Donna Reed Too Blessed to Be Stressed
with her children led her to turn her talents into a flourishing business. “As a Christian woman, I know that I am 'Too Blessed to Be Stressed!' and every time I was down to nothing, God was up to something. So I would pray for strength and guidance and move on,” Reed says.
From adversity comes wisdom. From wisdom often comes a passion for positive change. Donna Reed has experienced more adversity than many of us can imagine, but despite adversity her love for helping others has not been diminished. “ have always enjoyed helping others and working with my hands, creating unique and useful items. The path to my current success has been far from smooth. Many times selfdetermination and perseverance have had to substitute for money and resources,” says Reed. Today, Reed is an author, artist, motivational speaker, businesswoman and minister. She was once a battered wife who escaped the horrific clutches of domestic abuse. As a 23-year old single mother, Reed experienced a defining moment that gave her the courage to change her circumstances. She enrolled in college and began using her creativity and talent to create arts and crafts. Her desire to spend more time
From that milestone, many more wonderful milestones have occurred in her life and the lives of her four daughters and the communities they serve. In 1996 God gave Donna a vision for her four teenaged daughters to create a product line called T-Bags. They began to design tote bags and because each girl's name begins with the letter T (Taneka, Takeshia, Tajuana, and Tianda), they called them T-Bags. She is co-founder, with her daughters, of T-Bags, Teach Boys And Girls Success, Inc. (TBAGS, Inc.). Though they are no longer teenagers, Reed is continuing to build character through her daughters who run TBags, an organization that teaches atrisk youth to develop skills and talents to create a successful life with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and family. In 2007 Minister Reed joined Antioch Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Pastor Donnie R. Garris. She served as youth minister until she was ordained to become the pastor of New Perspective Community Church in 2009. Reed is also a life coach and motivational speaker. She inspires others to
change their circumstances by looking within themselves and recognizing their God-given talents. She shared her inspiring and extraordinary story with the publisher of Exceptional People Magazine. Monica: You were a victim of domestic violence. How long did you endure the pain of domestic abuse? Donna: About four years. He was 18 and I was 19. We got married and neither one of us knew anything about being a husband or wife. We had fun but when it came to the seriousness of a relationship, he couldn’t handle that part of it. When it came to making decisions, if he couldn’t handle something he would just start swinging. The first time he ever hit me was when my mother and my sister were visiting me. I had said something about taking the car and picking him up later. I’m not sure what was going on with him that day, but all of a sudden he didn’t want me to take the car. He got so mad that he hit me and I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. He apologized and of course I accepted it and we moved on. Then it was several months later that another incident occurred, then fewer months, until it got to the point where he was abusing me all the time. I would always try to reason with him and ask, “What would make you do this?” I was trying to reason with somebody who was unreasonable. Again, as someone who didn’t know
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how to deal with reality, he would just start throwing punches. Years later it had gotten so bad especially when he came home for work. If he wanted to stay out with his friends, he would start an argument and fight with me so that he could stay as long as he wanted. Even when it got to the point when I’d say, “I’d prefer you to be gone”, that would make him mad. It had gotten so bad that my body would start shaking around 4:00PM everyday because that’s the time he came home from work. I didn’t know what was going to happen. One day, I was washing dishes and I just started crying into the dishwater, and then I heard my mother’s voice from almost five years ago when she said, “Donna, marriage is not going to be a bed of roses, but if he ever begins to treat you bad, you take it as long as you want to take it. Then don’t take it anymore.”
That day, I looked into that dishwater and I said, “This is it. I’m not going to take this anymore.” I began to plot and plan to leave him and it took me about eight months to devise a plan to leave -- to save up the money. One day he left for work and if he had looked in his rearview mirror, he would have seen the entire neighborhood coming to help me get out. I left that day. I wrote a book called ‘Life is a Puzzle Until You Find the Missing Pieces’. I called that chapter, ‘Three Babies in a Truck’ because I literally got on the front seat of a 17 foot truck and drove from Texas to Connecticut to my parents. It took eleven days. I stopped in Nashville, Tennessee and told his parents, “I just left your son.” My father-in-law looked at me and said, “Darling, you’ve got so much going for yourself. Don’t ever look back.” Monica: Were your parents aware of the abuse?
Donna: They were aware of me having a different mindset and mentality than he did. They knew that I wanted something positive in my life and he was all about living “day by day” and nothing really mattered. They were aware of some things, but just not how bad it had gotten. Monica: There are women who don’t have the strength or courage to leave their abusers. What words of encouragement can you give them to help them make the right decision? Donna: The first thing is, you deserve more and you are more. You’re more than who they say you are. People will say, “Well, you can’t do any better. You’d better stay because you can’t afford to leave.” You have more people encouraging them to stay, than you do encouraging them to leave. But, when they do encourage them to leave, they just tell them to “get out of there”. They don’t offer an option or inspiration for what’s going to happen next. My message of encouragement is that you are more than what you are going through. You will make it but you have to take that first step to get out. If you stay, you won’t ever realize that things will work out.
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At that point, the scripture Jeremiah 29:11 came to me. “For I know the plan I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” At that point, I knew He would not send someone that would harm me mentally, physically or emotionally. What women have to know is that the plan for your life is not for you to see harm but it is for you to have a blessed future.
I entered another relationship and this relationship was with me being in ministry. Of course I prayed and I just knew without a shadow of a doubt, that this was it. I got into this relationship and this person was mentally and emotionally abusive. I had never experienced that before. Of course the emotional abuse comes with the physical abuse, but the mental abuse, I had never experienced. For years I had been encouraging women but because I was strongminded and strong-willed, I did not realize how bad it could tear down your mindset. I didn’t think I had a way out of this relationship because I was in the ministry. At times, I wasn’t sure which one was worse, the physical abuse or the mental abuse. You can see a punch coming, but mental abuse will, little by little eat away at you like a disease. It stays with you until you are so full of the disease that you don’t see a cure.
So, you have to change your mindset and say “I don’t deserve this,” and you have to believe it. Once I got out of the second abusive situation, I knew then, without a doubt that there are women that will stay, thinking that things will get better. I thought it once myself. I learned there was a difference between the world’s way and the Word’s way and by Word’s way, I’m talking about being a Christian. I thought I had to stay, because God hates divorce. However, this person broke a vow by mentally and emotionally abusing me. How I saw my way out was I asked God, “What do you hate more, the divorce or the fact that I can’t minister the Gospel.” In other words, I can’t minister the Word because I’m about to do something that is the opposite of what you love.
I had three babies and I had no idea how I was going to feed them the next day, never mind their future. But, I was determined that I would not be a statistic. I was determined no other person would ever harm me again nor my children. At that point, I stepped away from it and there was not one day where our needs weren’t met. Were there days when I didn’t know where we were going to get the next meal? Yes, there were, but there never was a day that my kids didn’t eat. So, I encourage women take that step because more damage will be done if you stay. This is something that I definitely want to make clear. If you have children and you stay in an abusive relationship, they are going to allow and do what they see. Young girls will allow themselves to be abused because they saw you get abused and you didn’t leave. Boys will become abusers because they watched their mother get abused and she didn’t leave. So, if you don’t have the motivation and courage to leave for yourself, you’ve got to have it to leave for your children. Monica: When you were in the first abusive situation were you working then? Donna: No, I was not. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just
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knew that it was not the life I had planned for me. I never thought my kids would be without a parent. But then I had to look at it a different way. One of us would eventually kill the other because I’m not going to keep being hit without swinging back one day. When I arrived home at my parents in Connecticut, I immediately got a job, but the job wasn’t enough to pay the baby-sitter. My children were nine months, one year and two years old when I left him. At this point I was getting ready to go on welfare. That was the last resort. I had never been on welfare and never knew anybody on welfare. It was embarrassing for me and I didn’t want to embarrass my family. I told my sister I don’t know what else to do, it’s my only option. She said to me, “I pay taxes and I feel better about paying my taxes knowing where some of it’s going. Do what you have to do.” I got on welfare and no one knew. I would deposit my check into the ATM machine. This was almost 30
years ago. I would write checks or pay cash for everything. I would buy food once a month. In the middle of the night I would go shopping at a 24hr grocery store because I was that embarrassed about being on welfare. During the week I would make crafts and go to college and on weekends do craft shows. My kids would be under the table and I would conduct business above the table. People thought I did crafts for a living. I would apply for grants and do whatever I could to survive. That’s how I paid for my car. As soon as my oldest child began attending school, I got a job. There was a young lady who would baby-sit for me, and I did the same for her so there was no exchange of money. That’s how I made it. Monica: You made a powerful decision to leave both situations and you turned your adversity into a strategy for freedom and success. Donna: Yes. You’re absolutely right. I was determined that neither myself nor my children would be a statistic.
Monica: After experiencing so much adversity, what would you say was the most important life lesson you learned? Donna: You can do anything with the right mindset. Determination will take you places that money and resources can’t take you. I was so determined to make it and ‘no’ was not an option for me. As a matter of fact when I would hear ‘no’ and even today, it gives me a source of energy. It motivates me. Monica: While your daughters were growing up and even today, what are some things that you are passing on to them about women who find themselves in abusive situations? Donna: All of my girls are motivated, determined and giving. They believe in helping others. They’re the ones who started the organization, Teach Boys and Girls Success, TBAGS, Inc. They’re the ones who said to me, “There are so many kids that need what we have.” Even though we were single, we never wanted for anything. Even though daddy was never there, we never needed anything. Monica: You’ve always had a talent for creating unique crafts and so you
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transferred talent that to the business. You’re the co-founder of TBAGS, Inc. Donna: Yes, the business was a vision that God showed me. When the vision of those two stick figures on a tote bag came to me, I said, “Girls this is something for you all.” So, I made them do thirty bags for a conference we were getting ready to do for another item I used to hand make. They sold out the first day of the conference. That’s when they caught on to the vision.
Donna: We have a summer camp every year, and we’ve helped them develop their individual skills and talents with an entrepreneurial emphasis. So, when they come in the door, we focus on what it is they like to do. Then we teach them how they can develop that through a business or at any level of success they want to reach. Monica: Over the years, how many young people have you helped?
Even today, I have boys that will call me and say, “Ms. Reed, I want to thank you for not shutting the door on me and for encouraging me when I was at your house.”
Donna: We’ve done the summer camp for about two years, so it’s been about fifty young kids. We also do a tea party once a year and that’s when we deal with just the young girls. It’s a phenomenal tea party. We teach them everything. We have them for a full day and we treat them like princesses. They learn what it means to be whatever it is they want to be. They learn they are beautiful and lovely. We dress them up, serve them in a style they’ve never seen before, and we pamper them and do their nails. Most of all it’s about instilling in them the fact they can be anything they want to be. Each year we have about 30 to 40 girls.
Monica: How long have they been running the business?
We average about one-hundred kids a year and it’s growing.
Donna: Fourteen years. When they were in their twenties they wanted to start giving back and they started asking me what they could do with younger people. We came up with the same concept of utilizing their skills and talents. We then, over a two year period put together a program and became a non-profit organization and started doing summer camps and other programs.
Monica: How are you funding the organization right now?
How I kept them close to me, was by utilizing their individual skills and talents. And that’s what kept them interested in growing the business. When young boys started knocking on the door at this point, I would open my door to all of them. I didn’t care what they looked like. I knew I could have a greater influence over them than I wanted them to have over my kids.
Monica: What type of programs do you offer through the organization?
Donna: Right now it’s through our T-Bags products. Monica: Can other individuals donate or contribute? Donna: Absolutely. They can contribute through our website: www.teachboysandgirlssuccess.org Monica: You help run the organization, you are also a minister and you
travel. How do you balance work and life overall? How do you find time for yourself? Donna: What I do doesn’t seem like work. I love everything that I’m doing so it’s hard for me to see it as work. I look at everything we do as a ministry. Monica: There was a time in your life when you went through a period of alcohol addiction. What was your view of life at that time? Donna: When I mentioned earlier that I went back to Connecticut, I didn’t want to go back. I really wanted to go to South Carolina, but my mother insisted that I come back. We didn’t realize it at first, but my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it made sense why I ended up going back to Connecticut. Here I was with three babies who were depending on me, now my mother was depending on me and also my father was now depending on me. It seemed like even my brothers and sisters would turn to me for things. But there was no where for me to turn. It felt like everyone was drawing from me and I had nothing or no one to draw from.
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To relax, I would have a drink. The next thing I knew, it was my comfort at night, my way to go to sleep, my way of relaxing until I realized it had more control over me than I did over it. When I got to that point, that’s when it became scary. I was what I call a functioning alcoholic. I didn’t realize I was an alcoholic. Every night I drank and every morning I got up and went to work, came home and drank again. I was scared to drink and drive so once I got home, I stayed home. When my kids saw me with a beer, that wasn’t a problem because they were little and they had no idea how many I had. If my friends saw me with a beer, they didn’t realize how many beers I already had. So, no one realized I had a drinking problem except me. I realized it when I knew I couldn’t quit. What made me want to quit was one day my daughter came to my room and she said, “Come on mommy let’s go.” I said, “Go where?” She said, “I’ve got my recital tonight.” Well, I had been drinking and I had forgotten she had a recital. That’s when I realized I had a problem. When I couldn’t take her, she was devastated. At that point, I knew I had to quit but I just couldn’t do it on my own. I spent several months crying, not knowing how I was going to do it. At one time I did and I experienced hallucinations because I stopped drinking, cold-turkey. I had been drinking for almost twenty years. I didn’t realize that was dangerous to my health. Once I realized what was going on, I started drinking again, thinking I could drink a little bit, but I ended up right back where I was before.
I went to the doctor and sought other help but when I realized that I would have to go to a special place or to meetings to get help, I again, became determined that I wasn’t going to allow anything to have more control over me than I had over it. That’s when I got on my knees one day and said, “God, you said that you would take anything from me that was unlike you if I sincerely asked you to.” I asked him to do it, and the very hour I asked God to take it from me, He delivered me from cigarettes and alcohol. I sincerely, in my heart didn’t want it anymore. I never again had a desire in my life for a cigarette or a drink. My body had reached a point where I could not breathe. I literally could not take a flight of stairs without having to stop and take a breath. It had gotten so bad that I began to make funeral arrangements for myself. I made cassette tapes for my children because I felt like I was that close to death. One of the important things in life is that if you can look at the bright side of a circumstance, you’ll be able to see that the sky is the limit in everything that you can do. To me, there’s nothing in life that can happen, that someone can’t reach and see that God is in it and see how they’ll come out of it. Look back and see a bright side. ♦
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Published on Dec 2, 2011
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