“When I walk into the dining room I always say, ‘Hello everybody!’ says Debra, a participant at InnovAge's Denver PACE center
. “I then walk over to folks and say, ‘How are you feeling, sweetheart? How are you feeling, darling?’ I don’t always know their names because my vision is bad and I can’t see their name tag, but they smile and laugh because the know it’s coming from my heart!” laughs Deb.
With her colorful hats and electric smile, she’s easy to spot at the center. On this day, Deb is wearing a canary yellow hat so large it flaps like a bird as she walks. She’s happy to talk about her technicolor style and infectiously positive attitude.
“My mother was a big influence on me. She also wanted us to wear hats and nice dresses to church. So I’ve been dressing colorfully since I was four years old. I just love it! It makes me feel good. As we speak, I think I have more than 90 hats of different styles and colors. What I also remember is that my mother was an incredibly giving person. Sometimes she would take clothes out of my closet so she could give it to someone else in need,” she says, smiling softly. “I know she helped a lot of people.”
“There is so much research and science showing how a positive attitude can have an impact, sometimes a dramatic impact, on peoples’ overall health and well-being,” says Lisa Potter, the director of InnovAge’s Denver center. “Deb is living proof of that. It’s wonderful to have people like her at the center. When she walks into a room and smiles it just brightens your day. I know both our seniors and staff benefit from her wonderful attitude and approach to life.”
|From left to right: Debra participating at various events and working at her hot dog stand.
Debra is a proud Denver native, born and raised in the city. For decades, she worked in administrative offices at metro-area hospitals, schools, and businesses. After retiring, still full of energy, Deb opened a hot dog stand called “Debbie’s Snack Essentials.” Her popular stand was a mainstay in Cherry Creek for nearly a decade. To this day, she enjoys talking to people of all walks of life, and if she gets the chance, making them feel just a little bit better.
“Sometimes I am hurting, too, but I tell myself, ‘Get over it. Let’s make people happy!’ My mother would say, ‘Always carry a smile. When people do you wrong, just brush it off your shoulders.’ Think of something good instead,” says Deb. “Think of the day you had ice cream with your granddaughter, or you helped a neighbor, or you were kind to someone. When you can make someone smile and feel better, it’s an amazing feeling.”