(Photo: Courtesy of Deanna Moore)
Deanna Moore holds many titles — community leader, business owner, author, life coach and holder of the key to her city — but her passion for helping others remains at the heart of all her endeavors. Moore’s dedication is why she has been chosen as winner of BET's and MassMutual’s “Local Icon” contest.
Moore, 48, was given up for adoption at birth and put into the foster care system and overcame self-esteem issues as a young woman. She did not meet her biological parents until she was 28 years old, long after she had graduated from college and started her life.
A success story, Moore is using her experiences to uplift foster care youth, at-risk children and their families in Warner Robins, Georgia, located 10 miles outside of Macon, Georgia. In 2008, Moore founded the I Think I Am Foundation to help young people develop positive self-esteem and to challenge them to follow their dreams.
"This foundation was started so that I could help young people to understand first and foremost that you are what you think," Moore told BET.com.
She has helped at least 3,000 people through the foundation’s various programs. This includes family empowerment seminars for foster-care families. During these sessions, parents are guided on how to build positive mindsets so that they can raise positive-minded children.
Moore credits her adopted mother, Fannie Mae Jones, who was a maid, for being a positive source of encouragement in pursuing her dreams. "She was that person who said, 'You can do it. You can have this, you can become this, you can go here.' There was never a ‘can’t,’” Moore shared.
But she kept in mind that not all children are fortunate to have a parent rooting for them. "Now, I had a cheerleader telling me that I could do all of these things, but what about those kids that don’t have somebody backing them?"
That is where Moore has filled a void. I Think I Am has also hosted back-to-school bashes, featuring representatives from health and community organizations that distribute information to families. Basketball games and other activities are held to show parents that they don’t need a lot of money to have a good time with their children, Moore said.
Last year the program gave away its first scholarship and is looking to sponsor local high school basketball teams in low-income areas. To add to the long list of initiatives, Moore has a literacy program that gives away age-appropriate books to children whose parents can’t afford to buy them. She has also authored a children’s book called I Think I Am: It's All in Your Mind.
"This book actually talks about loving yourself, and it has a workbook in the back that helps them start dreaming about what they would like to be, where they would like to go and what kind of college they want to go to." Moore believes the earlier a child learns the skill of goal setting, the better.
Moore, whose son is a free agent in the NFL, has also partnered with other mothers of professional athletes to form the Celebrity Sports Moms’ Tour.
Lucille O’Neal, mother of Shaquille O’ Neal, Cheryl Howard, mother of Dwight Howard, and others were part of a group who visited battered women’s shelters. During their visits, the women shared their stories of overcoming alcohol addiction, drug abuse, multiple miscarriages and other obstacles.
"What we were trying to say is, 'We have been where you are. But we’re not there anymore. Your now is not your future. You can spring from this.’ So we would come and encourage them,” Moore said of the tour.
Moore’s massive efforts have not been overlooked. She was recognized by the mayor of Warner Robins in June 2012 at a fundraiser. "I was honored that he would find me worthy enough to hand me a key to the city for the work that we had already done," she said.
Her latest accolade as “Local Icon” also comes as a surprise. Moore’s son, Kelvin Moore, 19, nominated her. “My mother, Deanna Moore, is our community’s best icon,” Kelvin said. "She empowers people to self-actualize themselves...encouraging them to believe that whatever they think of themselves, that's what they become," he added.
"He gave me no clue, no idea that he was even doing that. So I’m very honored that he even found me worthy enough to take the time to do that," Moore continued.
In the near future, Moore looks to continue bringing families together and remind them that the key to a better life starts in the mind.
"You have a choice in how you react and respond to any given situation. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in poverty, you don’t have to have a poverty mentality."
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