Colene Daniel's education began with hope...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

November 28, 1993|By Sandra Crockett

Colene Daniel's education began with hope, determination

While other corporate executives talk a good game about coming up the hard way, few could match the odds Colene Daniel faced.

A vice president at Johns Hopkins Hospital currently oversees a $32 million budget and 700 employees. But 30 years ago, she was an 8-year-old sent to live at the Colored Orphanage of Cincinnati. Ms. Daniel spent four years at the orphanage, then three years in various foster homes before running away and striking out on her own.

At 15, she was living in a basement apartment and working odd jobs to support herself. However, Ms. Daniel never stopped attending school, where she earned straight A's and was on the honor roll.

"I've had the incentive to go to school as long as I caremember," Ms. Daniel says. "Anyway, in my neighborhood there was no other safe place to go."

Recently, Ms. Daniel's duties expanded to include community outreach in East Baltimore. In a way, her success is due to community outreach in the Cincinnati neighborhood where she grew up.

One of her odd jobs was doing accounting work for a man in her neighborhood. "One of my first employers turned out to be a bookie!" Ms. Daniel says.

But he saw her potential. He told her, "You are a bright kid and you are going on to college," she recalls.

Other adults in the neighborhood also came to her aid. Two of her teachers who figured out she had no parents opened their homes to her.

Ms. Daniel did go on to college and got a master's degree in hospital administration.

Thanks to the kindness of the community, she says, she always kept her goals in sight. But something else also kept her from going astray: "Children in my situation have always got to have hope," she says. "That is the most important thing."

@ Boomeranging back from adversity is Stacey Fortson's forte.

And Boomerang is the name of her business.

"It's a place for people who are trying to make a comeback," Ms. Fortson says, standing in her Timonium shop, which opened a couple months ago.

She describes the store as a combination New Age, recovery, cards and crafts store. Actually, it's a hodgepodge of everything from traditional Indian prayer sticks to Chinese silk robes to inspirational compact discs.

The idea for the business came after she was encased in a bodcast for months, recuperating from complicated back surgery. It wasn't simply that she had time to mull things over -- there was an added incentive.

Three weeks after surgery to remove a tumor, Ms. Fortson was told her job had been eliminated.

One recent afternoon, she recalled those bleak, dreary months -- pre-Boomerang. It was a time when she wondered if good health and a job would ever be hers again.

"When I had back surgery, I found myself pretty much unhirable. I became depressed, at times suicidal. It felt as if my body and my career had betrayed me at the same time," she says.

Sitting at home reading the want-ads and waiting for her body to heal wasn't doing much for her physical, economic or emotional condition.

But during her rehabilitation at the Bennett Institute at Children's Hospital and at home, a friend gave her a book that turned things around.

"It was while reading the book 'Comebacks,' [Ballantine Books, 1988] that I got the idea for the store," Ms. Fortson says.

For Ms. Fortson, the business is also a form of therapy. "This," she says, looking around her shop, "makes me feel good."--

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Sandra Crockett

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