Dee Dee Gowan was only 21 years old when she was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. Her first duty station was the Naval Ocean Processing Facility at Ford Island, a small island inside Pearl Harbor. For three years, she lived and worked in Hawaii, but was assigned to her next duty station at the Pentagon during the First Gulf War. On her last day in Hawaii, Dee Dee looked through the plane window and promised herself that when she had a family of her own, she would return. But three decades passed, life got in the way, and the promise she made to herself went unfulfilled.
For the past 13 years, Dee Dee has worked as an attorney at the Legal Clinic, now serving as the Director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). But always in the back of her mind was her dream. And when an opportunity to apply for the 2017 Human Services Professional Renewal Program arose, Dee Dee took her shot.
The award, funded by the Lilly Endowment and administered by United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI), requires eight years at a nonprofit agency along with various essays in which the applicants share their need for renewal and detail the perfect trip to achieve such renewal. Dee Dee wrote about her desire to return to Hawaii with her husband and children. “What really pushed me to apply is that my son is a senior in high school,” says Dee Dee. She knew it might be the last chance for her whole family to take this trip together.
The day that Dee Dee won the grant, she recalls jumping up and down with joy. “I always remembered that the water was clear, that the sand was silky and white, and that you could see through the clear, turquoise water,” she says. “I wanted to go back and stand in it.” After 30 years, Dee Dee finally returned to Hawaii and she and her family did just that.
Dee Dee’s staff was thrilled with her winning the award. For Jim Floyd, an Enrolled Agent in the LITC, this grant was well deserved. “Being the director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic is not a job to Dee Dee; it is her passion,” says Jim. “For over 12 years she has tirelessly poured her heart and soul into advocating for the poor and needy. Dee Dee does this, not for extrinsic rewards, but instead for the intrinsic satisfaction that justice has been served.” Paralegal Kim Smith echoes this sentiment. “I believe her love of what she does and her love for her clients is why she has been able to sustain her work at the Clinic,” she says.
Now, Dee Dee has returned from her dream vacation ready to continue serving her clients through the work of the LITC. “I knew it would be renewing, but I didn't understand how I was really going to feel when I got back. I have a full tank,” she says. “I don't think I even understood how depleted I was. If I had known it was going to be like this, I would've done it a long time ago.”
To learn more about the LITC, please visit our website.