Life coaching

Living Her Passion – Candy Zollicoffer

Candy Zollicoffer

Candy Zollicoffer

While growing up in Brewton, Alabama, Candy Zollicoffer first learned to serve others from her grandmother. Grandma Lenestine served in her church, in her community, and often hosted others in need in her home. Candy remembers that her grandmother and other female matriarchs in her family were always ready to take a phone call, pray for others, and share what they had (even if it was their last). “The value of serving others is something I have carried with me throughout my life,” says Candy. “You don’t have to be wealthy to serve without expectations.”

As the oldest of five, Candy’s childhood was challenging. She and her family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, during the summer of her fifteenth birthday. The transition was hard on Candy as she had to adapt from a high school of just a few hundred to two thousand students while experiencing a trauma that summer that temporarily silenced her voice and ability to find joy. Thankfully, Candy eventually found her tribe and graduated from high school. From there, she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a scholarship where she majored in biochemistry. After switching her major and campus location, Candy graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Administration. Since then, she has continued to develop her skills through different programs offered by UNO and The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands.

After stints at several nonprofits and a church, Candy ultimately landed a role as Development Assistant at Abide, a local nonprofit that has been investing in and revitalizing the neighbors and neighborhoods of North Omaha for over thirty years. Today she works as the Partnership Coordinator tasked with connecting with businesses and churches interested in revitalizing the community. She not only engages employees and church members with service projects, but also raises funds for Abide’s programs and projects.

Candy says the most gratifying thing about her work is the opportunity to connect people with opportunities that positively impact her community. She also enjoys helping people change the narrative they hear or tell themselves about North Omaha. “The most important thing everyone in Omaha needs to know about the inner-city is that it is a rich community filled with incredible leaders who are using their gifts to impact the community and city overall. We are proud of our community and love doing life together!” she adds.

Candy with members of Westwood Church and two Abide Lighthouse Leaders after handing out 50 Valentine’s Day boxes for the Love in the Neighborhood campaign.

Candy with members of Westwood Church and two Abide Lighthouse Leaders after handing out 50 Valentine’s Day boxes for the Love in the Neighborhood campaign.

Today Candy describes her life as purposeful. The best piece of advice she ever received related to pursuing her passion in life was to acknowledge the things that break her heart because it is those things that ultimately empower her to take purposeful action to make life-changing impact every day. Candy says that although she has gained much from pursuing her passion, it is gaining her voice back that makes her most proud. “I am passionate about empowering people to speak their truth, especially women and youth. For so long, I allowed myself to be silenced so that others would be more comfortable. Today I am speaking my truth so that I may bring hope and healing to those who are ready to listen.”

Candy advises those wanting to pursue more gratifying work to talk to people who know you well and are willing to be honest with you. She credits her husband, Wes, her best friend, Jennifer, her father, her supervisor, and the entire team at Abide for affirming her endeavors. “These relationships are rooted in honesty, transparency, and love,” Candy states. “I can share anything with them without fear that the relationship will suffer. They see me, listen to me, and are able to speak life into me. When they share what I cannot see, I feel empowered to make clear decisions that change the trajectory of my life for the better.”

John Bunyan once said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Every day, Candy Zollicoffer makes it her mission to fulfill that quote. Yet in hearing her story, it soon becomes evident that in exuberantly serving her community, Candy’s community has given back to her in so many ways, making her rich in life experiences and joy beyond her wildest dreams.

For more about Abide, its mission, and how you can help, visit https://www.abideomaha.org/.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living Her Passion – Allison Borji

Allison Borji has always considered herself a “creative.” Despite a challenging childhood that sadly included the traumatic loss of her father to suicide when she was just five and her own battle with severe depression, Allison always had a pen in hand and, as a self-professed hopeless romantic, loved writing poetry. After graduating magna cum laude from college with a degree in history, marrying her college sweetheart, and moving around the country as a military spouse, Allison began searching for a hobby that would help her become more reliant on herself and her abilities as she stepped outside her comfort zone.

By researching various types of art techniques and materials that appealed to her, Allison discovered she had a knack for combining colors to create beautiful artwork. As she began painting on a regular basis, Allison quickly realized the therapeutic benefits of creating art. The way the paint swirled and the ink spread on the canvas helped take her mind to a quiet place. After thoroughly studying a variety of mediums, Allison finally settled on fluid acrylic, watercolors, and alcohol inks.

When she begins painting, Allison rarely has a vision in mind of what she wants to create. Instead, she chooses a color palette that reflects her mood or the seasons and guides her to start the process creating abstract art. After reminding herself to let go of control, Allison lets her medium do the deciding. “That helps take the stress out of deciding what to paint,” she adds. Once she creates a piece, she lets it sit overnight and comes back to it after a day or two. Allison finds that extremely useful in helping her create art pieces that she loves. After about a week of assessing the piece, she adds varnish to ensure its longevity and vibrancy. Because of a harsh inner-critic she is always attempting to tame, Allison generally places one out of five pieces on her Etsy site to sell.

An Allison Borji original

An Allison Borji original

When Allison decided to open a shop on Etsy, she received heartfelt advice to “just do it.” Additionally, she was encouraged to take things at her own pace. “I knew if I opened a shop, I would feel pressure to consistently create more art. I have to remind myself daily that I am doing this because I love it, not because I have to,” says Allison. When a customer purchases a piece because they are going through the same emotional challenges as Allison, she is thrilled that her art is supporting their healing process. Her challenges have included learning how to photograph her art and size it properly to fit Etsy’s standards. “The way I see colors and the sheen on a canvas can greatly affect the photo,” Allison states. Another challenge she has battled is turning down commission work. “Learning to say no to commissions is essential to maintaining my love for making art. Because my whole philosophy revolves around ‘therapy through art’, the pressure and deadlines that come with commission work takes away the love I have for the art process,” adds Allison.

Supported by her family, friends, co-workers, and most of all, her husband Omar, Allison has come to realize that it is a gift to have found a passion that helps heal her soul, bring her peace of mind, and help others realize they are not alone. Today, she is better at motivating herself to take risks, growing comfortable with her identity, and becoming bolder in her decision making. Although each year comes with its own set of obstacles, she is learning how to breathe through them, finding humor in many situations, and adapting easier to change. “I am comfortable calling myself a different person than I was ten years ago,” Allison says, “Creating art has provided me a haven and coping mechanism that allows me to reduce the stigma of mental illness while providing hope to anyone battling personal challenges.”

Allison advises anyone ready to pursue their passion to just do it and don’t look back. “Stay true to yourself. Go with your instincts. Life is fragile and short. We can often get too caught up in what we need to do. Find your passion and make time for it. Life is hard, embracing your passion will only help make it more enjoyable and fulfilling.”

Henri Matisse once said, “Creativity takes courage.” Every day that Allison Borji steps into her art studio and lets inspiration take control, she is proving to herself—and all her customers—that anything is possible if we just trust in the process and believe we can.

An Allison Borji original

An Allison Borji original

To view and/or purchase Allison’s artwork, visit her shop “Ink & Bear It: Abstract Artworks by Allison Borji” at www.etsy.com/shop/inkandbearit.