UPDATE (5 p.m. Thursday, March 30, 2023): Debbie Lore has been named our winner for this year’s Remarkable Women contest! Debbie received a $1,000 check to give to the charity of her choice! Debbie chose to pay it forward to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

ST. ALBANS, WV (WOWK) – Debbie Lore has made a huge impact in the St. Albans community she calls home, but perhaps her story and how she became who she is today is the most remarkable detail in her life.

In the halls of St. Albans High School, Debbie, a retired P.E. teacher turned substitute, is still on the job. Debbie also has a long list of philanthropic ventures, which is why her fellow community members describe her as remarkable.

“Oh, no, no, I am not the remarkable woman,” Debbie said she told others after finding out she was a Remarkable Woman finalist. “And they said ‘oh, yes you are, that’s not the criteria,’ so, you know, I don’t feel worthy of this at all.”

Perhaps just one example of her philanthropic endeavors could make a case for her. After a young girl died when her bike crashed into a cinderblock gas building, Debbie stepped up to help prevent other families in her community from experiencing the same tragedy. Debbie says the girl didn’t have a helmet during the crash, so she began “The Hard Heads Club,” a nonprofit that works to provide bicycle helmets to local children.

Filling a need by turning pain into a purpose is a common theme for Debbie. After her own mother passed away, she coped with her own loss by a support group for others grieving the loss of a loved one called “TEARS.”

“Together everyone achieves reassuring support,” Debbie says. “Everything that’s happened, I want to kinda – I don’t want to wallow in that pain, you know?”

Those who have worked with Debbie throughout her career, including St. Albans High School Principal Dr. Jaclyn Swayne say they appreciate her outlook on life, especially because Debbie’s own life hasn’t been easy.

“Especially with her personal story, all that she has personal life, all that she continues to give back,” Swayne said.

When one learns of the things Debbie has done, it all seems more gracious after learning details of her past.

“You know who the remarkable woman is in this story? It’s my Momma, I’m telling you that. It is,” Debbie said.

She says she’s always had a hunch she was adopted, but it wasn’t until both of her parents, whom she loved dearly, had passed that she set out to do some independent research, finally getting some answers.

“Found out that my mother had been raped, and that my mother chose to keep me. And I will ever tell my story because of that. I’m not ashamed. The best parents ever,” Debbie said.

Her mother’s pregnancy with her left Debbie with some complications that she still lives with.

“I’m blind in my left eye, and I have a heart murmur,” Debbie said. “Now, if you do the study and research this particular STD, it causes brain damage. Now, that is still up for debate with my friends. They think I’m a little crazy.”

It’s hard to say how others might receive such news, but Debbie took it in stride.

“I choose not to whine. I realize this is part of it, and I just move on,” she says.

“Just to know her makes you realize how powerful you can be. It encourages you to then be a light for somebody else,” Swayne said. “Simply, just her kindness, her spirit, her encouraging words, her jokes, her laughter. The things she does to go out of her way to just give a small moment in time and make it better for somebody else.

Debbie says the message she has for others is the reason behind what her friends and family call her own encouraging and loving spirit.

“If you just have a willing heart and, well, people just need love. I need love, I just want to be accepted and loved,” she says.