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Sunday Profile: Varnado native receives group’s humanitarian award

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Posted: Saturday, May 4, 2013 11:55 pm

A Varnado native, Regenia Moore-Lee of Morristown, N.J., was honored some months ago by the Pi Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority when the organization bestowed upon her its Social Justice and Human Rights Award. She is the daughter of Maevella N. Moore of Varnado and the late Oneal Moore, and she has three sisters, Veronica, Tresslar and Sheronda. Lee is a 1976 graduate of Varnado High School and a 1980 graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans.

Maevella Moore, who said she is proud of all of her children, is also “very proud of Regenia and all of her accomplishments and the places she has gone and things she has experienced since she became an adult.”

In addition, she said, her expectations for this daughter were high.

“I really expected more,” she said. “She at first wanted to be a doctor,” but after a brief stint in that program she decided it wasn’t for her. She did end up graduating at the top of her class at Dillard, Moore said, right along side her husband, Al Lee, also a Dillard graduate who graduated at the top of the class that year.

When Lee and her husband were relocated to Bangkok, Thailand, for what was supposed to be a couple of years, she had no idea how the move would change her life.

Upon arriving in Thailand she quickly became involved in the civic life of her new city, joining the American Women’s Club of Thailand, a non-political and non-profit organization chartered in 1955. The AWC was formed to help American expatriates to assimilate into the community by providing opportunities for social, cultural and philanthropic activities.

Lee always found herself involved in community-focused organizations, having served as chapter president of Jack & Jill of America, as well as regional director, secretary-treasurer and parliamentarian. She also has served on the area protocol committee and committee chairman, as well as chapter parliamentarian in the Links organization.

Additionally, as a lifetime member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Lee has served as chapter president and vice president, committee chairman and on the regional bylaws committee. With her stellar résumé, Lee was tapped to run for first vice president of AWC within the first month of her becoming a member. She ran, she won, and in her governing role she was able to leave her mark on Thailand’s native and expatriate communities through numerous advocacy and volunteer efforts that impacted needy families and displaced individuals.

Lee’s influence within the American Women’s Club was felt on the Scholarship Committee, where 400 underprivileged girls were sponsored for high school educations. She also was involved in evaluating requests for funding from various Thai charities that focused on needed women and children. As a fundraiser, she was part of a team that resulting in AWC’s highest grossing fundraiser ever.

But it was her opportunity to visit with young women damaged within a human trafficking industry that led to her personal commitment to support those held in Immigration Detention Centers who had no money, no family or other support and many of whom had given up hope of every being released.

Lee said she visited a young Somalian woman who had been detained for months and who had had no visitors. When she met the young woman, she said, the young detainee said to her, “Now I know that I won’t die.” Just having a visitor gave her the hope that she was not alone or forgotten, Lee said.

After her trip to IDC, Lee continued her visits with detainees every week, delivering non-perishable food items, bottled water, fresh fruit and juices, personal care items, clothes, shoes, etc., and most importantly, encouragement and hope. She went so far as to sponsor purchasing airline tickets so that detainees might get back to their home countries after their release.

However, she was not satisfied with the number of people she alone could help, so she asked her church in Thailand to become involved and also solicited support from the Morris County chapter of Links. Now, many months later, both of those organizations continue to support this effort, Lee said.

What was once to be a two- or three-year stay abroad turned into five years, during which time Lee made a difference within her community. She returned to the U.S. in 2011 and has since resumed her active schedule as a current member of the Pi Theta Omega Chapter of AKA, where she currently serves as vice president and program chairman; serving as nominating chairman and women’s issues chairman of the Links; and serving as a part of the Women of Purpose and Music Ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Morristown.

Moore said her daughter visits her often in Varnado.

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