Debbie Whittlesey is being honored as a Champion of Change for her disaster relief work in Joplin, Mo.
For 22 years I was a battered spouse. Pain and I knew each other very well. A women’s shelter in town helped me get protection and escape my situation. After that, I wanted to find a civic club so I could give back to my community and help others who were hurting. I saw a flier from the Lebanon Host Lions and noticed they supported the very shelter that had assisted me. I knew this civic organization was the one for me.
I have changed drastically since I became a Lion; probably even more so since the Joplin, Mo., tornado and working with Lions everywhere. I used to have low self-esteem, unable to look people in the eye and was battered and bruised. Since becoming a Lion, I have been trained to lead, to be confident and take pride in the organization I serve. In the days following the disaster in Joplin, I couldn’t stay away. I was simply amazed and astounded at the number of phone calls and e-mails from Lions across America — literally hundreds as soon as the tornado hit. Lions from many states sent much needed money to help in the immediate relief efforts. Also, Lions came to Joplin from across the nation just to work and to serve beside us.
Debbie Whittlesey of Lebanon, Mo., is a member of the Lebanon Host Lions Club and has been a Lion for eight years.