By Stan Friedman
MONROE, WA (January 13, 2014) — This town continues to mourn the death of a local woman who had recently been homeless and thought she had nothing to offer others.
Debbrah Pesce, 53, was riding her bicycle the night after Christmas when a pickup ran a light, struck her, and drove away. The driver has not been found.
Last fall, she was living in her car before moving into Monroe Women’s Gospel Mission. In November she moved into a motel, where she painted and cleaned in exchange for rent.
While at the mission, she began attending the “Unwrapping Our Core Gifts” life skills class at Take the Next Step, a nonprofit operated by Monroe Covenant Church. Covenanter Laron Olson recalls telling the class, “We all have gifts, we just need to unwrap them.”
Pesce responded, “I can’t do anything, I don’t have any gifts.”
In the succeeding weeks people at Take the Next Step encouraged Pesce. “She came to realize that she loved being able to help people, and that in itself is a tremendous gift. She also loved books,” Olson said.
Staff encouraged her to put her gifts and interest to work at Kidz Club, an after-school program for elementary students offered twice a week at Take the Next Step.
“She delighted in connecting with several little girls at Kidz Club,” says Donna Olson, who is chair of Take the Next Step’s board and Laron’s wife. “They laughed together, were silly sometimes, practiced reading, and they did homework together. Debbrah taught us that even when situations are tough, one can still give of themselves.”
Laron adds, “It was such a blessing to be able to watch a person go from complete hopelessness and despair to the joy of giving of herself to little children.”
Pesce’s cousin told a local news outlet, “She could smile and light up a room, and even if someone was sad and she was sad she’d still do what she could to try to lift their spirits.”
Pesce had been the victim of “terrible abuse,” Laron says. “Sometimes it was difficult for her to walk the three or four blocks from the shelter to our church, but she faithfully came to church and Kidz Club. Her life was changing, and she was impacting the lives of those around her—including me.”
Laron wasn’t the only person at Take the Next Step Pesce inspired. Pesce’s transformation gave them an even deeper understanding of what is possible as they seek to help change the lives of the people who use the nonprofit’s many services, Donna says.
Several memorial services were held to honor her life. After one service held earlier this month, director Dorothy Stima said, “It was much better attended than I ever could have imagined.”
A community service was held last Tuesday. “It was an inspiring time to be together,” says Donna.
Debbie Taylor, a licensed family therapist, worked with the Kidz Club children regarding grief and loss after Pesce’s death. They had their own memorial service and wrote messages about her on a big red heart.
“Debbrah loved Jesus, and that means she is with him today,” Donna says. “Several of our Kidz Club kids chose to trust Jesus during her memorial service. We are grateful to have known Debbrah.”