Lewisville Leader > News
Lewisville resident details road to nonprofit
Jennifer Garza, special to The Leader
Attentively adding 3 ½ teaspoons of vanilla into her mixing bowl, she makes a delicious wedding cake worth $700. Danese Griffith whips her icing into the perfect lather.
Griffith's latest wedding cake order is a four-tiered, 35-pound cake and costs $650. She's not looking to create any average cake. Spending up to 25 hours on one cake displays Griffith's commitment to making the cakes not only ecstatically pleasing but also remarkably tasting.
"I take pride in my cakes tasting really good," Griffith said. "Some people can make a cake look good on the outside, but it's all about the taste on the inside."
Houston-bound for the weekend to assemble her creation, the 34-year-old is poise and confidant as she discusses the exact ingredients needed to create the perfect wedding cake.
Speaking with her eyes, Griffith tells her story with enthusiasm and never fails to break eye contact. Wearing a modest light-brown shirt with her straight, brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, Griffith quickly becomes the down-to-earth best friend you may recall meeting back in middle school.
Griffith was born to a middle-class family in Longview. Although a Lewisville native at heart, Griffith spent her first five years of life in the piney woods of East Texas with her stay-at-home mother, cable splicer father and two siblings before her father was relocated to Lewisville for work.
As the middle child, she finds herself smack-dab in the middle of her older brother, Wade, who is three years older than she, and her younger sister, Amanda, who is three years younger than she. Griffith quickly identified herself as the "good-kid" and the "good-student."
"My brother was a big sports guy," Griffith said. "And my sister was fun and had a lot of friends."
Wade is currently living in a nearby city with his own family in Little Elm, while her younger sister resides in East Texas near her mother.
Her father, Danny Tarbet, passed away in 2001 from a heart attack while he was at work. He was 54 years old.
"I was devastated," Griffith said with a distraught look on her face. "I was supposed to see him the next day for Christmas."
She hadn't seen her father four to five months before he passed away. She did not get to say her goodbyes. Despite the sudden loss of her father, Griffith pulled through the heartache she endured in those times. Although life weighed her down she didn't give up. She is a fighter. The hardships of life will not get this pious woman down.
Griffith is happily married to Clint Griffith. The two fell for one another at the Landmark Evangelism Center church where Griffith served as the Sunday school director, and he served as a church usher.
"He just felt like home," she recalls the courting stage of their relationship. "He was so funny and we had great conversations. He became my best friend."
Engaged after five months of dating, the two eloped on Jan. 1, 2009. They reside in Lewisville, in a two-bedroom apartment.
"She is an amazing person," Clint Griffith said with a deep rugged voice. "She's a talented, gifted, loving, wonderful wife. She is the most selfless person I've ever met."
The two are currently planning to start a family of their own.
Griffith graduated from Landmark Christian Academy in 1996 and planned on attending college. However, it was not going to be a piece of cake. Griffith faced the dilemma of not qualifying for financial aid because of her father's high income. Her parents, looking out for their daughter's financial future, did not want her taking out student loans, so the only option she had was to work for a few years and pay for college all by herself.
Then came another roadblock. Griffith was going to provide for herself with no help from her family or the government. This setback did not stop Griffith from obtaining her goals. She set her mind on being successful in whatever she pursued. Her perseverance opened up a number of opportunities she was yet to discover.
Griffith found work at a local florist shop called The Village Florist to save up for her schooling. For three years she learned the tricks of the trade and became an expert at setting up flower arrangements for special occasions, such as weddings.
She didn't know that her minor florist position at a small shop in Lewisville would open up tasty opportunities for her future.
"It all started when my friend Bethany was getting married," Griffith said. "She asked me to do her flowers for her wedding."
Griffith's niche for flower arrangements later blossomed into experimenting with creating wedding cakes.
On average she creates three to four cakes a month. She drives the majority of her business from her website that includes other services she offers such as creating cupcakes, cookies, candy and
event invitations. She also has a Facebook page where fans can see her different services creations.
"If I had to create cakes every single day, I don't think I would enjoy it very much," Griffith said.
She loves the freedom of being able to decline a request if she is simply not up to the task.
In 2000, shortly after leaving the florist shop, Griffith found work as a teacher at her alma mater. She received her teaching certificate from the school and taught third through eighth grades for all subjects. Spending 10 years teaching, she found herself passionate about investing in young children's lives.
"I had a lot of time to build strong relationships with these kids," Griffith said. "A lot of my old students are still a part of my life today."
Tiffany Finch, 22, an active Operation Peace of Mind volunteer recalls her childhood years in Griffith's class from third through seventh grade.
"She is a determined, responsible, great people person," Finch said. "She has such a knack for planning and presenting."
The two are still very close to one another and enjoy being actively involved in the nonprofit organization.
During this time, Griffith developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which she holds high in her list of priorities.
She became an active member of her church and began speaking to God through prayer on a daily basis.
Although she adored teaching she wanted to take her life in another direction. She prayed that God would open up other opportunities. Her main requests in a new job were that she could work with children and be in a Christian environment.
Her future was uncertain, yet her trust and faith was in God. After informing her students' parents about her departure, she was informed by a student's parent of a nonprofit he was planning to begin.
Having no nonprofit background, Griffith felt under-qualified for such a position. The founder of the nonprofit informed her that he was interested in employees who were passionate.
Going in to her final year of teaching at Landmark Christian Academy, Griffith began working part-time at Operation Peace of Mind as the program director. She held this position until 2010. She was promoted to interim executive director. Within a year she received her current title, executive director.
"Everyday I get to do what I love," Griffith said. "I get to teach the youth how to be leaders, how to avoid crime, how to protect themselves from bullying, and I get to teach girls self-esteem and confidence: girl power."
As she wraps up her telling her story, she begins the process of creating one of her wedding cakes. All her cake ingredients are strategically placed on the counter table. She has just taken the first step to creating her wedding cake: mixing the icing.
"It's funny how plans change," she said. "God has a bigger plan and we just have to let Him be the baker."
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