The year is 1998, and your husband has just died from anaphylactic shock, a result of a bee sting. You have three children, ages 16, 14 and 11. What do you do? Scale back? Done that. Adjust your outlook and dig in?
Debbie Windley and her three children hung on to their faith, cherished the loving support of family and friends, and learned to value each day as a gift.
Each child took on additional responsibilities at home while also excelling in academics and extracurricular activities at school. In addition, Walt and Will are both Eagle Scouts, and Amanda received the Sylvia Hatchell Student-Athlete Award for Gaston County her senior year. Between the three of them, they received almost a million dollars worth of academic scholarships to college. Walt is a graduate of Furman University and Mercer Seminary and is a chaplain with Hospice and Palliative Care of The Charlotte Region. Amanda also graduated from Furman and has a doctorate in Physical Therapy from Elon. She is a physical therapist at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. Will graduated from Appalachian State University and the Leadership Development Program of BB&T. He is a vice president and enterprise banker for Merrill Lynch.
While the kids were blazing their own scholastic trails, their mom was up ahead, showing them her footprints.
In 1981, as the education reporter for The Gaston Gazette, she was asked to cover a story about a new Christian school that had recently opened: Gaston Christian School. While doing the interview, she was offered the job of teaching English for grades 7-10.
Each succeeding year saw her teaching and helping to move GCS ahead in the academic world. First, she was a high school Honors and AP English teacher and High School Principal. During that time, she added additional Honors and AP courses, along with new sport and extracurricular programs. She was also a Mock Trial and High Q Coach, as well as the Interact Club advisor.
In 1999, she was asked to start a new office at Gaston Christian School: development and marketing. Debbie helped to lead two capital campaigns resulting in the purchase of more than 56 acres, along with the development of the campus that now houses 900 students in Lowell.
At the end of that second campaign, Debbie began to sense that she was being called to a new professional journey. Soon after that feeling started to surface, Dr. Ann Tippitt, executive director of The Schiele Museum, asked her to stop by and talk with her about a need she had for an Advancement Director.
For the next 6 ½ years, Debbie enjoyed working with Ann, the Board and staff of The Schiele to move forward with a number of initiatives for the museum; including a campaign to construct The Matthews Belk Cannon Environmental Studies Center, a 7,700 sq. ft. building that features a demonstration kitchen, “green” roof, 3,000 sq. ft. of flexible classroom/meeting space, and a variety of corporate partnerships.
While at The Schiele, Debbie also strengthened the sponsorship and Gift-in-Kind programs, the application process for grants, and supervised all aspects of marketing, publications, membership, and fundraising.
In December of 2013, Debbie began yet another chapter in her professional life. She became Director of Development for CaroMont Health and Director of its Foundation.
“Doug Luckett, the CaroMont Health CEO, has developed both a vision and a passion for keeping CaroMont local and strong. I am excited to be a member of his team.” In addition to her work at CaroMont Health, Debbie also teaches Adult Transitions, Communications, and Business Communication courses in the Adult Degree Program at Belmont Abbey College.
When asked about the importance of faith in her life: She said: “Nothing is more important in my life than my Faith. It is the lens through which I view life’s circumstances and my primary motivation to make each day count.”
Debbie has been a member of Parkwood Baptist Church since 1981, taught Sunday School classes for ladies for more than 20 years, and was a core leader, senior leader, and Assistant Teaching Director for Community Bible Study. She also has led a number of women’s retreats, assisted high school students with college planning, and serves as a mentor.
Debbie has also volunteered on numerous boards and committees, including The Gaston Regional Chamber Board and Executive Committee and The Rotary Club of Gastonia Board. For Rotary, she has also served as Chair of the Interact Committee, Chair of the District Interact Committee, Chair of the Program Committee, and Chair of the Awards Committee, and Club Secretary. She also serves on the Gaston County Travel and Tourism Board, and served for three years as both Chair of the Leadership Gaston Advisory Board and Leadership Development Council and two years as Chair of the Junior Leadership Gaston Advisory Board.
In 2012, Debbie was presented with a Paul Harris Fellow Award by her Rotary Club. In 2013, she received the Leadership Gaston Alumnus of the Year Award.