Advocate: Picayune resident dedicates life to community outreach
Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 24, 2015
A person’s attitude determines their altitude,” are the words that Lex Doby used to describe his daughter Constance and her ability to overcome challenges and dedicate her life to community outreach.
Constance was born with dwarfism. The Mayo Clinic defines dwarfism as an adult whose height is about four feet 10 inches or less. The average height of adults with dwarfism is four feet.
Constance is three feet five inches tall. She is the only known member of her family to have this condition. According to Constance, dwarfism occurs in one of 100,000 births.
She was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and is the daughter of Lex and the late Jessie Mae Doby.
“I didn’t even realize I was a little person until I was in the fourth grade,” Constance said. “They made a video of our class and I realized that I was different.”
She is a graduate of Cleveland’s Glenville High School and received an associate’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Dental Medical Assistants at Cleveland State.
In 1997, Constance moved to Picayune and began participating in community outreach organizations.
The first group she joined was Little People of America. The Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter formed in 2001.
“It’s a great organization with so much to offer,” Constance said. “They offer peer support, advocacy, education and adoption opportunities. There is also a medical advisory board and a legal support team.”
In 2003, the president of the Gulf Coast chapter of LPA stepped down and Constance was asked to assume the position.
In her role as president, she was in charge of scheduling membership recruitment and provided peer support for new and current members.
“It was a good position and I enjoyed it,” Constance said.
She also served as the organization’s secretary.
The Gulf Coast chapter of LPA dissolved in 2007 after Hurricane Katrina because a large number of members didn’t come back, Constance said. She is still a lifetime LPA member and can participate in chapters in the 13th district.
In 2008, Constance joined AmeriCorps.
“I wanted to be involved because my grandfather is a World War II veteran and my father is a Korean conflict veteran,” Constance said. “My brother is a Naval veteran and I wanted to find a way that I could serve since I could not be in the military.”
During her years with AmeriCorps, Constance conducted work with Project LINC, which brings awareness to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
She traveled to cities to observe how handicapped accessible their facilities and buildings were and spoke with business owners.
“I let them know that their business would flourish if their entrances and stores were more ADA accessible,” Constance said.
After Hurricane Katrina, a number of disabled adults were displaced from their homes, Constance said. Some lived in nursing homes because there was a limited number of ADA accessible homes. Part of her work included finding ADA accessible homes for them so they could live as independently as possible.
Constance said it was a worthwhile challenge. She was awarded a plaque from the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service Disability Inclusion Award in honor of outstanding contributions and dedicated service to Mississippi communities.
Constance is a member of Picayune’s St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves as church clerk. She is a licensed missionary in the eighth Episcopal district. Constance teaches adult Sunday school and serves as a youth church supervisor.
“Whatever my pastor needs, I can do it,” Constance said.
Monday, Constance was grand marshal of the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade held in Picayune and received a plaque to commemorate the day.
“It was amazing and an honor to be considered,” Constance said. “Words cannot express it. We were all gathered in one accord and people were solemn, happy and respectful. I won’t forget it. It was an honor to participate.”
Constance said the day went smoothly due to the efforts of the people on the MLK committee including Etta Scott, Louise Atkins, Dorothy Breland, Johnnie Roberts, Ozie Turner and David Simmons.
“They ensured I was able to function comfortably and safely during the parade,” Constance said. “It was a seamless event and they went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable.”
Lex said he is very proud of his daughter and she accepts the things she cannot change and deals with them effectively.
“I was a bit setback when doctors told me about her condition,” Lex said. “But I came to grips with it and knew that I wanted to do everything that was in my power to provide her with all the tools it would take to excel in this life.”
Christine, Constance’s stepmother, said that having Constance in her life is a blessing.
“I’m grateful to her,” Christine said. “She has taught me to accept the things that we cannot change.
Constance said she knew she had to level the playing field. The mind isn’t short or tall, knowledge is knowledge, Constance said.
“God gave me the gift of being noticed,” Constance said. “I have to maximize each moment all the time. My mother told me that when I was born she got down on her knees and prayed. She asked God to give me a mind to think for myself, learn and make decisions. She wasn’t worried about the physical, she asked for a sound mind.”