We had the good fortune of connecting with Debra “Suzette” Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Debra “Suzette”, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My thought process behind starting my Nonprofit Each One Teach One Together was because of my mother. After my first marriage ended in a divorce and I had a young daughter my mental state of mind was not good at all. Being that I did not have family here in the Metro Atlanta Area the relationship between me and my mother was strong, but it became even stronger after the divorce. my mother knew I was not healthy mentally as well as physically the divorce had taken a hardship on me so my mother reached out to me and suggested that I allow her to keep my then 4 year old daughter until I could get get my mental, physical and financial situation together. ONe of the hardest decision I have every had to make to separate from my daughter, Daphne, the love of my life and really during my tough times in the marriage she helped just by her presence keep what little sanity I had together. I visited my daughter, I called constantly everyday, helped to financially support my Mother and Dad at that time. She was the only child in their house, because I am the youngest of two girls, my dad had retired with 25 years in the Army and they really, I believed enjoyed her company. After years of working two jobs and finding the right location to call home, I brought my daughter home. This unwanted situation brought me to understand later in my life how important Grandparents Raising Grandchildren was to me and many others. I remarried and my husband Charles and I became foster/adoptive parents because Daphne stated she was lonely. We later adopted ten children and all our children are young adults now and they are doing very well. My husband, Charles and I never thought we would be raising a grandchild, but one day received a call from one of our daughters that had been struggling with her already three kids and just birth a beautiful daughter, and the social worker stated even though the mother had not tested positive because of an outstanding case in deKalb the newborn baby girl could not leave with her. My daughter and the father both were there but my daughter wanted the baby to be with us. It’s amazing how God set us up for certain situations. My daughter Daphne had just given me a baby bed because she was expecting her second son, and we still had four kids at home but they were all in high school but we were still approved foster parents. So I googled in home childcare providers in our area and actually on the way out to my job. because I and my husband both worked. They were this beautiful older couple that kept Joiyah and one other baby girl until she was ready for preschool. I thought as all these puzzles came together, this was meant to be. I always had an open door for my daughter to visit and get to know her daughter as well as one day she could be placed back with her. That never happened. But as a mother and how my mother had helped me during hardtimes I wanted to do the same. joiyah is still with us at 12 years old. My mother was also a foster parent for years. One day I had an ephipany that it is so important to support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren/Kinship and help them with resources, support and parental training. My Mother was there for me at a time, I don’t know what I would have done without her support because lot of birth parents don’t have that family support. Therefore, I want to do all I can to assist them at Each One Teach One Together. Our mission is “Strengthening families by providing supportive services and empowering parents with resources”. Our vision is “Every child deserves a strong supportive family”.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Even though I am Retired, I do work part-time and I am a fulltime wife, mother and Grandmother who is also raising a granddaughter. What keeps me professionally busy is my Nonprofit, Each One Teach One Together Inc, 501 (c) (3). I have been increasing my services in the community for Kinship parents by providing resources and that keeps me very busy. Every third Tuesday evening from 7-8:30pm I have a ZOOM Federation Chapter Meeting to support families that have children with a Mental Health Diagnosis. This Federation Chapter Support group is through the Georgia Parent Support Network, the Department of Behavioral Health and the National Federation of Families out of Washington DC which we are a member. The National Federation of Families is a national family-run organization linking more than 120 chapters and state organizations focused on the issues of children and youth with emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs and their families. EOTOT is blessed to be a Chapter in Georgia. I teach parental trainings, a Parent Coach, Certified Anger Management Specialist and a Certified Peer Specialist Parent. My phone rings a lot as my nonprofit for kinship families grows and the need for Resources in the community increases. I attend the State and National Mental Health Awareness event every year to learn how I may increase my advocacy for Grandparents/Kinship Families as well as services. I truly believe and know that Strong Families Build Strong Children and it takes a Village. I have so many wonderful people that helped me and I in return want to “pass it on.” My Mother passed on January 19, 2021 at 100 years old and I am very sad about her death, but that a beautiful and supported Angelic mother and grandmother she was. She and my dad after he retired with 25 years in the Amy were strong supporters in my life and thinking back I could not have recovered from depression without their help. I intend to have a “Johnnie Mae Jenkins Award” to present to a grandparent/kinship parent every year in her honor. I hope this year will be the year that Each One Teach One will receive grants, or financial donations, so we can further help Kinship families. Kinship Families are one of the fastest growing caregivers in the Nation and they need a lot of support. I have been there done that and I work hard to maintain family values, connections, re-education on parental skills and I am a strong supporter of Mental Health for Kinship families. That’s who I am because my mother supported me. I want to Bless others by being there for kinship families like my mother was their for me. I love my work and I have turned my passion into a purpose, therefore I am committed to my work!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Lenox Mall to shop and then downtown Atlanta to ride the Carousel and then to the King Center. We will eat at this resturant that I was introducted to by my son in law Walter Jordan, called TOAST in the Lenox Area. Food and service is awesome!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Yes.. I worked for ROOTS Adoption Agency for ten years, J. Toni Oliver, Founder and CEO was like a Mentor to me. When I was having struggles with my childrens behavior and felt like giving up, Ms. Oliver always sat me down and said, “You can’t give up on the children”. That’s exactly what I say to families today. Children are not like “can goods”, you can’t return them for a refund. Families today need supportive services to help them be strong through the parenting journey. That’s why I am so appreciative for Ms. Oliver. To name a few others my husband, Charles, Dr. LeRoy Reese and my children. Children can teach us a lot, if we only listen to them. My oldest daughter Daphne really convinced us to foster and she ended up with nine sisters and one brother. Charles and I are blessed to have our family.
“ We may not be all together, but together we can have it all”
Facebook: Each One Teach One Together
My Mother Johnnie Mae Jenkins and Husband, Charles Allen Brown, I also learned a lot from all my children