Ivory Dorsey: A Real Trailblazer and Difference-maker
This Mableton resident embodies the phrase, "To the world, you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world.
Every morning, except Sundays when she comes after church, Mableton resident Ivory Dorsey can be seen walking the Silver Comet Trail. She is easy to spot because she usually wears one solid color head to toe– often times it’s her favorite color, purple– and a huge genuine smile.
Dorsey first moved to Mableton in 1979 and has stayed in the same house she built ever since. She moved here first for her job as a sales manager with Xerox.
“I thought I’d be in Atlanta for 18 months, but God had other plans,” she said.
Don’t ask her if she’s retired.
“That’s a horrible word. When you have a gift, you die with it.”
Dorsey still uses her gift of inspiring and motivating others. She is a motivational speaker, but doesn’t actively seek speaking engagements.
“If they call, I will go,” she said. “Unless God takes away my voice, I will do that until I die.”
She began speaking after quitting her job where she was the company’s first African-American sales manager in the South. She was one of the company’s top three salespeople in the region. Before working for Xerox, she was a teacher and a secretary.
As a self-described overachiever, Dorsey said, “At one point, I realized there was no next level.”
Certainly don’t ask her age.
“If you have to ask, it doesn’t matter,” she says with a big, warm laugh. “I always ask people, ‘How old would you be if you didn’t know when you were born?’”
For the Dequincy, La. native, satisfaction comes from exploration and self-discovery.
“What I’m looking for is a new frontier. I’m between no longer and not yet. I’ve nothing left to prove.”
Because of that, she spends her time helping others in every way that she knows how.
“My greatest joy is helping people discover themselves…I just wake up every day with the expectation that something exciting is going to happen and it always does,” she said.
Eleven years ago, a little boy and his parents moved in next to Dorsey. The little boy was sweet, shy, well-mannered and had been taught by his parents to be respectful to adults, always calling her ma’am.
“I remember the first time he showed up at my house. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up,” Dorsey said.
With a sureness that little Charles McCline did not always show, he told Dorsey that he wanted to play football and he wanted his number to be 20, like his favorite player, Barry Sanders.
As an only child, whose parents wanted to keep him safe, Charles was often alone in his house, but Dorsey became his ticket out.
“Everywhere I went, he went,” Dorsey said.
It was because of Dorsey, who had taken Charles walking in Wallace Park where a nearby peewee football team played, that Charles began playing football in the first place.
After watching the boys play, Charles trotted over to Dorsey with the team’s coach in tow. He wanted Charles on his team.
After Dorsey negotiated to get Charles a scholarship, she got permission from Charles’ parents and took him to practice every weekday and to games on every Saturday.
Dorsey had a standing appointment in Charles’ classroom at Riverside Intermediate because he would act out at school to rebel against what Charles describes as a “very strict” upbringing.
Dorsey was there every step of the way, supporting his football dream and helping guide him in the right direction.
Charles never took his next-door neighbor and biggest fan for granted.
At Pebblebrook’s first-ever signing day on Feb. 1, Charles told the entire gym full of students, faculty, staff and community members that he would never be there had it not been for Ivory Dorsey.
“Lil’ Charles” as Dorsey calls him, though he’s now 5’11” and 215 pounds, had signed with Morehouse College, where he will attend in the fall.
On the back of a photo of himself in his football uniform, Charles wrote to Dorsey, “This is the young man you built: ambition, determination, and initiative. I thank you for all you have done.”
Charles told South Cobb Patch, “She always told me I was going to be successful, since I was 7 and didn’t even know what that was.” He said Dorsey was the first person to ever tell him that.
Dorsey makes an impact everywhere that she goes and she credits it all to God. She wakes up each morning at 6 a.m. to study her Bible and usually doesn’t finish until 9 a.m.
“I’m just fascinated by it,” she said.
On her walks on the Silver Comet Trail, she would read devotionals at the Floyd Road trailhead fountain and she wore t-shirts with a religious sayings.
Her favorite was a black t-shirt with large white letters that read, “God has been so good to me!”
She was used to the cyclists and runners whizzing by as she took her regular strolls, but began to notice that more and more of them would smile, point at her t-shirt and shout, “Me, too!” or “I love your shirt!”
Dorsey said she wore a hole in that shirt.
Studying with a friend and at the trail gave Dorsey an idea to begin a community bible study group.
The group began with seven members at MJ LMMNZ, a café near the trail that had Bible scriptures on the walls, and now has 25 regular members who meet each Thursday morning at Concord Road Baptist Church.
Additionally, Dorsey helped start a weekly walking group for seniors at the Silver Comet Trail.
As a regular participant at the Freeman Poole Senior Center, Dorsey was devastated that the senior center was on the chopping block when the county looked to make cuts to close its budget deficit.
Since the center was saved, Dorsey said it’s been one of her personal missions to show how important it is.
“I was determined they were not going to be seen as inactive,” she said.
Dorsey also taught some of the seniors dances like the Electric Slide and how to become more tech-savvy, by using e-mail and online news sources like Patch.
She strives to help people realize their God-given talents and put them to good use, but she won’t tell you all about it. She doesn’t like the sound of her own horn tooting, she explained.
She rattled off a list of people who could better tell about some of the initiatives she described.
“There’s a trail of witnesses everywhere I go,” said Dorsey, who embodies the word trailblazer in a way others never can.