August 2013

Sometimes Life Gets a Little Weird: Living to Give

Author: Kitty Bartell

This is a story of Biblical proportions. It does not, however, involve anything as dramatic as the parting of the Red Sea or the raising of the dead. It is a classic tale of brokenness, redemption, and service, magnificently manifesting as love, creativity, and even a bit of weirdness.

If the Bible is on your list of preferred reading, you may already know this, but one of its many authors, the Apostle Paul, wrote a great deal about being a servant of God. Had he known Deb Copeland, he would most certainly have written about her. Paul identified a top-five list of what it takes to serve the Lord well: 1) be a thankful servant; 2) be a prayerful servant; 3) be a submitted servant; 4) be a giving servant; and 5) be a humble servant. From the outside looking in, it seems Deb Copeland has lived several lives, with each one bringing her closer to fulfilling Paul’s top five.

Brokenness came early in Copeland’s life, experiencing abuse as a child, and in her early teens being left as the sole caregiver for her dying mother after her father abandoned the family. Following her mother’s death came a period filled with, “baggage, pain, and confusion,” fueled by alcohol and drugs, she said. Eventually coming out of the fog, Copeland says, “I woke up one morning and said to God, ‘If you’re really real, it’s time to help me out of here.’ So I stopped all the nasty habits, and from that point on I was a Christian and served God.” While her focus shifted and her heart for service grew, her passion and drive created a multimillion-dollar temporary staffing company, which she later sold.

Ever the workaholic, Copeland then founded a business consulting firm that effectively kept her on a speaking tour for 25 years, during which time she and her husband were raising six children; she wrote two best-selling motivational/spiritual books, and lived a fast-paced, high-profile life. Okay, you’re saying, I see the brokenness and the redemption, what’s next? Then the wheels really came off, when over the course of several years, Copeland was diagnosed with lupus, had a series of minor strokes, and a brain tumor. It took health issues to slow Copeland’s pace long enough to hear what God was calling her to do: serve.

At age 50, Copeland knew she had to go to work for God, 100 percent, all in. Founding the Christian non-profit, Live to Give—A God Thing, she now had a place for her God-given gifts of love, creativity, and dogged determination to take root and grow.
“I turned 50, and I really had a revelation with God. That is if I was able, through His grace and His help, to make the kind of money I had made, and to do the kind of things I had done, with a very limited education and zero support, then maybe from 50 on, I should just work for Him. So I made a pact with God and my husband, that from 50 on, every penny I made on the speaking tour, on the books, whatever, would go to Him,” Copeland said.

Writing a third book was only the beginning. Even before founding Live to Give, Copeland and her husband Don Lucci had already said yes when asked for help by a pastor in Kenya for a group of street orphans, who now have a school to attend. Copeland says that Kenya was where God began showing her who her neighbors were and how she could serve.

Always prayerfully searching for ways to serve, one of Live to Give’s early fundraising projects continues today and has inspired others along the way. Helping to clean out a friend’s home several years ago, Copeland began thinking about excess, and how refurbishing excess might benefit others. Inspiration struck gold when she had the idea to refurbish donated jean jackets, embellishing them with fabrics and trims and reselling them to help feed the hungry and homeless.


Dr. Michael Szynski and live to give founder Deb Copeland at the live to give gallery open house and lemonade social.

“It seems like everything I get involved in through Live to Give—and I don’t think it’s an accident—is pure Christ. It gives on both ends. Some of the ladies who make the jackets have been seamstresses their whole lives, but maybe they’ve never been acknowledged. There are smiles on their faces and they are thrilled to have just been appreciated,” Copeland said.

All of this creativity has culminated in Copeland’s latest outlet, the Live to Give Gallery on Hilton Head Island, where Gail Mooney, a fellow Hilton Head Christian Academy mom, manages and serves. Copeland says of Mooney, “There’s nobody like her. For every weakness I have, she has a strength; we do different things. Her heart is really in it.” One hundred percent of the profits go to assist those locally who are less fortunate.

In addition to finding a darling jean jacket, Copeland has artfully assembled a gallery of gifts and furniture not to be missed. On the heels of the jean jacket success, Live to Give Gallery is holding a “Chair-ity” auction on Monday August 26 from 5 – 7 p.m. Artists and crafters are invited to donate a transformed (decorated, painted, personalized) chair. All entries will be displayed from August 24-26 and entered in a silent auction. Also, coming in January 2014, is Sweets for the Soul, where local chefs and restaurateurs will compete for best dessert, with proceeds benefiting Live to Give and the local community.

One of Copeland’s passions is “teaching kids the old-fashioned values of what we should be doing: putting Christ first.” Holding a weekly meeting of the Weird Club (named by the members, not Copeland), where primarily middle school kids are invited to play, eat, pray, and listen to speakers who support the idea of walking right with God. “Be weird in a God way,” Copeland explained. “If you don’t drink and don’t smoke, the kid sitting beside you is going to think you’re weird, and they’re not going to have anything to do with you. You might as well be prepared for that battle and stand up against it and say, ‘It’s okay. I’m weird and I know it. I’m fine with it.’”
I believe the Apostle Paul would say that Deb Copeland is serving well.

Live to Give Gallery is located at 4 Southwood Park Drive, Suite #3, Hilton Head Island. They are open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, call (843) 715-0617. Books by Deb Copeland include Attitude Therapy, Good Morning… Good Night: 99 Days to Your Spiritual Recovery, and Face to Face with God.

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