Marlo Lawson,
nominated by Dress for Success Columbus

By: Susie Owens

The doctor said the hole in her heart doesn’t need to be fixed right now, and maybe that chasm is our gift — what keeps Marlo Lawson out there, giving and spreading love in places where she sees hollow voids, places the rest of us might have missed.  She has a passion for mothers and children — and for her 3 sons, black adult males making their way in a world filled with uncertainty, violence, and ignorant discrimination.  How hard it is to hear her speak of the fear she has for young men, and to be unable to say to her, “Don’t worry, they’ll be alright.”  Because, today, security is no longer a given.

Marlo raised those sons by herself.  Once, when she was navigating life with a toddler and pregnant, she found herself seeking refuge in a homeless shelter; and again with all 3 toddlers.  But rather than becoming hard and embittered, the experience filled her heart with kindness and compassion.  She began to look for ways that spoke to her heart and asking, “How can I help make life easier for someone else?”  She says, “You never know how the situation you’ve been through can help someone else.”  Her best friend, and soul mate for the last 40 years, Gerrie Person says, “Marlo’s faith in God keeps her strong, loving, and determined.”

Children tend to cling to Marlo.  One of her favorite jobs was working as a “reader” for the education readiness program aimed at children in low-income housing.  “My work was to help get those children ready for kindergarten.  The best part was seeing their faces in the window, waiting for me to come inside to read with them,” she remembers.  “The kids would grab their special reading chairs, sit down, and wait in anticipation of the story.”

Today, if you need a pick-me-up, wander down to Dress for Success, where you might find Marlo dressing a woman, someone who has been knocked down by life, for her first job interview.  “I love putting smiles on their faces,” Marlo says.  She considers it her duty to get these women out of “dull” and lifeless colors, and encourages them to add color into their wardrobe.  She explains that the women gravitate to black, and it’s a reflection that they just don’t like the way they look.  “So
I ask them, ‘Can we try some colors?  You have just the right smile and skin tone to make this dress really stand out.’  This usually makes them smile, because they begin to see how pretty they really do look.”

Marlo’s favorite way to help someone is to be present with them, while they “vent” and let it all out.  She will do whatever it takes to help someone, including cooking a meal.  Her most requested dish is her special mac and cheese, best served up with her smile.

pointer-dingyIf you could change one thing in the world what would it be?

“To put an end to all senseless killing.”

pointer-dingyWhat is the most important piece of advice you would share with a young woman growing up today?

“Sometimes, we just have to keep the faith and depend on God.  He is always there — even when we have no one to depend on.”   

pointer-dingyWhat women influenced you the most either past or present?

“My mother and my grandmother — single women who raised kids on their own.”

pointer-dingyWhat’s your favorite quote? 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  ~ 2 Timothy 1:7



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