Our Healthy Corners program is made of more than just truckloads of fresh produce. For years, we have engaged a team of Store Navigators, respected local residents who engage customers, build awareness of the Healthy Corners program, and collect vital community feedback. One of these essential Store Navigators is Deborah Wells. A long-time community advocate, Deborah recently took another significant step in her leadership journey when she was sworn in as ANC Commissioner for Single Member District 8E01.
We sat down with Deborah to learn more about her work as a Healthy Corners Store Navigator and what inspired her to run for ANC Commissioner. Read Deborah’s insights below to learn more about how she first got involved with our Healthy Corners program, her approach to public service, and her advice for getting involved with local organizations.
1. Why is community work and public service meaningful to you?
At the age of thirteen, I worked as a community worker in The Southwest Community House. This was an organization that provided various services for the surrounding community. It was my first summer job. This was where it all started for me. As a child growing up, I was taught early on to treat my neighbor the way I want to be treated; that has been the core principle of my operating system. I am a part of the community, and when one of us is unbalanced, we are all unbalanced. I strongly believe that I can make a positive difference in the lives of people if I step out of my skin and into theirs.
2. You have worked with our Healthy Corners team as a Store Navigator for some time now. What inspired you to become a Store Navigator for your community?
Prior to joining the DC Central Kitchen Healthy Corners family, I did some outreach work with DC Greens in my community. We went door to door, informing the residents about the new DCCK Cafe that was coming to THEARC (Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Center). It was then I learned that the Store Navigator position was being created, and I was told that they would consider me for one of the positions if I was interested. This position aligns with everything I have been doing in my community for the past 20 years. I am well established as a community advocate, and I am in tune with the needs of the people. They have grown accustomed to “Ms. Deborah,” as I am respectfully called, keeping them informed and engaged. Who is better for the assignment?
Another reason for my enthusiasm is that I believe in what I am doing. The idea of supplying healthy food choices to people who have limited access to those foods is a selfless act of compassion. The Healthy Corners program is impacting the lives of underserved communities in the most humane way. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such a historical movement.
3. For people who are not aware, what does the role of a Healthy Corners Store Navigator entail?
We are what we call “Boots on the Ground” for the program. Our main assignment is to promote the Healthy Corners Snap Match and WIC programs. We have several corner (convenient) stores that we visit daily, where we pass out flyers and explain how the programs work. For example, when a customer makes a $5.00 purchase using their EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card on any food purchase plus a piece of fruit or vegetable, they will receive a $5.00 coupon, which can be used for fresh fruit and vegetables. We also participate in Community Engagements events with DC Central Kitchen staff.
4. Why is it important for individuals to get involved with local organizations in their communities?
Each and every one of us, I believe, has a civic duty to make sure that when we lay down to sleep, our conscience is confident that we did all we could to make life better for someone other than ourselves. “No man is an island”- we need each other. Our local organizations are here to help us on our journey to wholeness. We are those organizations, and everyone who has the mental capacity to form ideas and concepts can contribute to the quest for a healthy, wholesome, and prosperous society.
5. What are your hopes for both yourself and your community in the future? What do you hope to achieve as the ANC Commissioner for Single Member District 8E01?
First, for me, I hope to continue serving my community wherever I can be the most impactful. I am 13 years clean from a 30-year drug and alcohol addiction. I am adamant about reaching back and helping to pull others out of that anti-life abyss. I just received my bachelor’s degree, and I’m thinking about returning to school for a graduate degree. I also hope to one day write an autobiography and a story about the life of Hagar in the Bible.
As ANC Commissioner, my primary goal is to bridge the gap between my constituents and the government body that serves them. I want people to understand that their concerns matter, and their voices should be heard. I hope to continue to not only inform, but to encourage more community involvement.