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#emPOWERmentIS

The word empowerment is new to me. I came across it by accident in 2010 when a great friend of mine, Jan Hill of Oklahoma City and owner of Eden Salon, was visiting the cafe. My daughter, Alexis, was waiting on her table when Jan asked her to be a model in her first fashion show for the Institute for Economic Empowerment for Women (IEEW), a non-profit organization for business training and mentorship program for women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda.

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Jan Hill with Family

Jan Hill and family.

The name was a mouthful. Alexis and I didn’t exactly know what she had just volunteered to do. We both had suffered hardships in the beginning of 2010. I was looking for something new to inspire us. The opportunity for Alexis to be a part of a fashion show seemed intriguing. Considering she was just 16, I chaperoned her to the event. The event was during the Afghan and Rwandan women’s mentorship they receive in the United States after passing an extensive small business course in their country.

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Alexis behind the scenes

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Me & Shirley (Alexis best friend) at the event.

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Alexis on the runway

That evening I attended the fashion show as a proud mother of a daughter but what I saw, met, and witnessed was the courage and strength of these women. The hardships that had weighed me down seemed pale and insignificant compared to the stories of such brave women whom had survived war or genocide and decided to follow their dreams despite grave danger from a culture that traditionally does not allow women to practice business.

These smiles though.

These smiles though.

Their passion beamed.

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Their desire was their strength.

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It was so intense and filled with love that it was unforgettable. I left Jan with the promise to become involved with IEEW. For 3 years their stories, passions, and strengths stuck with me. As I worked through my own issues, it seemed my passion was leading me toward an early Rock Cafe retirement to seek out my next career in non-profit helping women and children. Thus, the idea to sell the cafe was born in late 2012.

I was anxious to have some experience in non-profit and the lingering thoughts of that intense fashion show night lured me to seek out the Institute.  I made a phone call to Jan and she was quick to invite me to a High Tea Fundraising event. High Tea seemed quite fancy compared to my Route 66 life in small town USA. Feeling out of my comfort zone, I drew on the strength of the memories of the Afghan and Rwandan women who are constantly out of their comfort zone while pushing for their dreams.

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Natalie Shirley recently opened her stately Heritage Hills home to host a High Tea that benefitted the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women. Hosts for the tea, from left, Lou Kerr and Mary Melon and Right, Judy Love, congratulate Terry Neese on her tremendous work with Peace Through Business.

I listened to Dr. Terry Neese presentation on the Institute for Economic Empowerment for Women and began to have a full understanding of the non-profit organization. I also met many of Oklahoma Cities powerful women and found them to be extremely smart and warm toward outsiders.

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Dr Neese tirelessly speaking on behalf of women.

I found an opportunity to approach Dr Neese and introduce myself and volunteer.  My spiel was, “My name is Dawn Welch. I own the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma. My business is small. My town is small with a population of 2,500. A one stop light town where our claim to fame is Route 66. I told her that I couldn’t make much a difference with my small $100 donation, but was willing to do anything to help the Institute. I can cook, help organize events, travel to meet the women, mentor, whatever labor needs to be done.”

Things happened very quickly from there. I received a phone call from Dr Neese the very next day and was thrilled and excited to be asked to mentor.  I was set up via emails with Atukunda Winnie from Rwanda. She was a rare case because her business was already open for about a year. We had very broken communication via email and I was quick to discover that Facebook was a much better mode of communication. She knew English better then I thought and even knew of our culture fairly well. When Winnie arrived in Oklahoma, I decided a trip down Old Route 66 would ease her into the idea of being in the small town of Stroud.

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Winnie loved meeting John in Arcadia, Oklahoma.

My week with Winnie is an absolute indescribable experience of a mirror image of my business, my family, and myself. Mentoring Winnie quickly became a self-discovery of myself… where I had been and where I wanted to go.

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Winnie was able to ignite a fire within me and give me new business aspirations. She made me awaken to my current success and  to the idea of stretching myself and my business to the next level. She asked questions about business and family while answering made me realize everything had been manageable even amongst the chaos of the daily grind. She questioned my reasons for selling that success to the highest bidder and softly suggesting that perhaps the idea of selling was quite absurd. She was unknowingly empowering her mentor. Winnie was a quick learner, as well. In a crash course over seven days, She took with her my 20 years worth of business ups and downs while also becoming an integral part of my family.

My son, Paul, and his friend, Anthony, still ask about Winnie.

My son, Paul, and his friend, Anthony, still ask about Winnie.

Fashion Show 2013 with Winnie.

Fashion Show 2013 with Winnie.

Winnie has returned to Rwanda to prosper in her business. I was left with challenges from Winnie to forge forward in my business. And the word emPOWERment began to take on a depth that is still being understood. I have had the opportunity to be heard and mentored by Dr Terry Neese and many other successful American business women. The sound bites ever familiar with mine; the trials of business and family. The heartaches and the successes so similar. This community of women and their dedication to help others has inspired me. Moved me. Changed me.

At Winnie's Graduation

At Winnie’s Graduation

Many fragile intersections when my life’s work seemed easier to sell to the highest bidder so my work in public service could begin.  My choices to create opportunities for my future….  became one goal. The idea of having both the cafe and working in public service became attainable and symbiotically assets to one another.

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#emPOWERmentIS ….

* Opportunity

* Education

* Relationship

* Community

* Change

* Pushing Comfort Zones

* Loving Your Work

* Helping others

* Strength During Adversity

* Letter power go so others can do their jobs

And So Much More.

In closing, I highly recommend non-profit work. Find a way to fit it in your life. And even Better>>>>>

Join us by coming to an event.

Or Simply. Like our page. Let it linger. Something will stick. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/IEEW.PTB?ref=br_tf

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A Love Letter To Stroud

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Its Labor Day Weekend 2014 which marks the end of the season for Route 66 and also this year marks the Rock Cafe’s 75th Year and my 21st and we are proud to announce the Rock Cafe is no longer FOR SALE. 

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The reason for the change of heart has been a long almost 2 year journey. The most important reason is people and their experience and advice during my travels. 

 

When these Veteran bikers saw us struggling to heave the sign from the ground …. they screamed “about time to get that damn sign out of here” and proceeded to remove the sign. Our customers have been very committed. 

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In my 21 years, I’ve reached a several phases of burn out from sheer exhaustion and frustration that would perpetuate extreme decisions to contemplate leaving a successful career for the hope of something new. During my tenure at the Cafe, I was also Assistant Manager of Tanger Outlet Mall, a licensed Oklahoma private investigator & security guard, an American Airlines Flight Attendant, studio manager in Los Angeles, and mentor for new business women in far away lands. 

 

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(I’ll bet many of you are surprised about this one)

I’ve been able have great side careers because of people and building relationships. 

During my absence from Stroud and the Route 66, there was always much speculation and gossip but these careers and the people attached to them always provided tremendous growth and change.  Running a small business in a small town can be many things from rewarding to suffocating and trusting another to operate it in your leave can be vulnerable and detrimental. I’ve been blessed to have Beverly, who most wanted that damn sign down. She allows me to wander aimlessly because she knows upon return comes the tide of change. Change is something she is most afraid of but also trusts my instincts. 

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(Yes this is her look at me most of the time)

The tide of change has once again arrived and it’s time to remove the sign. Its also the beginning of transformation and growth that Stroud can hang its hat on and tout that we believe in our city and its people. We are committed and stronger then ever. 

I’ll be around…. seemingly aimlessly. 

 

Could this be the future ??? We hope so. 

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Thank you Stroud for your support and trust. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pierre at Red.

Tis the season, the cafe is always slow as the world speeds toward red and green.

Crickets! During Shopping Season

We await Christmas week when families meet halfway to exchange packages and words of love while merrily eating Betsy’s hot meals.

New Betsy Shirts. Hopefully ready for Christmas Visitors.

New Betsy Shirts. Hopefully ready for Christmas Visitors.

I was able to work on a project for the coffee drinkers for Christmas.

Christmas for the Early Morning Guys of the Rock Cafe.

Christmas for the Early Morning Guys of the Rock Cafe.

I was also able to enjoy the season’s decorations and activities in Bricktown/Downtown Oklahoma City. I am full of admiration for the planning and execution of not only Oklahoma City but Tulsa and the entire State and enjoy soaking up the vibe.

OKC Skyline

OKC Skyline

The Myriad Gardens have lots of activities this time of year. Including Pop Up Shops.

The Myriad Gardens have lots of activities this time of year. Including Pop Up Shops.

I posed for some pictures where the Jolly Green Giant was obviously erecting his Christmas tree here in the next few days.

This must be the spot for his tree. Because he stacked his ornaments close by.

This must be the spot for his tree. Because he stacked his ornaments close by.

OOPS 2 more landed close by. Obviously, he slides them down the vine late at night. ;)

OOPS 2 more landed close by. Obviously, he slides them down the vine late at night. 😉

A bet was made based on my ice skating skills. A sweet man staying at the Colcord who was here for some work and a chance to begin a great new romance helped me.

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He went up to his room and retrieved me a pair of his socks to wear.

Devon Ice rink is very slippery. I have very good balancing skills

Devon Ice rink is very slippery. I have very good balancing skills

A view of the ice rink from the new Devon rooftop restaurant, Vast.

A view of the ice rink from the new Devon rooftop restaurant, Vast.

Not only the sites but watching other people enjoy their experience. There is always magic in this and from time to time a connection is made that will stain me for life.

I was also able to enjoy a drink at Red after enjoying the season’s decorations in Bricktown/Downtown Oklahoma City.Feeling merry and bright from my walk-about, I enter a fully packed Red and find one open seat at the bar. The bartender was busy spinning finely crafted libations and it was easy to see many were in for business parties.

Red Bar has awesome vibe and festive atmosphere.

Red Bar has awesome vibe and festive atmosphere.

I was immediately intrigued with the person to my left, a handsome older man well dressed but casual and certainly not meant to hunt. He was alone and quiet. I heard only a few words as he answered the busy bartenders. I knew they respected him and made sure he was well taken care of in the midst of an obviously busy bar. Who was he? Sounded like an accent but not quite. I find an intro and take it. It doesn’t take long to find out he is working for A Good Egg Dining Group and helping to develop a kick ass new team of pastry chef’s for Kitchen No. 324, a new restaurant concept.

http://www.kitchen324.com/Open December 21, coincidence its on the last day of Earth. ;) I don't think so.

http://www.kitchen324.com/
Open December 21, coincidence its on the last day of Earth. 😉 I don’t think so.

He showed me that days samples and they looked just like this.

He showed me that days samples and they looked just like this.

Very Excited as he is part of my world. Turns out Pierre originally from France transported to Seattle possibly by marriage from the romantic stories of his wife where he owned a pastry business up until recently when he sold it to retire. WOW.

Here is a rundown of our conversation:

We both had the luck to build a business we had passion for.

We both decided to retire and take the jump toward something new without a complete idea of what it may be.

We both love the idea of  helping American children learn more about food choices and health.

We both love to travel, meet people, and exchange ideas and cultures.

We both wanted to retire with our families in the most wonderful climate within America.

We both wanted to find new work within retirement.

At the end, we realize all the similarities of our unique lives and where we are today. We are sitting quiet while this really sinks in and he asks the simple but hard question: Are you scared?

I found that extremely profound. My base idea for Zero to 40 was to fight the fear of the unknown future and share that experience for others in my demographic. In 2010, when faced with an eminent divorce, I knew life was going to change dramatically. I spent most of 2010 conquering the emotions and feelings of such a powerful life shift and came to some decisions about how I wanted to spend this phase of life. I spent 2011 laying the groundwork for the future of my family and myself.

These kids are all very excited about their dreams and each have a general direction for the effort of making them come true.

These kids are all very excited about their dreams and each have a general direction for the effort of making them come true.

Trying to keep the base line of what would make each of us the most satisfied and complete and moving toward our individual dreams. I spent the beginning of 2012 shedding fears …..

So my answer was easy. I am not scared. I am looking forward to the future and the unknown portions of it. It is time to let the dreams fly and see where they land. I was very proud of my simple answer for Pierre. No. I am not.

Once Upon A Time…..

in a town far far away on a Main Street in America stood a structure engineered by a simple man whose dream was to bring home an architecture of hope found in a country he discovered during his deployment to England during WWI.

This Rock building erected with five dollars worth of Route 66 blasted native sandstone would become a beacon for generations of American history.

Roy wanted the look and feel of the English pubs that provided him comfort in a strange country during a time of war. With each rock laid by hand, the building took shape and began to take breathe. Opening its doors to the public in 1939 during a time when WWII was underway, it was a breathe of fresh air to service men during their journey to and from a war that would shape Americas greatest generation of men.

And from there….. the fable just begins…. as this place was to become an iconic stop for thousands as they moved down the ribbon of road leading them to the next state of being.

It has taken 20 years for me to weave this quilt of fables that blanket and protect the Rock from the cold that befalls so many Route 66 establishments. The tales of the past are so important to the success of this business.

The significance toward historic preservation is such an important topic for this country. We are young. We so often discard our history with such ease with fantastic implosions and erect inferior new structures.

The Hotel Abraham Lincoln implosion.

Older countries look at us with wonderment and disdain. As much as I am a wanderer, I’m forever tied to my family history and I carry them with me. My people came from very hard times and never acquired an estate. I do hold on to a parcel of land that dates back to the Land Run on my mother’s side. It’s important to me. My past. Possibly My Future.

It’s important to me to find a person/corporation that desires to continue allowing the Rock Cafe  to breathe life. Continue telling its history. Continue inspiring.

  • 40’s WWII – The Rock was a Greyhound bus stop that guaranteed service men food even during a blackout by serving stew or chili from a black kettle on the fireplace.

  • 50’s Golden Age – Post war America when baby boomers took vacations with their family’s headed down Route 66 in classic American cars. The Rock gave many baby boomers a rest stop and memorable family meal.

Jerry is the most famous Baby Boomer artist on the Road. His images depict his experiences and others of his era.

  • 60’s Rock and Roll – A style of music that would take the world by storm and move even more musicians up and down the famed road and create “sock hops” .These famous bands often stopping at the Rock while on tour and the teens of the area  often “sock hopped”  in the parking lot.

  • 70’s Heyday of Truckers – Romanticized as Knights of the Road and modern day Cowboys these men found solace from the road at the Rock Cafe during a time when it was necessary to be open 24 hours a day.

  • 80’s Sudden Death to Main Street America –  A direct result of industrialized America and bypassing of smaller highways. The cafe was no stranger to this death; closing its doors in 1983. It suffered for almost 10 years.

  • 90’s Rebirth – America’s artists  find their way back to the Mother Road for self discovery and find a platform to showcase an easier time and expose it to a World moving too fast. The Rock survives certain death and is given a second chance by being recognized and documented in books, documentaries, movies, newspapers, television shows, and more.

  • 00’s Economic Fall – Many Americans search for answers often looking for comfort food and less expensive vacations. The cafe becomes a part of history with the help of Hollywood and survives a fire to provide a new genre of people from the suburban and socialite scene.

What happens if America continues to mask the importance of our nations historic structures? What happens if we abandon business when they seem to erode as society moves in other directions?

The Rock Cafe is a business that is more then 70 years old and carries on the traditions set forth by Roy Rieves, a man of character, during a time that shaped American history. People will always be able to connect to the traditions of the Rock Cafe. Comfort food and memories to be made.

What happens if the Rock Cafe becomes nothing but a memory? For the sake of our future generations, lets hope this question is never answered.

Ready. Set. Jump.

My name is Dawn Welch and I have lived.

I lived through my teens with more innocence then most but have such fond memories of youthful events.

My brother allowing my best friend, Amanda Ingram-Martinez, dress him up as a girl to entertain us. I’m working on someone else there in the forefront. My mom gave us this idea because our sleepover was so boring. This picture is super special because not only are me and Amanda still amazing friends but my brother, Shawn Longacre, has since passed on. Just another reminder of how important it is to live in the moment and make memories.

My friendship with Melanie is as strong today as it was back then. Just the beginning of how important relationships would become to me. My house was located on Yukon Avenue and wasn’t much but we sure had some great times there.

Shawn and I went to the prom as friends this night. We had a great time. This being my forth time to go to a prom. I saved money and Molly Ringwalded this dress worn at my Sophmore prom. It was cost saving and looking back the night was so much more important then the cost of the dress or even what it looked like.

The MORP dance was prom spelled backward. The idea was that girls asked the boys and you picked the bad attire and drove horrible vehicles. Mel and I picked our dream dates and they both said yes. We were overjoyed. Me and my date, Rod, wore hospital scrubs supplied to me by my nurse grandmother and Mel and date were dressed as break dancers. We drove an old car my mom had, it was a tank. It rained all night and the rusty holes in the roof and floor kept us wet all night! It was so fun. We always made the most of time.

Melanie thought it would be a great idea to hire me a stripper for my 16th Birthday!
He showed up for lunch where we frequented, Ken’s Pizza, because we also worked there. Many Many of the school friends were there and I was so embarrassed. It still to this day is the first and only time I ever truly was surprised.

Sparkles was a gig started because my boss, Maurie Gingell at Ken’s Pizza, left it to me to compete with Chucky Cheese Birthday Parties. I created Sparkles,the clown. I learned simple tricks and did balloon animals. I’m very thankful to have accepted Maurie’s challenges at work it has made me very successful. Creativity and fun should always be at the forefront …. Even at your work. I did this gig all the way from high school until my daughter was one. She was terrified of clowns and still is…. The boys in the picture, Mitch Wright and William Brown, worked with me. The stopped by my house after work most days. They are still great friends. I’m blessed to have kept so many friends.

I felt in such a hurry for this day. I felt so grown up. After all, I had finished high school, worked for 5 years at Ken’s Pizza, worked summers at Whitewater, and was a successful runner. I could conquer the World. Looking at this picture. I see such bright eyes and smile. I’m thankful to have not lost that and hopeful that my future is as bright from here as it was then. Here we go …. and Jump.

I lived through my 20’s slightly less innocent but had so much fun. Travel and self discovery at its forefront.

I willed myself my dream job at RCCL and quickly found myself traveling the world’s most exotic gorgeous places. This is one of the lock’s on the Panama Canal. I am one of the dots onboard.

Not only did we see these amazing places but we also had great comradeship with the crew. I quickly became the go to person for shipboard parties. On one ship they even sent out a note insisting we go out and visit the passengers more because we started staying in so many nights because we had loads of fun together.

We were in the Pursers Department. My position was the most petty officer. And I loved the job.

Because I was in charge of the ship’s pager system. Many times I would send pages out to everyone not working and have a themed party. This one involved old time 50’s music. Again…. Creative Work Fun! Remember though… We lived onboard so the two had to be mixed!

Even my second persona, Sparkles was able to travel and perform. RCCL found out about my clown skills and used them. Again… Thanking Maurie for making me ambidextrous in my work.

I lived through my 30’s knowing it all and having all of it implode and resurrect. Career and child rearing at its forefront.

February 14, 1993, I began my love affair on the Mother Road one burger at a time. A youthful 24. I had no idea the journey that was before me.

I had traveled up and down the road in this car on my American tours before settling down at the Rock. It was sold after my second child as there was no time to invest in this sort of travel with a business and two children. A MiniVan would replace it.

Alexis was born in November of 1994. Her birth would anchor me even more to the road and blossoming cafe. It was the discovery of simple living in small town USA and the world at large found us.

Paul was born in 2001 near the time I remodeled the Rock Cafe and began meetings with Pixar. The children were able to spend just about every moment with me at the Rock and they always found ways to pitch in.

I was able to keep myself traveling and did it on and off the Mother Road. This is the Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma and while not too far there is always adventure to find even in your own back yard. Especially on Route 66.

I always took time to travel with the kids. This is Alexis on the beach and I’m pregnant with Paul. I would mingle work with vacation. This is the trip that the Rock’s Alligator Burgers were discovered and I learned the Art of True Coon Ass Cooking. (Cajun)

In 2008, The Rock Cafe burned to the ground save the Rock Walls and “Betsy”, the Wolfe grill. The most difficult obstacle to navigate but not the only one.

As my 40’s flash before me, I know less and dream of more wondering if Fear will still me from discovering. Career and child rearing almost complete, I begin dreaming of new possibilities dealing with the Fear inside of re creating once again The Life.

Most of you will know me from my illustrious career on Route 66 the Darling and the Villian of the Rock Café. The Rock Café has been located on Route 66 for more then 70 years and my love affair with this spot has been one lasting 20 years and seen me through the best and worst of times. The magic of this spot perfectly matched my dreams and with hard work and the shake of a wand, we’ve resurrected and created an island of hope and love to share with the World At Large.

As I move towards this new horizon, I feel obligated to share my dreams and fears because after many years of observation, we all hit this point. A point that sets us on a new course when we conquer the fear of the jump.

I hope you all will join me on the road to re discovery.

For Sale ~ Rock Cafe

Vernon Hatley Photography

Fears are knocking at every turn throughout a lifetime.

They sneak in at every stage of  life and are easily sold to the soul.

Peace within ourselves so hard to find

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The search for an enriched life may seem like a lost hope.  Many times I’ve been interviewed about what makes the Rock Cafe special. The Rock Cafe is a place connected to a vein of these truths: encompassing fear and hope for the future of America along Route 66.

This is what makes innumerable courageous souls take this peregrination.

 These truths forever chronicled by some of Americas most influential storytellers; Steinbeck, Kerouac, Troup and countless others. The Rock is not only forever entwined to America’s biggest fears and hopes it continues to help the hearts of individuals find hope for the future while helping to shed the fear.

Which brings me to mine. After two decades of illustrious ups and downs, on the Mother Road.

The tinge of new horizons on the “Dream Big” side of my psyche and the apprehensive “Frozen State of Being” psyche battle for power. Global is my nature and with my children starting their own travels, its time to hit the road.

The Rock and the Mother Road have given me many lessons and gifts throughout my tenure. In the coming days, I’ll share these stories in this blog and lend an inside look to the numerous interests for life after the Rock Cafe.

The above link is a video about life on this road and my two biggest inspirations.