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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Rethinking Thanksgiving:Two Women Reflect on Blessings and Gratitude Despite the Pandemic

Despite the pressure of masking up in public, contemplating vaccine shots, enduring altered learning and work schedules, the pandemic may sometimes require a reminder to complain less and embrace blessings—from extraordinary to small. Jaemellah Kemp and Evon Dennis illustrate that slowing down to acknowledge personal and private achievements can be an important aspect of increasing positivity and gratitude.

 Kemp—who is the founder and CEO of IT TAKES TWO, INC, —has not lost sight of elevating her passion project or personal life, while navigating through today’s societal valleys and hills. The Baltimore resident remains committed to the 501c(3) nonprofit organization’s mission to award scholarships to students in grades four to college who reside in single parent homes and invest in tomorrow’s leaders through various components. Awards are used to pay for school supplies, books, uniforms, academic and sports registration. During the pandemic, a relief program to provide tutoring, food, Internet service, rent and utility assistance was added to help assist single parents in need to stay afloat. Laptops have been provided for students in response to COVID-19. Technical grants allowed Kemp to increase IT TAKES TWO, INC’s engagement and reach. 

 In 2014, Kemp started Jaemellah Kemp Consulting to help others start nonprofits. She also works full time at a nonprofit.

“So when I say I eat, breath, and sleep nonprofits, that’s what I do,” Kemp said. “I love giving back.”

Although the impact of COVID-19 caused many nonprofit leaders to feel caught off guard, Kemp is grateful for consistent donors, board members and unwavering support of volunteers. While the community-minded woman has spent a good chunk of her time toiling tirelessly to give back, blessings which manifested in her personal life remind that work-life balance and happiness are also key. The mother of two gave birth to a baby girl in May. Kemp’s new addition happens to share the same birthday as Kemp’s seventeen-year-old son. 

“So my gratitude comes from my new baby girl,” Kemp said, while mentioning that motherhood is her most important job.  “She was a miracle baby. Because of my bouts of endometriosis, I was told that getting pregnant again would be a challenge. However, God is faithful, and here she is here today. So we are definitely grateful for her.”

Before the birth of her daughter, Kemp had been a single mother who has given back to countless youth across Md. and the Washington, D.C. area. A big surprise turned out to be getting engaged the day before her birthday in August.  

The pandemic also assisted Dennis with observing how important it is to be compassionate, and patient with herself and others. The mother, author, empowerment coach, and holistic practitioner remarked that instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, Dennis’ family built traditions of visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., and also parks. Dennis raises her two girls to be aware of what Indigenous people have endured, and still go through, while celebrating culture and contributions.

“I’m most grateful for the intentional way I’ve been working on and improving my relationship with myself, which in turn has been positively impacting and improving my relationships with my children, family and friends,” Dennis said.

Prioritizing self-care and self-love has been an aspect of working on healthy living, which began in January of 2020. It led to Dennis recommitting to eat Salt, Oil, Flour, Alcohol, and Sugar (SOFAS) free. She embraced a diet consisting of whole-food plants exclusively.

Evon Dennis, left, takes a selfie last year after recommitting to eat Salt, Oil, Flour, Alcohol, and Sugar (SOFAS) free. She embraced a diet consisting of whole-food plants exclusively and lost 64 pounds in less than eight months last year. Dennis weighed as much as 250 pounds 20 years ago. She is grateful for changing her lifestyle which also included deciding to banish people pleasing

“When the pandemic hit, I realized how grateful I was that I’d already started improving on my life in this manner, because it wound up assisting me, and still is, in getting through this. As I’ve been transparently sharing my journey online and on social media, I was inspired to create and launch a community, www.eatingformyl1fe.com. I’m grateful for the inspirational impact this community has had on my life and the ones they’ve shared with me, that I’ve had and continue to have on their lives,” Dennis said.

She shed 64 pounds in less than eight months last year. Additionally, Dennis weighed as much as 250 pounds.

Evon Dennis, left, takes a selfie last year after recommitting to eat Salt, Oil, Flour, Alcohol, and Sugar (SOFAS) free. She embraced a diet consisting of whole-food plants exclusively and lost 64 pounds in less than eight months last year. Dennis weighed as much as 250 pounds 20 years ago. She is grateful for changing her lifestyle which also included deciding to banish people pleasing

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