This story isn’t something you will read about in the newspaper, or see in the 5 o’clock headlines. It is about a quiet woman who made the choice to rebuild her life, and to find happiness in the smallest of ways.
Debbie Duke Davis, or Deedee as we all know her, started volunteering at the Center in 2008. She began on the lunch line, portioning out food to the hundreds of people who live in our community. When she first started, another Debbie who works here asked Deedee if she wanted to get lunch.
She answered, “Well, I think I’m here to give what I can to the Center, not to take from it.”
And give she has. Deedee has been the face of stability since she began. In 2009 she moved to the 3rd floor and began working with the administration staff by helping with computer tracking of donations, and preparing thank-you letters to our donors. It is within this little cubicle tucked away, that she quietly made the work that we do here, day in and day out possible. Her contribution isn’t something that is often thought about as important, but in reality is rather essential.
How many people have you come into contact with who give what they have, quietly, humbly, joyfully? Never has Deedee asked for a ‘thank-you’ or any form of recognition. In contrast she often said thank you for giving her the opportunity to be a part of our lives.
Deedee’s commute to work is the shortest in history. After losing her husband, she found herself unable to hold on to her home and was for a time homeless. Deedee is a mother of two children, of whom she is fiercely proud, she is educated, and if you are around her enough to see her come out of her shy exterior, you would find a deeply introspective and funny woman. She doesn’t quite fit the mold of what most think homeless should look like.
Choosing to be a mother that her children could look up to, and a woman who could look herself in the mirror, Deedee worked hard to rebuild her life. And for the last few years she has been living at the Jenkins House on Maryland Avenue, a home run by The Woman’s Housing Collation.
I’ve bumped into Deedee often on my way into work, when she was pitching in, by cleaning up trash around her home. Living at the Jenkins House enabled Deedee to not only have a bed and a safe place to sleep, but it offered her independence, and community. One of her housemates, told me today that Deedee’s desire to be involved in the work at the Center has always inspired her. That until now she was okay with just watching, but no more. Now she wants to get involved too.
There are so many stories to share about this beautiful woman. But it is in the blank spaces that I find the most meaning. Soft spoken, sweet, giving, quietly steadfast, able to find joy and contentment in the present. Her ability to see the most simple as a blessing. Things we should all learn, and make them parts of our lives.
Deedee passed away this past weekend. Her sudden departure leaves more than a blank space, but a gaping hole where we struggle to find understanding. It is often said that the lessons learned and love given will never be lost though time passes. For the lessons I’ve learned, and the love that she gave me, I can say that will be true.