Donaldson, a 1987 graduate of Garfield High School, has had her fair share of ups and downs, but has overcome being a victim of domestic violence and drug addiction to become a mentor and role model for young women. She commonly volunteers her time and resources to help local non-profits like Cierra Sisters, an African American breast cancer support group; African Americans Reach and Teach Health (AARTH) Ministries, a faith-based capacity building nonprofit organization established to respond to HIV/AIDS and other major health issues affecting people of African descent; and Guiding Academic Mentoring with Excellence (G.A.M.E.). In addition, she works with female students at Southlake High School, which has a program for pregnant and parenting students (both male and female), educating them on beauty and wellness.
“I have a lot to offer them [the students] through my experience,” says Donaldson, who was homeless at one time during her life. “Some of them don’t have a mother figure in their life [to provide guidance and wisdom].”
“We teach them about personal hygiene, how to wash their clothes and life skills,” she continued. “We talk about relationships, whether it’s safe sex relationships or domestic violence relationships.”
Overcoming domestic violence was a big part of Donaldson’s transformation.
“I was beaten unconscious and beaten while unconscious,” recalled Donaldson, of the life-changing incident that prompted her to get out of an abusive relationship and become more self-sufficient.
Donaldson later got married and divorced, and found herself at yet another crossroad in her life.
“After my divorce, I was in the process of re-inventing myself,” said Donaldson.
That re-invention included starting a new business, being drug-free for over 25 years, becoming an attentive mother/grandmother, and opening the doors of her shop three times a year to women living in Hopes Place, a shelter for women and their children, to get their hair, make-up and nails done free of charge.
“I’m compassionate to people who are struggling,” says Donaldson. “Sometimes people just need someone in their corner to help show them the way.”
“I’m a people person and I like making people happy,” said Donaldson. “I love turning people around and then seeing the smile on their face when they see themselves with their hair done. That makes me feel good.”
Donaldson, who was surprised to receive the award, is quick to point out that she’s just a person living her life, trying to help others when and where she can, and working to make herself a better person each and every day.
“With life’s trials and tribulations you never know where you’re going to end up and I feel like I ended up in a good place,” she said. “After I got this [award] I felt that my re-invention was complete.”