Great leaders look within themselves, before they look beyond themselves. In her quest to make an impact on others, Demetra Reid has become a great leader. A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Reid is a Registered Nurse and earned a Master's of Science degree in Health Care Administration. She has operated in this capacity for more than 11 years while serving as the CEO and founding member of the international organization, women EO, Inc. for the last two. She is also a four-time author and penned the dynamic children's book, "Alice's ABC's." The book is so insightful and charming, it was recently recognized as "Parent's Choice" and earned distribution in several US university bookstores.
A forward-thinker by every definition of the word, Reid charismatic operatically as an agent for change for her family, organization, and individuals on issues which concerns them. Demetra's devastating and spirit-testing experiences earlier in life groomed her for leading and inspiring her organization and readers today. Creatively, she helps them navigate through transitional experiences and identify strategies to connect them to their successes. But, it's her ability to articulate a vision in such a way that ignites enough passion, that others pursuit and manifest that vision. It simply leaves people in awe. I had the opportunity to sit down with Demetra Reid. We discussed her values, her organization, her love for empowering others, and of course, her children's book, "Alice's ABC's."
Fran Briggs: Good morning, Demetra. Thank you for making the time to meet with me today.
Demetra Reid: Thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure.
FB Tell us about the genesis of your women's organization, and why you think it has been received so well.
DR Within the word, women., EO, Inc is an acronym. It stands for We Own Mentor Empower Nurture, EACH OTHER. It has been embroidered by so many because – well, look at the name of the group – we do just that! We take people as they are and do not try to change or judge them because there is at least one of us who has been through the same thing. We listen. We relate to. We understand. Sometimes that's all someone needs – a willingness to listen and understand.
FB You have a decentralized group with members from three continents – all of what are very cause-driven, hard-working, and creative. With so many worthy global initiatives today, how do you determine which ones to support?
DR Great question, Fran. Yes, we are invited to partner with several causes, groups, and joint business ventures. The focus is to prioritize, rationalize, and maintain our perspective on the vision of women, EO. Actually, we have a multitude of priorities including assisting women who have been affected by domestic violence, rape, and incest. Another priority is to reach out to children. There's nothing that lies close to a woman's heart then her children, right? Well, our organization is concerned with the very things that touch a woman's heart. Self esteem also remains a priority. What do we do to build and maintain self-esteem among women?
Many times, just supplying one tool can alleviate a multitude of other issues. When women feel good about themselves, they recognize what real love is, as opposed to co-dependent emotions. Real love does not hit, harm, or abuse. Correct? I realize I'm asking someone who knows the answers but sadly, so many women today, do not. I want so badly for women to begin learning about self-love at an early age so that they can develop healthy love habits. We provide counseling, consulting, and mentoring – in a cost effective manner. Some of the growth questions we are asking as it pertains to the organization include:
Can we reach masses – span the globe by providing teleconferences?
Can we reach masses – span the globe and impact children and women who may be homeless by investing in care packages to send out?
Can we reach the masses by holding conferences?
My answer is, "yes" – unequivocally – to all of these. It's a viable investment with a huge return. I am looking forward to bringing in experts from the fields of personal and business development, rape crisis, behavior health, planned pregnancy, teen run-aways, and many other disciplines for our conferences. Our state ambassadors sent us the top three issues for women in their relevant states. It is from their own perspective, or formal research. Domestic violence, homelessness, job assistance, and business development mentoring were identified as priorities. Other concerns included the need for additional shelters for battered women, run-away youth, and pregnant teens. There are so many needs, all of which span the globe.
FB You've been directing women EO, Inc., for a couple years, now. Did it take time to get a feel for the culture of your group?
DR Absolutely! We have diligently worked and re-worked the roles and responsibilities of the board, ambassadors and members. It has been a journey because this is definitely, a not for profit organization. Everything that we do – teleconferences, planning, meetings, and newsletters – is all on volunteered time. The women who are in our group are extremely devoted to the cause. They have such a passion about the mission of the group – which, again, is wrapped up in our name: We Own Mentor Empower Nurture, EACH OTHER. They take ownership, mentoring, and empowering personally. We have wonderful women in place for getting to our destination. Although there are many women who are out there and certainly want to help, some have come and gone because the 'price' of helping is expensive! Lots of time, lots of commitment, and lots of energy with little recognition is involved, here.
One has to evaluate their motive. It takes a village to reach who we are trying to reach. We all have ideas, and it takes all of us to execute those ideas. I love everyone who has crossed our path. Some have left, and then come back. That's because they have a burning desire to help others that just will not leave. I thank everyone who has met with us; we would not be here today if not for them. I am even grateful for the individuals and organizations who turned us down as far as partnering with us. At least they now know about us and what we are trying to accomplish. The seed has been planted. (laughing) I'm rambling; are not I?
FB (Smiling) No. Not at all … Demetra, few people realize that you personally mentor or consult with more than 100 individuals over a year. When do you make time for you ?
DR (Laughing) This is my time. With my history of suffering from emotional abuse, physical abuse, depression and a few suicide attempts – I have to reach out. . It's almost like breathing – if I do not, who will? That's how I feel sometimes. For example, when my phone rings, I may say, 'I'm tired, right now.' But then I'm quick to think about how it was with me. If I would have had someone to talk to, maybe I would not have stayed in such an abusive relationship for so long. I also recognize that I am grateful for the one who did reach out to me and taught me that my life was worth living. See, I had that special someone on the other end of a phone one day who made me contract with her to call her if I ever thought of taking my life again. She made me feel like my life mattered. I realize some may think this sounds funny – or even hypocritical coming from a Christian – but I'm human. I was in a bad place, but I do believe the Lord uses people and puts people in place to move us from one place to another. I'd like to think of myself as that medium – that vessel that help others make it from day to day.
FB Many women – those who are single, have children, and little income in particular – are vulnerable to a form of discrimination that marginalizes them from the rest of society. What are some of the ways which you show this group that there are better opportunities, and a better life for them?
DR I refer them to business-oriented women like yourself. (Smiling) I smile – but I'm serious. These women just need direction, education on the 'how tos' and the right steps that will lead them to their goal. What better way than to let them speak to women who have succeeded in what they see as being, 'just a dream'? We have women in our group who are entrepreneurs, publishers, authors, life coaches, college students, police officers, publicists, IT specialists and from many other professions. Many are single, divorced, but successful women! My job is easy; I just direct and put people together. And, it works.
FB How would you like your tenure as president of women EO, Inc. to be remembered?
DR A job well done. I would like for people to see that in all things, I tried. That is my life's mission. Serving as president of women, EO, Inc. is certainly being true to myself; I want to make a difference.
FB Demetra, you are living an amazing life which includes dozens of accounts where you have defied and acquired incredible odds. At what point did you decide to choose writing as one means to illustrate this?
DR Great question, Fran. I have often started and stopped journals in the past. I try so hard to maintain one as it helps tremendously with getting things out of my head – especially the things I worry about. It almost seems that once I have these items on paper, I worry less and sleep better. That is how I use my writing, as a tool and means for expression.
FB When are you most happy?
DR When I am spending time with my daughter who is growing up! She will be 17 this month. I enjoy seeing her become such a wonderful young lady. I enjoy hearing about her hopes, dreams, and deepest fears. It does a mother's heart good to know what her children are afraid of so that we can help them face those fears at a young age. I also try to build up her self-esteem. Sometimes young ladies that grow up without a father figure will look for male affirmation in other places. I have prayed and prayed about that. I prayed that she would be well-rounded with having a Mother stand in the role of Mother and Father. That is what makes me happy – being with Kala.
FB Demetra, you're also an author having penned a children's book which is being promoted in American universities, as well as three adult inspirational books this year. How has the reception been from the readers?
DR It has been overwhelming! I really enjoyed being a contributing author in Volume I and Volume II of How to Jump from a Ferris Wheel and Land on Your feet, and writing my first poetry book, No Reason Or Rhyme … Just Thoughts Over Time.
Each of these drew from the mentoring and empowerment sides of me. I hoped to reach women who have been – or are currently – in the same situations – drafted in the book. I want to let them know that whatever the situation, 'its okay.' 'Its okay' because when you do feel low – then, what better time to begin feeling better? I also contributed in an e-book titled, Guide to Life Coaching. This book was compiled by Lydia Proschinger and includes contributions from life coaches who share their processes, methods and successes. I was honored to be a part of this project and hope that many will come to recognize the strength and positive enhancement that comes with having a life coach.
FB Can we expect to read more books by Demetra Reid in the future?
DR Oh, Yes ma'am! The sequel to Alice's ABCs, which is titled, Alice's 123's, is scheduled to be released in next year. The latter is about what happens when Alice goes on an adventure. I'm so sure there are many more to come.
FB Many authors have at least one favorite author. Do you have one? If so, who is it, and why?
DR I love Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, and Mary Higgins Clark. I guess the common thread is the mystery side. I like a book that can take you away and these books do that; they make you leave your own life and enter someone else's.
FB Was there ever a time when you second-guessed your faith or ability to write a book that people would pick up and actually read? If so, how did you get it?
DR I second-guess that every time I pick up a pen to write and every time I think of how words should flow. I contemplate on the best way for them to be written. I imagine it's how I think when I speak to people as well – I play and replay my words, sentences, and paragraphs before I speak. I want to make sure my point is clear. You know, words are alive; they are sent out with a purpose whether it be for good or for bad. The Alice series has the objective to teach. The poetry book that I wrote was meant for good and has a goal to make the reader smile. I would love to see both of these make their mark. The only way to ensure that, is to receive feedback so, any and all feedback is welcome. I can not wait to get the other books out!
FB I read Alice's ABCs, and I love it. With so many wonderful children's books out there today, what makes yours' definitively distinct?
DR (Smiling) Because it's Alice! Alice is not like most children today; she's rambunctious, mischievous, smart, sassy. And, she is looking forward to teaching your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews their ABC's, 123's. The artwork illustrated by Dena Deffenbaugh is outstanding. Alice does not have a distinct face and is absent of features – that was intentional. She can be anyone's child. When a child begins to read the book, they easily fit into Alice's shoes. I'm also looking at making an Alice doll so the reader has something to actually hold on to after the book is closed.
FB That's exciting and epitomizes your enthusiasm for your projects. What's next for Demetra Reid?
DR Oh, I want to expound on my writing and grow the women's group – in Jesus name! And one day, hear from groups and groups of women who are walking and talking in faith, hope, and real love. I guess you might be referring to the baby steps that it will take to get this point, huh?
FB Sure, 'baby steps' works, here. What are they?
DR Well, the first 'baby step' will be to start off with a meeting of the state and continental ambassadors. In doing so, we will look for sponsors and partners to assist in our cause. Additionally, women, EO is looking forward to hosting a national conference – it's a goal for each and every year – bringing the states andcontinents together in one space to touch each other spiritually, mentally and physically. It's important that we know that even with our individuality and in our uniqueness, we are all the same. And, I am happy to announce that we have sponsored two orphaned young girls from Rwanda. Our aim is to grow this ministry so that we can continue to assist them with their education and their self-esteem.
FB Demetra, it was both an honor and pleasure to interview you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to accommodate me.
DR Again, it has been my pleasure. You have been a joy to speak with, someone of your stature – someone what I consider a mentor. Continue to be blessed, Fran.
Fran Briggs interviewed Demetra "Dee Dee" Reid in December, 2008. To contact Demetra personally, please send an email to [email protected] or visit her organization's website www.womeneo.org .