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Divine Momentum: Local women seek betterment through volunteerism

By: Emily Rea, Encore Publication, Wilmington, North Carolina

We learn at a very young age that it is better to give than to receive—that we are likely to go further with our honey than our stingers (or something like that). We are taught to share and are rewarded with praise, learning to help our little brothers before we can go to the park or play games with friends. But somewhere—right after kindergarten, I think—we shun our Jiminy Crickets and start cultivating a natural human arrogance. Around high school we hear about “getting ahead” and tips to make sure we get into the best colleges. In college, we hear talk of having “an edge” over the competition, also known as the other job-seekers who will be graduating right next to us. We tweak our résumés and begin looking forward to the proverbial corporate ladder we have been programmed to climb at all costs.

And then the real world hits like a ton of bricks. Some face the task of starting their own businesses. Many seek out the “purpose” for their life. Both are extremely worthwhile yet extremely intimidating endeavors. They are faced by tenacious folks with the best of intentions yet who are harboring an emptiness inside—until now.

In the wake of our recent discussions on capitalism and an increasingly “for profit”-minded world, the question of whether or not entrepreneurship and altruism can peacefully coexist seems a bit contentious. In fact, it sounds about as unlikely as Guiliani and Obama sitting down to a pleasant meal together—on W’s homestead. During an era when the need for greed and the hunger for control are all but overpowering, time has continually eroded away one nearly forgotten yet oh-so-simple truth from our past: to get more, one must give more.

Such is the unspoken motto of Wilmington-based nonprofit organization The Serventrepreneur Foundation, a company whose opportune arrival within our modern world is putting an innovative twist on the old adage “give and you shall receive.” Joining together two seemingly opposite-ended ideals—servanthood and entrepreneurship—the organization was established under the premise that the two actually go hand-in-hand, as determined by a self-described “serventrepreneur” herself.

“I decided to form an organization to offer a combination of the spiritual and small business/entrepreneurial support and services I wished I had when I started,” founder Mary Elizabeth Beal (co-owner of the online home décor shopping software company Trend Funnel) explains. “An organization that teaches you to serve God, serve others and, in doing so, accomplish your entrepreneurial goals.”

In true economic fashion, supply was met by demand, and small-business owners, as well as those simply looking to become better leaders in their career fields, began seeking out the programs offered by the Serventrepreneur Foundation (SF) in attempts to adopt the organization’s selfless mentality. Here, one won’t learn that getting ahead means clawing ruthlessly to the top. Instead, Beal insists that reaching one’s goals is that much more possible by extending a helping hand to others.

One of SF’s newest programs, specifically targeted to local participants’ individual interests, is the insightful Get-A-Way program, begun by Wilmington entrepreneur Thera Storm (co-owner of Trend Funnel alongside Beal and marketing director of Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts). Get-A-Way was created by Storm to elicit self-discovery by way of volunteerism and fellowship, the clarity for which she believes is best achieved through a “retreat” from daily life in one’s familiar environment. An example from the Get-A-Way Web site——explains:

“Do you have a calling to start your own business? Teaching the less-fortunate in foreign countries how to start a jewelry-making business to escape prostitution and poverty may help you gain perspective and confidence for your own endeavors.”

Get-A-Way plans to organize women-only trips, getaways for couples, trips for teens and men-only trips, all through such outstanding organizations as Ambassadors for Children and Mercy Missions Teams. The goal behind each of these missions? To discover one’s God-given purpose through helping others discover theirs.

“Some of the greatest and most influential leaders in history had a servant mentality, focusing on influence and communication—not aggression and power,” Storm points out. “Jesus. Mother Teresa. Ghandi. Martin Luther King Jr. My mom. Ms. Miller, my fifth-grade teacher. They were completely selfless yet led many through their compassion and love for people. By serving others and not focusing on themselves, servant-minded leaders make other people’s passions, interests and goals a priority—which ultimately serves a holistic approach for the human race.”

Get-A-Way is currently in the process of organizing its first-ever excursion as an official SF program: a women’s short-term mission trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, taking place October 22nd-26th of this year. Puerto Vallarta, a beautiful seaside village on the west coast of Mexico, is, in reality, a community in desperate need of help. Poverty remains a significant problem for the locale, as there is a constant influx of people seeking employment.

Get-A-Way participants will jump right into the mix, helping teach the women and young girls of Puerto Vallarta how to love themselves and “grow in spiritual confidence.” Activities will include visiting a local school to facilitate entrepreneurial arts-and-crafts projects to young, impoverished children; volunteering at a local library to tutor and read to children; attending lectures by guest speakers; choosing personal assignments to fulfill; and delivering much-needed supplies to a local handicap center.

The trip is the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to learn about oneself while experiencing a brand new culture as well as truly making a difference in the lives of those who are struggling.

“You don’t need to have everything in your life figured out to inspire others, and you don’t have to memorize the Bible through and through to teach people about God,” Storm says, reassuring the fact that anyone can join the effort. As long as people realize the importance of helping others in need—as well as the educational aspect of that compassionate notion—as a means of their own betterment as a person, businessperson, neighbor, etc., the trip is simply a catalyst for that to happen. Although there is a mission to serve, the ultimate objective is mobilization, using the actual experiences of this journey “to educate and enlighten the women who are going on the trip.”

“There is just a divine momentum with Serventrepreneur,” Beal says, citing her belief that God has a special plan for each person on Earth. She quickly points out that although this plan for each person’s life is unique, “it is not merely about you . . . you are called to a greater purpose that can, and should, positively impact everyone around you.”

For any woman interested in participating in this year’s Get-A-Way mission trip to Puerto Vallarta, $300 deposits are currently being accepted through March 1st. Fund-raisers will be held over the next few months in efforts to lower the overall cost of the trip. Those interested or who have questions should contact Thera Storm at 547-7744. More information can be found at

Be a part of this global outreach initiative and scatter compassion worldwide by joining what Storm calls a “growing generation that doesn’t just want to sit back and watch—but actually gets [their] hands dirty in causes that will make our world a better place.”

Until then, be inspired!

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  1. Kathe Lofman on Saturday Dec 10, 2011

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with valuable information to work on. You have done an impressive job and our entire community will be thankful to you.