By Diane Raver The Herald-Tribune, Batesville, Ind.
Four extraordinary women, who are respected leaders in their fields, took the stage during the recent Women in Business Conference, sponsored by area chambers of commerce, at Greensburg Elementary School.
They discussed their successes and how they were able to reach their goals in spite of various challenges.
A place and a purpose Lori Durbin, the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library community relations liaison/adult programming director, emphasized,
"We're not that different, you and I. We all have a story. I'm just an ordinary person living an ordinary life trying to make a difference."
She revealed some advice her parents gave her: "Get up, take two aspirin if you need to, put on your shoes and go."
Durbin was married at a young age, and had a child, but later "discovered the marriage was a mistake, but my daughter wasn't .... (Later) I met another man and got married. The child we had was wonderful, but marriage was not." Finally, the Greensburg resident met the love of her life, Sean Durbin, and they wed.
"At age 27, I found out I had cancer. My kids were only 5 and 8. I had treatments done at Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis.
After meeting with someone from hospice, I told him, 'I never want to see you again.' His advice to me was to 'make long-term plans' to help you live with hope and expectations and look forward to the future .... I have been cancer-free for 25 years."
After the cancer treatments, "I welcomed a third child, so I stayed home for a few years .... When he turned 3 and started preschool, I started working at the Greensburg Public Library."
She has also been very involved with the Cheer Fund. Since struggling as an empty nester, Durbin decided to join Big Brothers Big Sisters and become a big sister. Recently, "I have become a student at Ivy Tech Community College because I've always wanted to earn a degree. It's super-exciting.
"Now I have two grandsons and am also living with fibromyalgia, but I can't and won't let it (the disease) define me."
She told the audience, "I truly believe that we all have a place and a purpose. You can and are making a difference right now in so many ways."
Her words of wisdom were --"Always do your share, and do a little more; --"Find joy and laughter; --"Say yes as often as you can, but say no when you have to; --" Give love freely and without exception."
Farm girl, mother, public servant and volunteer From 1992-2000, Melinda "Mel" Fox served by presidential appointment in the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, where she oversaw and implemented $900 million in annual federal farm programs, 81 offices and 600 employees in Indiana. She was the first Indiana woman to serve in this USDA leadership role.
"I attended a small, rural grade school, and seventh grade wasn't a pleasant experience." The woman who earned sociology and political science degrees from Purdue University and a master's degree in secondary education from Indiana University recalled that she had to work with animals on the farm before school and often had the smell of manure on her. Because of this, her classmates made fun of her.
"I sat for many days on the closet floor in my bedroom crying. I didn't want to share this with my parents. When I did, my dad told me, 'The next time they say something, tell me that's the smell of money.' His advice worked. This was my first empowerment lesson in setting healthy boundaries."
Fox asked attendees what their greatest CAR stories were. She explained that this meant "What are your greatest Challenges? What Actions did you take to overcome them? What was the Result?
"I was faced with my greatest challenge when I was asked to lead the midwestern states in a collaboration of the federal agricultural policy. It was an organized process. I held strategic planning meetings and met with the other eight regional leaders to get to the end result."
She encouraged everyone to think about their CAR stories and use them to move forward in life.
Do what you love Lisa Deck was born and raised in Decatur County. "My parents told me to follow your faith, be honest and be humble .... I'm all about friendraising, networking and making a difference in someone's life."
Growing up, "I loved sports. That was a place where I felt special, and people told me I was doing a good job. School was OK, but I went to school to play sports. I was being recruited by small colleges and was going to be a first generation college student.
"I started at Marian College, but I was a farm girl and really didn't want to leave home. Soon after my parents left me at college, I went to the pay phone and called my mom and said, 'Come and get me.' She did, but looking back, she should have kicked my hiney and said, 'You can do it.'
"I was 19 when I married my best friend. We were so poor we couldn't even pay attention. However, one thing that resonated with me was I knew I was put on this earth to make a difference.
"I was a stay-at-home mom for about a year when a friend called me to be an administrative assistant for a maternity leave at Valeo. After three years there, I decided I needed to get a degree. Then I was a full-time mom, professional and student. I thought, 'This is an opportunity for you to really learn about life and how to balance it.'
"A good friend once told me, 'Education is like an insurance policy: The more you put into it, the more secure you are.' My ultimate goal was to teach, so I started my master's (degree). Then I took a leap of faith and started a consulting firm.
"Through networking, I was offered a position with EcO15 (Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015). Then thanks to the Ivy Tech chancellor, I began my teaching position at Ivy Tech. I love working with students."
She stressed, "No one in this room has to have a title to be a leader .... Don't forget who you are as a person. If you keep integrity and are faith based, you can do anything you want."
Rising from poverty Dawn Andrews reported, "I was born in 1977 in Salem. I was raised in poverty, and my family was dirt poor. I dropped out of high school at age 14 and had two jobs. I married at 17, had two children and was divorced by 21.
"Then I moved to Seymour. I had $1,500 saved up. I found a mobile home. It was so disgusting, but it was all I could afford, so I moved my boys in.
"I worked at Cracker Barrel, but I also went to a small radio station and begged for a job. I got one and worked middays there."
The young mother moved to Columbus because a radio station there wanted her as its news director. That was where she met her new husband-to-be. They married and had three kids, including twins.
Around that time, she wanted to do something for herself, so she started garb2Art, a company in which she took recyclable materials and made them into art pieces.
"In August 2013, my Dad died, and I began losing weight. The doctors said I had anxiety and acid reflux. However, I soon discovered I had thyroid cancer and had two surgeries."
"People began to ask me why I didn't go further with my business, and I said it was because I was afraid .... but I began to realize this was my one chance to make it big."