41 in December 2018 and has a daughter, Laney (aka Jellybean). In an effort to leave a bad living situation, Sarah and Laney created Jellybean’s Fizzy Bombs, LLC. They made bath bombs, soaps and candles. In July 2018, just a month after starting the business, Sarah got sick and was not able to make her products while waiting for brain surgery, so she started stringing beads, which added jewelry to her business. In February 2019, she was recovered enough to start rebuilding the business and they have now added sugar scrubs, whipped soap, bath salts, scented candles, bath bombs, bar soap, jewelry and wax melts. They are in the process of adding lip balm and other items soon. Everything is made with love and by hand and is dedicated to giving back 20% of all profits to charity, including handing out food and water to the homeless. Sarah states that everything she does is for her daughter, and the business is her legacy. She has become the official event planner for Benefit Hub USA in the state of Maryland, which is an organization that supports families with a terminally ill member of all ages. Between Jellybean’s Fizzy Bombs and Benefit Hub USA, Sarah is giving back in a new way and with new ventures.

Barbara Steingas

After graduating college, Barbara Steingas was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which is deemed to be an incurable autoimmune illness of the intestinal tract. After following the traditional prescribed medication regime for several years, and weighing a mere 80 pounds with severe vaginal-rectal abscesses, she found a different process to piece her way back to health mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Barbara has been off medication over 15 years now, and is enjoying renewed health, happiness and joy. Now she helps others find their missing pieces to living a fully radiant life. However, along the way, Barbara endured two more major challenges: the deaths of both her husband and fiancé. After the second loss, she felt like she wouldn’t be able to continue her mission, but instead used the knowledge and skills from her past experiences to pull through these horrific life events and arduous grieving. As a result, Barbara knows she has the ability to help others heal from the pain of losses and life’s challenges.

Heather Potter

Growing up in Fort Lonesome, Florida, as the youngest of 7 children, Heather Potter did not lack in strong female presence in her life. Between her mother, step-mother, aunt and older sister, she learned about having a good work ethic and following her religious beliefs. She married her high school sweetheart, and at the age of 19 had her first child. She went to college to earn her A.S. in Criminal Justice, but realized that being a mother was where her heart was. As her children ages, and her daughter started her senior year of high school, Heather realized that she now wanted to go back to work. Having no work history for 18 years, she was having trouble, when her husband reminded her about her experience with odds and ends jobs she enjoyed doing and suggested she start her own business. Thus Handyman Task Force Services LLC was born. Heather started by mowing lawns and has since done lawn care and landscaping, home repairs, exterior and interior painting and paving installation. She truly does it all. Heather is an example of truly being able to live your dreams, especially with a strong support system by your side. She knows there is nothing she won’t be able to accomplish!

Angela Foxworth

As a young girl, Angela Foxworth held many of the same dreams and goals of most girls her age. In high school, she was voted Most Popular (the first black student to earn this honor), second black homecoming queen and the first black female to become a Key mascot. Like most of her classmates, she was headed to college with big dreams, which included becoming the next Oprah Winfrey. However, after her second year of college, Angela got pregnant, and had to drop out of college as she soon became a single mother of a young boy. In an effort to provide a better life for her son, Angela moved away from her family in Jacksonville, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia. She soon met her husband and gave birth to her daughter. Like many women, Angela shifted her life from furthering her dreams to becoming a mother, housewife, PTA parent and employee. After 20 years, she realized that things were not moving forward. After being laid off from her corporate job, her marriage was struggling and so were her children. This caused Angela to have a breakdown, which also led to her vision of a better life and her dreams were reinstated. She followed the dream and today is working to educate, motivate and prove to others that they can do the same. From single mother to hosting her own talk/radio shows, The Angela Foxworth Show, Hot Wife Hot Life and Unzipped Conversations – Unleashing the Naked Truth, from housewife to Mrs. Georgia Woman US Majesty 2019, from laid off employee to co-author of Real Talk, an Intimate Discussion of Life, Love and Relationships and The Pain Behind a Smile, Angela Foxworth proves that anyone can change their lives, pick up and live their dreams and change the world for the better as well.

Melissa Malzahn

Melissa Malzahn is the description of a survivor, having survived 2 marriages with domestic violence and addiction. In her first marriage, she was addicted to drugs, but quit when she married for the 2nd time. During her second marriage, she became addicted to alcohol, but quit drinking in 2006, and has been sober ever since. She was married to her second husband for 20 years. Her husband, who was also an alcoholic, died in 2013 after developing complications from pneumonia. She founded her 501c3 organization, Reclaiming You Inc. to fight homelessness, domestic violence and addiction. Melissa is working on improving her life and those of others in similar situations by returning to school. She has almost completed her B.A. in Human Services specializing in child and family welfare and is only 6 classes away from earning a M.S. in Human Services specializing in organizational and social services. She hopes to show others that no matter what your situation, you can improve your life.

Sonya Williamson

Sonya Williamson was born disabled, with Hydrocephalus of the brain and legally blind. As a child, she was always in and out of hospitals, and has undergone 9 brain surgeries to date. Knowing she could become fully blind at any time, by 8 years old, Sonya decided to learn how to play multiple instruments by muscle memory and as she got older, spent 10 years traveling the United States playing concerts whenever and wherever she could. She made people smile and happy with her music, which also made her happy. In her 30’s, she got married and felt like she was finally living a normal life, where others didn’t see her daily struggle. Unfortunately, on her 40th birthday, Sonya was diagnosed with further conditions, Fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and Lupus due to the multitude of medications she had been on for most of her life. Her doctors told her that there was nothing she could do, changed her medications and instead of listening to her when she said she felt worse, just kept increasing the doses of the medications. She was told that her only option was to stop moving, stay home and be put in a wheelchair for the paralysis she was experiencing. However, Sonya knew there had to be a better answer. Not long after, she was introduced to CBD in the form of a salve, which she used on her hands. This rub helped within 5 minutes and the pain eased dramatically. She tried to play guitar for the first time in years, and did so with no pain! She started using CBD in various forms, and within a short time had regained the use of her legs, started working out and eliminated all of the prescription medications she was on. Sonya switched doctors as her previous ones were not happy with her taking the CBD, even though she was getting better. Her blood tests showed that she had put her Lupus into remission; she had no more seizures or paralysis. She has regained her life.

Sarah Benezue

Growing up in a small town in southern Mississippi, Sarah Benezue was abused as a child, but couldn’t say anything, due to being related to just about everyone. At 19 and pregnant, she earned her AAS in x-ray technology, where she went from job to job prior to discovering ultrasound, which became her passion. She began marketing a chain of Outpatient Imaging Centers, until 1996, when she began to notice symptoms such as extreme fatigue and numbness. Sarah was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at this time. As she was unable to work full time, she opened a nail salon, which unfortunately closed soon after. When she went back to work full time, she started to perform echo’s but again was hit with extreme fatigue. She was then diagnosed with Systemic Lupus, which also caused diabetes. Unfortunately, this diagnoses placed her in a nursing home on hospice for 4 years. Sarah moved into an assisted living facility for 6 years, but while there, felt like she wasn’t meant to be there. She felt like there was more that she should be doing for the greater good of those around her, and in the residence, she was not able to. In 2014, Sarah moved into her own apartment and went into remission. However, after being placed on long term steroids for the lupus and MS, she had realized that she had gained 200 pounds. When she looked in the mirror and realized that she didn’t know who she was any more, Sarah went through everything in her kitchen cabinets and realized that everything was processed with high fructose corn syrup, which bodies don’t process well, and which turns to fat immediately. As she loves sauces, especially ketchup and bbq sauce, Sarah started experimenting and created her own with no added sugars, no corn syrup and no high fructose corn syrup, and started her company J & L Sauces. Through using these sauces and healthy eating in general, she has lost 186 pounds and is no longer considered diabetic. She has used her personal experiences to help others change their lives as well. One thing she has seen from her own life is that no matter what you have been through, giving up is not an option. If you want it, you can do it.

Selera Perryman

Selera Perryman has overcome much in her life to be successful. She grew up living with her single mother and sister, with an absentee father. She was molested as a child, and a single mother at the age of 16. By the time she was 22, Selera already had 4 children with 3 different fathers, including a set of twins. Much like her mother, she worked 2 to 3 jobs in order to provide for her children. She often gave her own portions to her children to be sure that they always had enough to eat and not go to bed hungry. Several years later, Selera moved to Californina, with her 5 children, having divorced her husband, and father of her youngest. Soon after living there, she got sick and ended up in a coma, where her mother stayed with her while in the hospital. It was there that Selera discovered her calling to be an evangelist, even though she originally refused to accept it. It was while recovering from her coma that she learned that she first had to love herself and forgive herself for what had happened as a child, and forgiving those who had hurt her in life. She learned what true love is and learned to accept herself and own up to her mistakes. A short while later, Selera met her mentor, Judy Jacobs, who inspired her in many ways. It was she who convinced her to write a book about her experiences, even though she was a high school drop out. Selera started writing, and her story has since been published. This was the start of her desire to empower other single mothers and young children to follow their dreams and encourage them to be themselves. Selera founded Face to Face Ministries, Inc, which is a 501c3 organization and has become a publisher, coach, trainer, and speaker with the John C. Maxwell Team. In her own words: “If you could see it, I know you could achieve it now.”

Merry Citoli

Merry Citoli is an award winning singer/songwriter who is now developing a children’s music and game app. The idea was started due to her own journey of low self-esteem that was precipitated by an abusive childhood and alcoholic father. After years of challenges in the music industry, she never quite felt like she fit in as her music was very whimsical with a unique and magical side, something that didn’t quite fit into the mainstream. Like many middle aged women, Merry developed anxiety and insomnia at menopause and was put on a benzodiazepine after over a month with no sleep. Also, like many, she was never well informed about the potential side effects and dependencies this medication came with. After just a couple of months on the medication, Merry started getting odd infections and other symptoms. Not one single doctor she saw suggested it might be from the medication. She went from one doctor to the next until she was nearly skeletal from what she was told was a parasitic infection. She incurred a skull fracture at one point from dehydration and ended up out on the streets as she had to wait close to a year to get any sort of help from disability as she was totally unable to work. Her health journey went on for nearly two decades before she found a compounding pharmacist who helped her get off of the medication. The withdrawal was worse than coming off heroin, and she was not prepared for the other harsh realities that the drug had caused. It left her with two more concussions, cognitive difficulties, balance issues, tight painful muscles, electrical pains, nerve damage and a number of other challenges even with being off the medication for over two years. During her recovery, she found that thousands of other people in online support groups were suffering with the same challenges from the drug and the medical community in general just wasn’t listening to any of them. She started a non-profit called The Follow Your Bliss Foundation, where she educates the public on how to get off these medications and what they will be up against with her blogs and videos. She is currently healing herself with a Ketogenic Diet, TM and yoga and working on her new passions. Broken and discouraged during her withdrawal from the drug, and after years of rejection from the mainstream music community, she wrote a trilogy of animated musicals for families. She wanted to do something to not only entertain, but to inform people about the dangers involved with taking some of these medications. In the process, she felt that giving children the kind of positive reinforcement that she never received in childhood, might be a way to change how the next generation of children interacts and socializes in a new way. Her music is about self- empowerment and creating a new world for ourselves and future generations that is compassionate and just. The children’s app she is currently creating, is designed to teach children self-empowerment through an interactive virtual reality platform and by engaging them with magic characters who teach the power of Abjurer. An Abjurer is one who embraces their own personal empowerment by going through a self-mastery, apprenticeship program that is taught by these magical characters. They lead the apprentice through levels and lands that teach transformative habits and use magical songs and stories as rewards. Merry feels that if children develop good lifestyle habits early in life and deal with their root issues, they can avoid needing to lean on other substances from years of burying un-recognized pain and self destructive behavior patterns that can begin early in life.

Cheryl Kinney

Cheryl Kinney is a former rape victim, who took 3 and a half years to heal from the trauma. By using her belief in God and his healing power, Ms. Kinney helps others find courage, heal the scars and recover from their own trauma. In her words, “Where does Courage come from? An inner strength and that inner strength can only come from God.” She had to stand before a judge and protect herself from her perpetrator. She faced scrutiny but stood with courage and has four beautiful children all serving the Lord today, and her daughter and son in law are in ministry, but it was not an easy road and as a single mom, it took courage. If you break down the word COURAGE, you get “Called Out Under Righteous Anger for Good to Emerge.” Can anger be used for good? To bring change? Yes, it can to help someone through their trauma. If directed in the right direction to inspire and help others heal. There is strength in numbers in healing, in women bonding together to not only overcome but heal. Ms. Kinney’s story is probably some other woman’s story maybe many, but they will overcome with God’s love caring and support. She states that she is not an overcomer. She is a business professional who writes beautiful poetry and runs a Home Décor/ Interior Design business, doveworld373, for 8 years now. Ms. Kinney was a model in her church for 5 years for the community fashion shows that were set up to bring women together. She has received modeling certificates for her years of service. She has also earned 2 degrees in business. Ms. Kinney wants women to know that God wants them safe, He wants them smart and he wants them to Succeed. “When you put down an anchor its steady’s the boat to a dock.” According to her, the Anchor to your soul is “Christ’ and he will steady you through the storm of Trauma and not only heal you, but help you inspire others. She wrote two poems “The Art of Apology” because you must forgive for your healing and the “Journey” even though you may have gone through the Journey of trauma you can inspire others. As she states: Dream Big on your Journey. You can change the world one life at a time. Be empowered to succeed.

Kerri Ledoux

Kerri Ledoux created a new business called Heart InSouls during a time of intense grief, pain and darkness, following the loss of her son, Johnny, in a car accident. During these times, she turned to scripture and God’s promises to guide her. Within His word, she found the inspiration and comfort she needed to not only survive this difficult time, but to thrive as “God works all things together for His good…” Romans 8:28 Heart InSouls are for the Believer who knows the power of God’s word and wants to literally stand on His truths. Made out of genuine goat skin, each insole is imprinted with a scripture, designed to serve as a daily reminder of God’s promises. As Heart InSouls desires to be more than another profit-driven contributor to the massive economy of consumer footwear, a percentage of all proceeds will be donated to the LiveLikeJohnny Organization, the 501(c)3 namesake organization for the Heart Insouls founder’s son, Johnny Callan. The mission of the LiveLikeJohnny Organization is to support the engagement of at-risk, underserved and often times overlooked young people who have the potential for personal and professional success. The faith based approach is designed to ignite the passion for living an extraordinary life…just like Johnny.

Nicole Badrudeen

Ms. Nicole Badrudeen is an entrepreneur and author of The Gorgeous Skin Handbook. She wrote the book and built an automated sales and marketing system to market and sell it. She has started building similar systems for other businesses and wants to give back to the world through her social missions, which include teaching girls about sexual violence and helping those in need. As she states: “Life has given me a second chance and it is my duty to give back.” Ms. Bardudeen used cocaine and pills and suffered from depression. She even tried to commit suicide at 17. She states that she didn’t think big, was a dermatologic and plastic surgery medical assistant. She earned a GED and never finished college. With this history, she accepted defeat and felt that she would never amount to much. Three years ago, Nicole hit rock bottom when her lifestyle caught up with her and she lost everything. She sat in her bathroom, contemplating suicide, thinking that she was out of options and her only option was death. However, soon after, she discovered entrepreneurship, and her life was changed. Ms. Badrudeen started learning new skills and building her dreams. This has shown her a new way to think and live. Entrepreneurship is all about mindset, and she realized that she would never reach her goals if she didn’t change every aspect of her life, and she started to do so and continues to do so today. While she sometimes gets insecure or scared talking about her past, Nicole ultimately knows it will inspire others to change theirs as well. Too many people are scared of the unknown, feel they are shackled to their fears, insecurities and past. She wants everyone to know that they are not! No matter how hard their goals or “dream life” may seem, it is within reach.

Connie A. De La Rosa

As a member of a religious youth group, Ms. De La Rosa remembers visiting convalescent hospitals to sing and spend time with the elder patients at least once a week and she enjoyed it a lot. Bringing a smile to someone who had little to no visitors made her feel good and she knew that her journey would involve helping others feel good by showing compassion, love and giving them the most valuable aspect in a elders world, “time”. Growing up in a single mother home taught Ms. De La Rosato be a lot like her mother, who exemplified discipline, hard work, integrity and helping out your neighbor. Her neighborhood consisted of many single moms who all lived in low income apartments that were owned by the Housing Authority. Her mom worked in a packing house as a grader and always pushed Connie to live a better life, owning her home and have a job that paid well with benefits. She decided to be a Social Worker and knew that she had to get into the Welfare Department. She worked her way up from Clerical, Supervisor in Clerical then Benefits Specialist. During her employment, Connie’s mother became very ill with COPD and she had to care of her in her home. There were many visits to the hospital, convalescent, back home, etc. Ms. De La Rosa become frustrated with not understanding the kind of care her mother needed and if those needs were being met by professionals, was overwhelmed and required much attention. Once her mother passed, in 1991, she decided to work harder and become a Social Worker so that she could learn more about medications, rights, and know the resources to help others whether they had a similar situation to hers or not. After becoming a Social Worker III for several years, Ms. De La Rosa retired at age 50 and started her business in helping families find the right kind of care and offer guidance, resources, etc. This is much of what she needed during the time she cared for her mother. Her found passion and experience has joyfully led her to assist families (with no costs involved) in finding the right care home such as tours, background checks and follow up visits to ensure the care for their loved one is provided.

AC Moon

Born and raised in the off grid isolated mountains of Northern California, A.C. Moon early on developed a strong love for plants, nature, helping people and creating things. With the help of her cancer ridden survivalist mother, she learned quickly about the botanical resources around us and the drive it takes to make it in this world. After many years of living on her own and traveling to cities where the cancers of the world condemned society most, she started Harvest Moon Munchies Co., (a legal organic medical Cannabis Bakery) by age 21 and dedicated huge amounts of time to advocating for the health benefits of cannabis. As she attended college she lived off the grid, raising her son alone and often traveling for business. She managed to obtain a degree in Environmental Horticulture with a minor in Forestry studies and applied them to the newly evolving medical cannabis industry. By age 25, she had a professional growers permits and was working as a partner to cannabis collectives in California. She also began writing for advocacy groups and attending events that would later pave the way for an exciting life in the industry. Through years of battles in the constantly changing society of legal cannabis, Ms. Moon decided to try her real dreams at becoming an inventor and innovator. She began this journey with her first patent pending invention Croptopsgreenhouses.com. Her instant popup greenhouse has been featured in several magazines and events for Botany and is only one of the many innovations she hopes to create and evolve to help people grow in diverse environmental conditions. A.C. Moon speaks out that even helping save one lemon tree in your yard without a garbage bag, is worth it to the planet. (Please grow Organically!) More recently, AC Moon was voted one of Skunk Magazines “Women of Weed”, obtained several certifications and continues to offer her services in her co-ownership and partnership with Golden Blaze Consulting Inc. of Northern California. In this consulting venture, she helps newly legal companies, brand, market, innovate and grow organically a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to cannabis commerce in all ways. She also continues to work on gaining investors and partners for her inventions and continues her work as both a student and teacher in several fields from cooking to creations. Her passion and drive for helping people diversify, reach for their dreams and never give up will hopefully encourage others past fears and let them know… “Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, passion is the fuel to catch your dreams on fire….”

Devshree Golecha

Ms. Golecha started her journey at the age of 17 as a door-to-door sales person selling bank accounts in the scorching heat of Mumbai, India. With her inability to speak good English, she had a hard time convincing customers at the bank, so her manager thought she would be better off sourcing customers in the field. She was driven, passionate and persistent and, with her hard work, managed to outperform all other sales people to become the Best Sales Person across all bank branches in India. She kept her journey going and in no time, she landed a job with Citibank as an NRI Customer Executive. Ms. Golecha’s career was going well until she realized she was not good enough for the job as she did not have an MBA. Her peers would often criticize her for the lack of a good Master’s degree. She worked hard to pursue an MBA and ranked 21st nationally on her entrance test and went to one of the top B-Schools in India. Her placement post MBA was one of the highest packages at the campus. After getting married, Ms. Golecha moved to the US, leaving her high paying job as a Commercial Banker in India. As she came to the US on a dependent visa, she was not allowed to work. Her husband was very supportive and motivating. With his suggestions and her own desire to bring her life back on track, she decided to volunteer her time as a Research Assistant at the University of Chicago. She also volunteered at a Risk Management company. During that time, her husband introduced the concept of ‘Six Sigma’ to her and recommended she study for the Green Belt certification. She had just given birth to her baby and thought it was a great idea to use the time at home and started preparing for the exam. She was so intrigued by principles of Six Sigma, the rigor and discipline of this methodology made her so excited that she decided to make a career in this field. She cleared her exam and became a Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Ms. Golecha started working as a Process Engineer with a major Insurance company, leading enterprise wide process improvement and optimization projects. After spending several years optimizing business processes, and having gained substantial experience, she pursued the path of Black Belt and earned certification by ASQ (The Global Voice of Quality) as a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt. Currently, Ms. Golecha works at United Healthcare as a Six Sigma Black Belt driving millions of dollars in benefits to the organization and coaching Green Belts. She calls herself a Process Psychologist as it gives her immense pleasure to listen to customers and fix their business processes by making them lean and effective.

Charlean Maxwell

Ms. Maxwell was born in Los Angeles, California, moved to Sacramento and now resides in Rancho Cordova. She loves helping others and is a kindhearted person. She is a very dedicated person and does not like to give up. Ms. Maxwell never takes life for granted because it’s not promise. If she can’t do something, she will learn how. Not long ago, she suffered with pneumonia for 7 months, which made it hard to do things like walk, talk, and breathe on her own. She was basically was just existing, but she never gave up. She kept pushing herself and every day she prayed that she would overcome and she did. Ms. Maxwell still has some issues and challenges, but she does not let that get her down. She loves to dance and was not able to do that at that time. She was really stuck in a hard place in her life. She got an awaking by God through her body and it was deep. Ms. Maxwell kept telling herself that when she recovered, she would get out of bed. She had faith and recovered. She enrolled in a dance class at Studio Urban Dance Academy where she found hope and security. Dance was an escape for her, which was a good thing. Ms. Maxwell wants young women to know that despite hardship in your life you can reach for the stars. She continuously expresses her thanks to Helen, her mentor, Miss Alison, her teachers at Studio T Urban Dance Academy, her mother for pushing her to be the best, and her son Tyler for all of their support.

Sundra Michele Bauman

Ms. Bauman is the CEO, Proprietor and Director of Shellie’s Early Start Learning Centers, well established grade an nursery schools in Phoenix, Arizona. After working in a variety of industries, she founded her first daycare center in 1998, following a cancer diagnosis the year before. She refused to let her diagnosis defeat her and decided to open up the center feeling she had a positive influence on youth. Ms. Bauman wanted to be able to work from home and be available to her own children. Since 1998, she has opened a total of 4 schools dedicated to children ages infant through 12 years old. The school’s mission statement is to seek to be a leader in providing high quality, focused early education for the whole child. She strives to engage and inspire parents, students and the broader community toward a deeper understanding of the wonders of childhood. Ms. Bauman’s focus is on delivering excellence in childcare for the children, staff and surrounding community in a nurturing environment where the uniqueness of each child is recognized, respected and children are learning, growing and safe.

Fern Mehler

When Fern Mehler was growing up in the Bronx, all the kids, boys and girls, would play together on the streets; marbles, bottle caps, Acey/Deucy (handball against the wall but the ball had to first bounce on the ground before it hit the wall). There was only one rule. You couldn’t go home crying because a girl (or boy) beat you at a game. Everyone who played had a chance of winning. Her family moved to Queens when she was 13 and still wanted to play handball with the boys, but was told by girlfriends that, if she played with the boys, she had to let the boys win. “Why?” she innocently asked. “Because they’re boys.” they answered, as if it were the most logical answer in the world. Well, that didn’t work for her then and it still doesn’t. Ms. Mehler started out in college as an actress. In fact, she has a master’s degree in Theatre. While working on her advanced degree and trying to get acting jobs, she worked in a bank. At 28, Fern realized that acting was not the money making field she thought it would be, so she reluctantly took banking seriously and began working full time for Citibank. She had became a sales person, selling mortgage products. In 1988, the mortgage crisis hit New York and it seems that she was personally responsible for all of the bad mortgage loans in Citibank’s portfolio. At that point she felt that she needed to change her life and get out of banking. At 35, Ms. Mehler went back to school at night and became an attorney. She presently work for a large law firm in Manhattan, specializing in residential real estate. Her newest adventure is as a board member of W.A.R.E., Women Attorneys in Real Estate, a new group of women attorneys practicing in New York who specialize in real estate. They are establishing a network of women attorneys to collaborate, mentor, communicate and support each other in our practice. What she has learned from all of these changes is this: even though you think you want something, life can throw you a curveball and you have to take the swing at it. As a person, you can adapt to the changes that are thrown at you and find a new path. The skills Fern learned in the playground (fair play), as an actor (memorization, attention to detail and listening to others) and the skills learned as a sales person (organization, time management, prioritization, client contact and managing expectations) all help her in her practice as an attorney. Every step we take always helps us throughout our life. Lessons learned!

Julia Galloway

Ms. Julia Galloway started selling Avon online because of her disability. In 2006 she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had to go on SSDI. She felt that since she was not able to drive or work well with others, she needed something in her life to give it some meaning. Julia found Avon online which works perfectly for her as she doesn’t have to interact with people face to face. Since the online store is open 24 hours, customers can place their orders whenever they wish. Ms. Galloway loves what she does because she sets her own hours, and work more when she is having a good day. Due to health limitations, this is perfect for her. She is looking forward to the networking opportunities that P.O.W.E.R. will provide to help her business grow.

Elaine Adevai

Ms. Elaine Adevai is the Executive Director and Founder of New Vista for Families, Inc., which is a national nonprofit providing services that assist families in need. She has been with this organization for the past 8 years. She also handles community outreach to raise donations and helps the women and children referred to them to get back on their feet and find permanent housing. Elaine was inspired to open a shelter because she, herself, was an abused woman who had to make it on her own with four children as there were no shelters of this type available at the time. When she began working with abused women at Safe Horizon Shelter, she knew that one day she would open her own shelter. Opening the shelter has been the highlight of Ms. Adevai’s career thus far. She looks forward to expanding her psychoeducational and counseling services and expanding the shelter. If you are interested in learning more about New Vista for Families, Inc. contact: [email protected]

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