TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Remarkable women is a month-long series honoring women in East Texas than inspire, lead, and forge the way for others day in and day out.
To start the new series, KETK introduces you to Donna Spann who has spent the last 37 years showering others with smiles, hugs and serving those who need it most.
“I don’t meet a stranger, I just love people, all people, and I think we can all find things in common, I don’t care where you work, how much money you make, what kind of car you drive, we’re all the same,” said Spann.
Donnas has served several non-profits including Prevent Blindness Texas, Children’s Miracle Network, PATH, and now, the East Texas Food Bank.
“That taught me the value of being genuine and serving others and with dignity, and so it’s made a difference not only in my life, it’s given my life purpose,” said Spann.
A purpose that inspired a local man to nominate Spann’s name for our ‘Remarkable Women’ contest.
“Her attitude and how she deals with others, that she truly cares, and I think to be a good leader, you have to truly care,” said Bill Mohl, who serves on the Board at the East Texas Food Bank. “The way she approaches things is always with a very positive attitude, and of course, as I’ve gotten to know her over those years, I’ve gotten to know what she’s been through in her life.”
From the outside, Spann’s life looks pretty normal, but when she was just a child, things looked bleak for the bright-eyed 6-year-old.
“I was very sick when I was young and I had a heart defect and I was watched very carefully for the first six years of my life, they really didn’t expect me to live very long, and I was probably towards the end of my life,” said Spann.
She said her life was saved by the grace of God and by the hands of a well-known surgeon who took a chance on a risky case.
“There was a hole, Dr. Cooley corrected me, I said a quarter when I met with Dr. Cooley, and he had his chart in his lap, he was in his wheelchair and he goes, no it was the size of a silver dollar,” said Spann.
The life-changing surgery led her to really appreciate getting a second chance at life, once she was old enough to realize the gift she’d been given.
“Life is good, I say now when I wake up and wiggle my toes, it’s going to be a good day, it’s going to be a really great day,” exclaimed Spann.
She was the first in her family to earn a college degree and did so at the age of 46.
“It was very important for me to do that, because I wanted to set an example for my children,” said Spann.
And that is exactly what she did, her full life has blessed her with two successful daughters and three rambunctious grandkids.
Now she spends most of her free time caring for her parents.
“They were high school sweethearts, their health is failing, and we all live together, my mother, my father, and I, and it’s my honor to be there and to help take care of them as they age, and to hear the stories that maybe I didn’t hear before about how they met, or how they grew up, it’s been a precious time in my life and I know that it’s important to me now, but I will cherish it later,” said Spann.
All of Spann’s hardships and good deeds have led her to the recognition she is now receiving, but she says it has nothing to do with her at all.
“I’ve always said the most important thing to me is, I’m God’s businesswoman and I work for him and I just get to do my work here at the East Texas Food Bank and that’s the most important thing to me is that I can do that, that I’m able to do that here and it’s fulfilling for me, selfishly, it’s really, working here is fulfilling so much personally for me, it’s not like work,” said Spann.
A fulfilling life that was almost cut short and a miracle that she says is a Godsend.
Remarkable Women: Mel Robbins
Four finalists have been chosen from the many entries KETK has received over the months. On Friday, March 6 a winner will be announced from our four finalists. That ‘Remarkable Woman’ will be flown to sit in the audience of ‘The Mel Robbins Show’ on March 17 for a special episode where the ‘Nexstar Woman of the Year’ will be announced by Mel Robbins.