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Debra Stokes Talks About Purpose and The Green Coat

Atlanta West End Rotarian Rose Caplan, who’s arranged for outstanding speakers for AWER during March, National Women’s Month, introduced the club's March 26th speaker Debra Stokes. By way of background Debra said she believes that everyone is born with a purpose, so for the past 50 years or so, she's been pursuing hers. She says that the pursuit of one's purpose only requires a willingness to take what we're given and do with it what we can. Debra knows she’s been given a lot which she says means there's much more to be done. Early in her talk, she described preparing for her job in the State Legislature which meant getting a really nice coat to be comfortable taking MARTA to work. Upon exiting at the State Capitol MARTA Station on her first day at the State Legislature, she came across a young teenager sitting on a cement bench with her arms tightly tucked inside her flimsy T-shirt. Concerned about the child being cold, Debra promptly removed her coat, draped it over the child, and continued on to get inside the Capitol for work … and discovering how much warmer it seemed compared to when she donned the coat an hour or so before. Remembering the Bible’s words about doing God’s words and not being just readers of them, she knew she had done the right thing (and did not miss the coat). This experience helped lead her to write The Green Coat, her first book. She said she sees life as a big quilt with each of us needing to create our own square, so the world-quilt becomes complete. Rose shared some background on Debra including that she was born in a rural farming community in Alabama in the mid-50's and feels fortunate to have experienced both segregation and integration in the public school systems of the South. She feels she got the best of both. In the segregated schools, she was taught by teachers who really cared and were vested in the future of their students. In the integrated schools, she gained access to information and resources that would catapult her into the next phase of her purpose. As a student at The University of Alabama, Debra Stokes (then Debra Lightner), met and married Crimson Tide running back Ralph Stokes. Although unaware of Ralph's status as a protégé of Bear Bryant, she liked him a lot, and they've been married for more than 40 years now. This co-op resulted in two daughters - Deidre and Rashele - along with the knowledge that being a wife and mother combine for two supreme purposes in any woman's life. Now she’s added "grandmother" of two little girls to her list of blessings. Equipped with a degree in communications, Debra set out on a career path that has included broadcast journalism (on and off camera), a tour of duty with a quasi-governmental agency, a corporate communications position with a utility giant, and a career shift into an executive assistant position within the Georgia General Assembly in support of State Representatives Sharon Cooper and (now retired legislator) Joe Wilkinson. Rose wrote that Debra joined Association Strategy Group (ASG), as Director of Marketing, Membership, and General Operations. ASG is a premier association management firm specializing in healthcare and education. Debra’s career paths have included retail, telemarketing, meeting planning, product development and business ownership. We’ll have to have her return to fill us in on this list of endeavors which have been, in her words, “challenging, disastrous, short-lived, exciting, and beneficial.” Debra concluded with some witticisms from the funny and silly: Q: What did the famous rapper Fifty Cent do when hungry? A: Fifty Eight! … to the more thought-provoking: “Don’t worry if other people don’t like you, just realize that too many don’t like themselves either.” Another: “Stop whining – and don’t cry because you did not know, cry because you did not take the time to learn.” Rose is building a website for Debra Stokes and from that we’ll all be able order The Green Coat, and eventually other books brewing in Debra energetic imagination. 

Posted by Neil Shorthouse
March 26, 2021 2:00pm

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