Using Talents for Great Purpose: Reflections from the Heart of Cajun Country.

What a great way to start a new week here in Lafayette, Louisiana: learning what it means to be a “bringer“.

Inspired by his love for golden retrievers, natural bringers, local Crossroads Church lead pastor Pastor Jeff Ables delivered the final part of a compelling series on “Bringers” to his congregation yesterday.

What is a bringer?

Someone who uses their God-given gifts and talents in service to others.   In a nutshell: being a Bringer is being useful.

In a crowded church auditorium, the air heavy with silent prayers and unanswered questions, the local Lafayette congregation shared seats and smiles with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers joining in joyful singing and praise.

Singing the chorus , “God is on the move, on the move, hallelujah!  God is on the move is many mighty ways..” folks raised their hands in joint surrender with grateful hearts, remembering that their mighty maker has not forgotten their needs.

We are asked to bring not only  our offerings to God, but also our praises.  We are created to praise.  In good times and bad.  And our praise, reminded Pastor Jeff,  is to “be sincere, sacrificial, and sanctioned”. 

It’s day 8 on the ground and I have seen people “bringing it” to southern Louisiana.

Welcome Alert Academy Volunteers

To date, over 200 dedicated volunteers from all over the US have passed through Crossroads Church to serve with Samaritan’s Purse, accumulating over 3,000 volunteer hours in the Lafayette community. Yesterday, I spoke with a young man part of  a 14-member team from Alert Academy– an organization started by a home school father in 1994.  A cross between a military boot camp and Christian diaster response training,  ALERT (Air, Land, Emergency Response Team) young men arrived ready to bring it.  He shared his passion for serving and wants to model behaviors he hopes others will want to emulate.

7 members of the 14 person A.L.E.R.T team serving in Lafayette, La.


Redemption Bringers

Krystal McKee, a 31 year old daughter of Lafayette residents Kathy and Greg McKee, decided to bring it after she discovered her parents home flooded the weekend of August 13th.  Greg, an active lineman for the electric company, traveled to Missouri to work on downed power lines from severe storms in the area.  Wanting to surprise him on his birthday, the family piled into a car and drove north the morning the rains began to fall.

Krystal and her husband were the first responders to the single story home inundated Saturday by the rising flood waters.  Now program directors for Teen Challenge, an 18 month program ministering to teens with life interrupting  addictions, they bear witness to the power of redemption and recovery.

In 2013, the young couple had hit their lowest point. Rampant drug and alcohol abuse ripped their marriage apart and resulted in the custody loss of their two children. Mom Kathy, after Krystal’s 6th arrest and incarceration for prescription drug use and possession, heard about Teen Challenge on the local SOS radio station and pleaded with her daughter to enroll.

Fast forward to December 2015, the couple reunites as graduates of the program and regain custody of their two children in addition to restoring their broken marriage.  Most impressively, Krystal and her husband featured below now head programs for troubled teens at the local Lafayette branch of Teen Challenge.

In efforts to quickly respond to her parent’s devastated home, Krystal rounded up a team of  Teen Challenge volunteers to help salvage belongings from the home,  paying forward the kindness and unconditional parental love she received for so many years during her years of addiction .

As Mom Kathy proudly shared this powerful testimony, her two boxers remained by her side .  Trixie, 6, and Zeke, 4.  A week before the flood hit Zeke was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It has taken over his lymph nodes- giving him 6 months to live.

Trixie on the left, and Zeke on the right watch as Samaritan’s Purse volunteers join for prayer in the garage after work completed.

Family members Kari, Kyler, and Kaleb joined mom Kathy and the volunteers in a customary prayer circle that concludes each and every  clean up mission with Samaritan’s Purse.

Hope was brought to the McKee family, and Kathy hopes her story will bring hope to those suffering with family members with addictions.

What do you have to bring?

Have you identified your spiritual Gifts? How may these gifts be used in conjunction with your talents to bring hope into your community and personal spheres of influence?

Join us in today’s prayer circle:

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Stand in Love,

Ephesians 6:10-20

Jennifer ❤️❤️❤️


Lafayette welcomed the “Chick-Fil-A Eight” as they have been nicknamed, two days ago from Dayton, Ohio.

A franchise owner of two Dayton suburban locations took Chick- Fil-A’s official corporate mission statement to an entirely new level.

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.  To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.”

As her Miamisberg location, the nations top performing location in 2015, undergoes expansion renovation, her employees were given the opportunity to earn their normal wages while serving flood diaster victims here in Lafayette.

A team of 8 workers, including Dayton training director Samantha drove 14 hours Wednesday to serve while their shop’s reopening date was pushed back.  Ranging in age from 18-23 years old, the team of 8 joined leader Bob for the most difficult job assignment in this area to date.

The homeowner is a recently widowed man living with his pregnant daughter and son as well as his granddaughter age 3.  Next  to his home is his machine shop where he makes his living.  This property is still under water and the devastation has compounded leaving homeowner utterly hopeless.

Enter Samaritan’s  Purse team of 17, including the “Chick-Fil-A Eight”. 

Amidst the debris, festering mold spores, and dampened memories rested an American flag, soaked in standing flood water.

Dylan, a recently injured U.S. Marine now working full time for the Chick- Fil-A franchise outside of Dayton, respectfully folded the flag with  coworker Brittin and  presented it to the broken-hearted homeowner’s son, Trey, in a solemn moment at the end of the day.

Not only had Trey recently lost his mother, now his home and life as he knew it had been washed away in the flood.

The team will return to the site again today to continue the work as well as bring light, hope, and the message of the Gospel to this family hurting from life’s tumultuous storms.

This morning’s group devotional called us to ponder the reason for our volunteerism.  To consider the states of our hearts. Are we here for our own plans, or are we woven  into the tapestry of Lafayette for a purpose much larger than our current understanding?

The longer I stay here, the clearer that bigger purpose has become. It is in these moments of deep connection with humanity that we contemplate our true, meaningful existence on Earth.  These times of trials are Faith’s most glorious chance for refinement and reinvigoration.

I have fallen in love with the people of Louisiana, and Lafayette in particular is making what will soon become an indelible mark on my heart.

These are the moments I live for and I am on my knees in humble gratitude for God stirring my heart to come.

He always knows just what we need, right when we need it.


“For I know the plans I have for You declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” – Jermiah 29:11


May the floods in your life remind you of what needed to be washed away, so that new beginnings may take root.

Share your thoughts in the comments if Louisiana has touched you in any way.  We learn from each other and take comfort knowing we are not alone in this life.

Stand in love, ❤️




Jennifer DeBough Miller


Love Survives Louisiana Floodwaters 

Love Gathers.

Each morning, the diverse group of volunteers working for Samaritan’s Purse, dressed in matching bright orange t- shirts,  along with the local congregation of Crossroad’s Church here in Lafayette, Lousiana gather for a time of meaningful reflection before heading out to a worksite.

It’s a time of welcoming newcomers, and enjoying a satisfying meal lovingly prepared by the volunteer kitchen staff on site.  I’ve met folks from all over the United States and while their geographical locations vary, their mission remains the same:  To show Christ’s love to those who are hurting and in need of community during times of distress.

Samaritan’s Purse operates in conjunction with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a rapid response prayer team offering chaplain services to disaster areas where crisis management responders are needed.

Yesterday a combined team of 12 volunteers and two leaders, Lenny and Bob, headed a massive clean up project on Demanade Street, an area where standing flood waters still remain.   We arrived to the flooded street at 8:30am, assessed our work assignments for the day and began unloading the U-haul stocked full of the necessary supplies.

This was the scene when we arrived:

Burt and Erline’s front yard at the time of arrival

I was struck in particular by the soaked memories of this couple in their late 70’s and early 80’s.

Water logged photo albums floated in the home’s 4 feet of water.

Their single story home was inundated with 4 feet of flood water while they were spending the weekend near Lake Arthur about 50 miles west of Lafayette.

Albert, “Burt” as he prefers to be called, and his beautiful wife of 59 years, Erline returned home to find what Erline referred to as a mixing bowl of meatball ingredients swirling around inside her home.

After hours of cleanup inside the property, I was able to steal a few moments with the couple in their garage where they were salvaging photographs in albums soaked to the core.  The colors of the printed film swirled together like fresh tie dye.

Love Recalls.

We met in 1956“, recalled Burt when asked how he and his bride first met.

I was older than she was, and I remember the first time I laid eyes on her.  She had the best butt I had ever seen, and then I saw the face to match the body and I was well pleased!” 

Coming from a man in his eighties, I found this quite humorous, and appreciating his candid storytelling, let him share the love story of his life.

As Burt retrieved more warped photo albums tossed in the back of his pickup truck, Erline and I reminisced about her high school days and the beginnings of her infatuation with her dreamy husband who she claims, “was not just cute, but movie-star cute!”

I wasn’t allowed to go to dances, being a country girl and all…” Erline shared in a beautiful southern Louisiana drawl, “so I used my sewing skills to make up some of the prettiest skirts.  I remember the exact form fitting, white pencil skirt I wore that day that Burt noticed me.  It wasn’t polite for girls to accept invitations to go out on the first or second ask…. so I patiently waited for the third time, hoping he wouldn’t give up on me. ” 

As the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers removed drenched sheets of mold-infested drywall from the home, Burt removed saturated photographic memories of trips they had taken in the mountains in Colorado many years prior.  He loves photography.  She loves nature and animals.  Their love for one another in that moment was a testimony to the bond and strength of their relationship in light of the destruction surrounding them.

Love Endures.

I wanted to capture their essence and decided we would take photos under a big Oak Tree in the corner of their front yard.  To the immediate left stood heaps of crumbled drywall,  reams of moldy insulation, damaged furniture, swollen library books, bundles of soaked clothing, along with piles of soiled personal effects collected during their 59 years together.  But there, leaning on that thick tree trunk they were reminded of their roots, and felt the strength of their firm foundation rising up.  This tree stood majestically , symbolically, calling them to rejoice in their personal victory together.  The tears from the morning had turned to joyful laughter as they posed together rekindling the love they had for each other in their youth.

Burt, 80, with his wife Erline Daigle, 78.                                                                                  Photographed with permission

I thanked God for the opportunity to bear witness to this profound example of perseverance, and hope their story inspires everyone in the Lafayette community and in the world that there is hope on the other side of pain.

I recalled the words of encouragement shared in Wednesday night’s service at host church Crossroads,   “Pain leads to pursuit.  Pain leads to passion.  Pain leads to purpose.”

What is the pain in our life teaching us?  Is it a subtle reminder to go back to our roots, and take an introspective look at the things that really matter?

Faith, Hope, and Love.  And of these, Love is the strongest.

Going back today to finish  up and help restore a bit of their memories in the pages of the albums.

Stand in love, like Burt and Ernice.



Love that goes the distance. 

The rains in southern Lousiana descended on Friday, August 12th beginning around 7am according to homeowner Elizabeth Wedlake as we sat under a shade tree in her front yard on Pilgrimage Drive, soaked in sweat from the southern summer heat, the air thick with post flood humidity. The coolies just behind her backyard fence still full to the brim with the city’s backed up sewage, and the grass damp from continuous rainfall over the past two weeks.

Facing a heap of ruined home furnishings, torn dry wall fragments, and bags of trash, Elizabeth graciously shared her story with me.

Elizabeth and Sean Wedlake’s front lawn when we arrived

“My biggest concern is for my two children and my folks’ home that flooded about 1/2 mile up the road. “

That’s what Elizabeth shared with me when asked what troubles her most about the recent devastation.

As our 10-person Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief team, lead by kind hearted veteran volunteer Lenny Carr, began tearing apart her kitchen one cabinet at a time in search for mold spores, homeowners Sean and Elizabeth Wedlake looked on to see everything they have built up in the past couple of years ripped to shreds by crowbars and a variety of commonly used demolition tools.

Recently married and parents of two children, a 10-year old girl named Maria with autism and a baby boy of two years named Joseph, the couple had settled in this home four years ago.  Joseph lost his job last summer in the oil field business and the couple has been struggling to make ends meet.

Looking out her back window Friday morning around 8:30 am she saw this:

By 12:45 pm the same day, the water levels looked like this:

The water from the coolie, a type of drainage canal, located directly behind their home had backed up forcing them to hastily dig up bricks from their front lawn flower garden to form a makeshift barricade.

Worried about staying or attempting to evacuate in the midst of quickly rising flood waters they decided to wait it out hoping the rain would soon relent.

“Maria went to stay with my mom and dad down the way the night before the storm” Elizabeth told me, “because she is really afraid of thunder and storms. She has a great connection to my parents.”

By early morning on Saturday the 13th, the water had risen to this level:

Elizabeth, a high school art teacher at Nish New Iberia Senior High School in Lafayette, a town of just over 120,000 in the heart of “Cajun country” returned back to work in her school a couple of weeks prior.

Calling 911 for help that morning, she received confirmation that someone would be there to help evacuate her home.

City Marshalls as well as the local Cajun Navy dispatched boats for search and rescue.  Locals took out their own boats and started patrolling the area looking for stranded homeowners and pets.

Within an hour, members of the National Guard arrived to pick up Elizabeth and her husband, with 2 year old baby Joseph in tow.

8 days later Samaritan’s Purse arrived to help gut her flooded kitchen and pick up where her colleagues and friends left off.

It’s been incredible to see everyone come together in Lafayette.  We have been so blessed to receive an outpouring of support from both Samaritan’s Purse as well as friends and family of friends from work. “

Elizabeth started a “Go Fund Me” campaign on Facebook to drive support for her parents home – as they lack flood insurance like so many in this area.

Field Updates.

To date there have been over 1100 volunteer hours logged at the Lafayette location with Samaritan’s  Purse with over 100 volunteers checking in to serve on day shifts or take part of extended stay trips.

Volunteers arrived from New York, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Texas, California, and Indiana.

Today I heard a story from the field about a family who drove from Alabama to a flood affected area and set up a tent to grill and serve freshly cooked meals for dozens of locals.

It’s been one day on the ground here so far and I am reminded why I came here: the joys and blessings in service always outweigh the giving.  The people serving from this home base at Crossroad’s Church are united and committed to staying in the area until the work orders are completed.  The people of Louisiana are committed to each other and to their faith, supporting each other every step of the way.

With over 140 open requests for disaster help in the Lafayette area, and 6 job sites completed so far, the need for volunteers is great.

If you would like to help, or have a faith- based or community group willing to get involved , please Click here.  Please pray for all those affected, that God would bring restoration and healing for all those hurting.


Grounded by Roots

Arriving at an altitude just shy of 8,000 feet in the splendid heart of Mt. Charleston Wilderness, aptly nicknamed “sky island” by the Bureau of Land Management, I took a deep inhalation, acknowledging the sensations of  lower air pressure and the inevitable impact it would soon have on my lungs.  The invigorating aroma of fresh pine enlivened my senses with each breath, while the cones of my eyes relaxed as a result of the color green flooding my vision.

The days’ selected hiking destination: Trail Canyon, a 4-mile roundtrip lung-busting grunt 1600 feet up and back down the steep slopes of a vast, deep valley.   The winds swirled, creating a ocean wave-like hush inside the canyon area, causing the leaves of quaking aspen to shake gleefully like tambourines in Van Morrisons’ Brown Eyed Girl.   Carrying this tune in my head and my habitually over-loaded rucksack on my back, I set my well-worn, tan Vasque boots to the ground, seeking solace from the relentless summer heat 45 minutes away and longing for the grounded connection time spent in nature provides.

The gifts found in nature are there for appreciation.  A chance to exhale loudly and restoratively, temporarily escaping our cluttered minds filled with  endless to-do lists and incessant thoughts.   A time for reflection, rest, and refocusing.   A time to stand in awe and wonder of its enormity if we open our minds and allow the experience to penetrate our consciousness.

Trudging along the stone-marked pathway to my  planned destination, aware of my increased heart rate, working overtime to supply welcome oxygen to my gradually fatiguing muscles with each step, I was captivated by the ubiquitous presence and grounding nature of roots.   Roots, these vital lifelines of the tree whose primary functions are to absorb water, anchor the plant body, and store vitally obtained food and nutrients for growth and survival,  seemed to connect with me, calling me to contemplate their complexities.

Evidently, roots go much deeper than the eye can see.

I checked several dictionary entries of “root” and liked this one best:

“Root:   the fundamental or essential part of the source or origin of a thing.  Part of a plant that develops, typically from a radicle and grows downward into soil anchoring the plant and absorbing nutrients and moisture.”-

The more I researched, the more fascinated the topic of roots became.

“People are like trees”, I thought to myself, “and their roots are like deeply held beliefs obtained from an early age anchoring them to a particular way of thinking, watered by circumstance and experience.   Their roots, shaping how and why they feel a particular way, subsist on a diet of both empowering and disempowering thoughts.   What we see on the surface is only a fraction of what lies beneath.”

Digging deeper into the subject, I discovered an article published by Dr. Thomas O. Perry in  Arnoldia,  the quarterly magazine from Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, which I found interesting to share as it relates to the word opportunity.  

“Root growth is essentially ‘opportunistic’ in its timing and orientation.  It takes place whenever and wherever the environment provides the water, oxygen, minerals, support, and warmth necessary for growth.

What I love about this quote is the following distinction:

Thoughts, beliefs, and actions take root wherever there is an opportunity for them.   If the right set of simple circumstances exist, roots will take hold.   This can be both good and bad if we are not careful.  We can be rooted in love, passion, and purpose, or we can be rooted in bitterness, anger, and fear.    Take a moment to stop and think about your roots and ask yourself the following questions:

“In what am I rooted, and why?  Was there a particular opportunity that happened in my life that caused me to grow certain roots?  How deep are these roots?  How am I contributing to the growth or destruction of these roots? Do these roots need watering, or uprooting?  Am I getting the support and vital essentials to keep these roots healthy? Or do I need some watering spiritually?  Are there areas in my life where I would like to grow new roots? If so, where would I plant the seeds?  

If you have recently established new roots, your questions may sound more like this:

Am I being kind to others as these new roots grow? Am I being kind to myself during this new growth and replanting period?  What do I anticipate will happen from establishing these new roots? How will these new roots impact my family, my community, or even further, the world at large? “

While I didn’t make it all the way to my intended destination, opting to let the humbling mantra “listen to your body” take root, I was grateful for the valuable lessons along the way.

I would like to leave you with this well-timed devotional entry I savored after returning home from a day spent relishing a slice of the 56,000 acres of wilderness that comprise Mt. Charleston.   May it encourage you to get out and enjoy the great outdoors for a little soul-soothing!

“Sunshine helps to make glad the heart of man.  It is the laughter of Nature.  Live much outside.  My medicines are sun and air, trust and faith.  Trust is the spirit sun, your being enwrapped by the Divine Spirit.  Faith is the soul’s breathing in of the Divine Spirit.  Mind, soul, and body need helping.  Welcome My treatment for you both.  Draw near to Me.  Nature is often My nurse for tired souls and weary bodies.  Let her have her way with you both.”


Stand in Love,  Jen xo





Releasing the Grip of Perfectionism.

Greetings friends!

Inspired by this Olympic headline of Michael Phelps’ record breaking 20th and 21st gold medals on Tuesday, I reflected back to this weekend’s powerfully delivered message on sloth by Shawn Williams, part of series entitled The Seven Deadly Sins.  Riding the rhythmic waves of Maurice Ravel’s orchestral movement “Bolero”  this morning, watching a hummingbird perched on a treetop while sipping coffee from my favorite Cafe Du Monde mug out back, I pondered the following question:  What, if any, is the connection between perfectionism, performance, and sloth?   Are there areas in my life where I let these dispositions get out of balance? Let’s discover together.


Every couple of years, we have the opportunity to be heartened  by the world’s top performing athletes in a variety of disciplines, competing in the game of their lives for a chance to earn the coveted symbol of recognition, the gold medal.  Or maybe they compete for competition’s sake.  The way a bird sings because it has a song, and the way writers share stories because their internal experiences beg for cathartic release.   The amount of  pre-televised event blood, sweat, and  training tears pass largely unnoticed by the viewing public.  I have a deep sense of appreciation for the athletes, and the level of dedication it required to get to the Olympic arena in the first place.   What does it take to perform at this kind of level?  What is inside of them compelling this passionate drive? 

Webster’s dictionary defines perfectionism as: ” A predilection for setting extremely high standards and being displeased with anything less; an instance of excellence”.    Are Olympic athletes perfectionists by nature or just high performers?  Perfectionism is a highly researched topic and the overwhelming majority of evidence presents it in a negative light.  Perfectionism  creates an impenetrable, hard-edged shadow around its victims , like an insect trapped in a spider web, leading to anxiety and depression.

There is strong evidence suggesting a deep, shared desire by  Olympic athletes torwards achieving excellence, as well as a presumption of willingly  sacrificing a sense of normalcy  for a life characterized by disciplined eating, training, and sleeping schedules.   Do athletes have feelings of isolation?  Do they wonder if it’s all worth it in the end, despite the results on the scoreboard?  Do we suffer from perfectionism at times,  hindering our ability to move forward, preventing the innate joy and freedom in taking chances and falling softly on the clouds of grace, carried by wings of courage?   Is it perfectionism or performance that has brought us to our current place? Are we content in this place?


Performance mentality, rather than perfectionist mentality, writes Sharon Gilmour-Glover, co-founder of Light-Core allows for self-growth, and recognizes a job well done by others.  Having a performance mentality means we continually strive to do a better job, while being inspired by others.  Failure, and fear of it, inhibits our growth at high levels of competition, Sharon writes.  It may serve in low levels of competition, encouraging us onward,  but becomes an adversary when we are surrounded by a tougher, higher-caliber playing field.   Olympic athletes must adopt performance mentalities in order to compete at the highest levels.  Embracing a performance mentality means we are actively learning, and allowing grace to fill the steps or missteps along our path like shining stars illuminating the universe.

One the polar opposite side of the spectrum of perfectionism is our two or three-toed friend, Sloth.


While the sloth looks cute and cuddly, his characteristicly slow nature lures us in like a sticky trap catching us if we are not on guard. Sloth, viewed through the life application lens, means choosing the easiest route, rather than fighting for what is best.  Sloth breeds inactivity.  It clings to complacency.   Sloth is the nemesis of performance and  antithesis of perfection.

I loved Shawn’s points on Sunday:

Sloth is about playing it easy, versus accepting the invitation towards greatness.

Sloth is inaction towards the most important thing God wants us to do. It causes us to pass over needs, avoid reconciling relationships, and keeps us from vulnerability.

Sloth leaves us with feelings of emptiness, a dullness of heart, rendering us spiritually apathetic.  Spiritual growth is not found in our comfort zones.  It happens in the places where we take risks, stepping out of our comfort and becoming wholly dependent on God.  This is when He does the greatest work in us and our journey.”

See the connection?  If perfectionism prevents progress, performance moves us in a forward direction guided by our positive inspirations, and sloth locks us in chains of contentment with status quo, what is the thread tying these three together?


It takes courage to find the landing-place of grace.   Courage to have faith. We must have courage to release perfection’s vice-like grip, courage to positively support others while trusting in our own rising talent, and courage to check in with ourselves occasionally to assure we are not falling into sloth’s unproductive, non fruit-bearing way of life.

We have the opportunity to perform daily, to carry out great acts of kindness, and risk taking steps of incredible courage.   Performance can be as easy as giving your smile unconditionally to strangers, offering two armed hugs to everyone you meet, or making the best darn bowl of spaghetti you know how to for your family.  Our performance, less it be doomed from the start,  should not be measured against the ultra elite or ideal standard, sending us into a sloth-like state when we don’t measure up.

Our performance, rather,  is to be embraced in the present moment, in what Dan Sullivan, founder of the Strategic Coach refers to as the Reverse Gap Concept – looking at where we are now, compared to where we were, enjoying the progress we have already made rather than looking ahead at what we have not yet accomplished.

Rather than allowing ourselves to go through life, let’s allow life to go through us!

Has watching the Olympics impacted your thought process?  Have a thought you would like to share, please leave in the comments! I would love to hear form you!

Jen xoxo



Volunteers Dressing Women For Success

“Lena, what are your favorite colors? What makes you feel comfortable.. pants or skirts?”, asked lead volunteer and suiting stylist Joanne Steffen, a confident and poised woman, in the most welcoming, hospitable tone of voice this morning when introduced to her 10 am client.

“Purple and black.”, Lena replied.  “And I prefer pants.”

“Perfect!” , Joanne continued, “This is simply a style conversation so we understand your preferences, what works for you and will make you feel good at work!..”, she said smiling with an air of warmth and friendship, connecting her to the determined, yet consciously uncomfortable woman standing in front of her dressed in a pink tank top, black workout shorts and jogging shoes with her long, thick black hair tied loosely in a bun atop her 5’4″ frame.


Joanne whisked Lena away to her private dressing room inviting her to settle in and make herself comfortable with the same enthusiasm as a Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper wardrobing a high-end client.    The goal was simple.  Personal transformation and powerful self-esteem building.

Please allow me to introduce you to Dress for Success Southern Nevada.

“Founded in 2009,  Dress for Success Southern Nevada (DFSSN) is the local affiliate of the international nonprofit that empowers women to achieve economic independence by enabling them to build a career and become self sufficient.   The organization assists local women in the Las Vegas valley looking to get back on their feet by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development tools to help them thrive in work and life.”

Lena, a native New Mexican, arrived in Las Vegas via Colorado only four months ago and is beginning a new journey of rebuilding her life by kick starting her career.  Transition.  The in-between.  Her new job assignment?  A full-time position as an auditor for a small, local casino.   A single mother of two grown children, Lena spent the past twenty-four years as a school bus driver to make ends meet.  “I was able to take my kids with me to work when they were growing up”, she said as she popped out from behind the dressing room curtain in her first pair of black trousers and flat black shoes.  “I grew up on a ranch, we don’t wear skirts and heels..”, she chuckled at the sight of a brightly colored turquoise maxi skirt I thought would compliment her lush, golden skin tone, which at this point was glistening with perspiration.  “I’d be afraid the wind would blow and my skirt will be up next to my face!”, she laughed candidly as I placed the skirt on the go back rack outside her room.


Joanne’s skills as a retired nurse and President/CEO of a large, national managed health care practice emerged as she handed Lena a few moist wet wipes to clear her brow and cool her neck.   Plugging in a fan outside the two dressing rooms, Joanne continued to focus on Lena’s comfort first,  assuring her sense of enjoyment during the somewhat daunting, albeit highly rewarding process of selecting 15-16 different flattering and professional outfits for two week’s worth of employment.

We zoomed back and forth into a large area of generously donated clothing at the rear of the commercially located office space on W. Desert Inn,  all meticulously sorted by volunteers and thoughtfully merchandised by size, style, and sleeve length.  Racks of clean, patterned and solid colored dresses, linen, cotton, and wool suit jackets, camisoles, skirts, and trousers hung neatly separated by size rounders beside shelves of shoes of varying heel heights.  “15-16 different outfits in 90 minutes?” , I kept thinking to myself in astonishment.  “These stylists are practicing an art form!  And they are volunteers!”

Yes.  You read that correctly.  Volunteers.

*(BIG HUGS to all the volunteers in the world.  YOU ARE AWESOME!  Each life is worthy and you ARE making a difference!)*

Best part of being a personal stylist at Dress For Success Southern Nevada…  no previous experience in fashion industry required!  If you know how to put an outfit together that is polished and professional, mixing your creativity  with the available, donated resources, and have a passion in your heart for lifting a woman’s confidence and self-worth you can join this amazing team!  They have volunteer openings to help style clients, sort donations, file paperwork,  and even help by sewing or letting out seams!

Dress for Success Southern Nevada hosts several annual events like the “Power Walk”, which is how volunteer stylist leader Joanne Steffen first became involved.  “I saw Paula Lawrence, executive director, on Fox 5 talking about the upcoming event and  having just retired, realized I could donate my entire professional wardrobe.” she stated.  ” I believe women need to improve their self-esteem.  They often feel beaten down, and it’s our job to lift them up”, she replied passionately when asked what she loves most about her volunteer work over the past three years with the organization.

We wrapped up the styling session in the accessories room, where Lena was encouraged to pick out a couple of necklaces to coordinate with her new suit jackets.  “I haven’t worn jewelry in such a long time”, she said  while slipping a sterling silver fashion necklace with brightly colored purple gemstones in the shape of a cross around her neck.  “I really like this one!”,  she smiled.  “Great! It’s going home with you along with all your new outfits, your new purse,  2 pairs of shoes, shapewear, and professional tote bag for work!”, peeped Joanne from around the corner as she loaded up her treasures in fresh garment bags organized by outfit on hangers, including labeled tags inside items to help Lena distinguish colors for those she couldn’t decipher due to her color blindness.


Gorgeous transformation! 

How to Get Involved


Donate: Take a look through your closet… Any articles of clothing lingering that no longer fit you?  Lost weight or gained weight and need to clear some space in your home and your mind for that matter?  Perhaps you’ve graduated into a new decade of life and would like to let go of old age-inappropriate items?  Or maybe you just want to detach from a former identity… and recreate a new persona.   Through this giving, you will be both a blessing to another, and to yourself.

Really small sizes like 0-2 as well as larger sizes 16+ are the greatest needs by our clients”, mentioned Joanne at the end of our visit together.   “We can suit up to 10 women a day, based on our volunteer schedule, and often the women we serve show up wearing the only pair of underwear they have,  if any at all.”

Volunteer:  It takes a village of compassionate hearts to create ripples in the world.  Have a couple of hours to invest to impact the lives of women directly in your area?

Lena, inspired by her new wardrobe which will impact her confidence as she heads into her new job next week, knowing she has a full two week’s worth of new clothing.

Joanne, inspired by Lena’s change in attitude after their two-hour transformation session.

How to Make Last Changes.

Reminds me of a concept Tony Robbins refers to as the  Six Steps For Creating Lasting Change taken from his bestselling book, “Awaken The Giant Within“:

1. Decide What You Really Want and What’s Preventing You From Having It.

2. Get Leverage:  Associate Massive Pain to Not Changing Now and Massive Pleasure to the Experience of Changing Now.

3. Interrupt the Limiting Pattern.

4. Create a New Empowering Alternative.

5. Condition the Pattern Until It’s Consistent.

6. Test It!

“We do not care where you have been, we only care where you are going”, is the guiding principle in this organization.