By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
EASTAMPTON — Whether it is advocating for the vulnerable in the insurance and benefits sector, preserving African-American history or working in the community, Delores Corbett said she relates her personal and professional views to her mother and growing up East Texas.
Before Corbett became a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women South New Jersey Chapter and cofounder of the Corbett Sherrod Historical Preservation and Education Foundation with her husband, she embraced the struggles of her family and mother early in life in Tyler, Texas.
A Mother’s Guidance
Her mother never attended high school, but Corbett described that time of being “rich and deeply-rooted in love and faith.”
“Still, times were tough for the Cooper clan, but we survived and in many ways, thrived,” Corbett told Front Runner New Jersey. “Childhood struggles taught me the importance of a strong work ethic, resilience and determination. Watching my mother struggle and fight to care for us without support from the community or government, instilled compassion and taught me the value of advocacy for those in need.”
Now Corbett is a successful South Jersey businesswoman as chief executive officer of Secure Benefits Group (800-551-1595), a consulting firm that offers small to mid-size emplyers, individuals and senior health, life and ancillary benefits. It was her mother’s death, though, that urged her to break into that field.
A ‘Personal and Professional’ Crossroads
“I reached a personal and professional crossroads when my mother passed unexpectedly,” Corbett said. “In addition to being sidelined emotionally, my mother’s passing placed a financial toll on my family, partly because she didn’t have sufficient insurance. Like many of the poor, needy and elderly, particularly in the black community, my mother was sold an overpriced, virtually worthless burial plan.
“I was outraged by the predatory insurance practices that harmed my family, I began educating myself about life insurance and its ability to create financial freedom and choice. I became a passionate advocate for educating others on the importance of getting proper life coverage. I decided to combine my 20 years of knowledge and experience with employer benefits, senior Medicare plans and life insurance into a new career as an independent licensed agent, and launched Secure Benefits Group, LLC,” she added.
Black History and the Family
Corbett’s passion can also be seen in her historical work with her husband and NCBW-SNJ. The Corbetts shared their love affair with history by creating the Corbett Sherrod Historical Preservation and Education Foundation an organization dedicated to the preservation, research and promotion of African American history.
Alvin Corbett, who served on the board at the Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County, is a researcher and historian in the areas of African-American and 20th-century African history. He has traced his family history to Jack Sherrod, a slave who served in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War.
“[My husband] and I have been married for nearly 25 years and are the proud parents of Alvin, Jr., age 17 and Rebekah, age 16,” Corbett said. “My husband and I are committed to and passionate about service to others, as well as the preservation of African-American history. We engage in talks, exhibits and educational events to advance awareness and appreciation for African-American history.”
Making a Difference with NCBW-SNJ
Corbett has been a member of NCBW-SNJ for five years and currently serves on the group’s board of directors as historian and the chair of economic empowerment.
“As chair, I work with the economic empowerment committee to offer impactful, sustainable community programs that provide education, resources, and access in the areas of homeownership; livable wages; pay equity; entrepreneurship; financial literacy and wealth building,” she said.
“I am grateful to serve in a leadership role to address critical economic concerns. It must have been God’s will for me to become chair because I reluctantly accepted the role. However, God has blessed our efforts and given me the vision and collaborations to produce some of NCBW-SNJ’s high impact community programs, including our ‘From the Kitchen to the Boardroom’ entrepreneurial workshops; a housing expo and our ‘Paying for College’ seminars,” Corbett continued.
Corbett said she connected with NCBW-SNJ’s mission of advocacy for black women and girls. She said she understands ts importance and broader connection to uplifting the black community.
“I witnessed my mother’s struggle to feed, clothe and provide shelter for her family,” Corbett said. “I have witnessed discrimination that limits the incomes and devalues the contributions of black workers. And I have worked alongside my late mother-in-law, a pioneering civil rights leader who fought for and developed affordable housing for the poor. All of my experiences informed my decision to serve with fellow NCBW sisters.”
Through all of her professional and community accomplishments, Corbett said she still to this day connects with her mother.
“My mother was the most inspirational person in my life,” she said. “I always tell people, ‘Mom only had an eighth grade education, but she had a PHD in life.’ She was a remarkably wise women with tremendous fortitude and faith in God. One of the most important lessons she taught me was not to settle for poor circumstances. She was known for saying, ‘I can do better than this.'”
READ: NCBW Southern New Jersey Names 9 Candace Award Winners for 2020
Corbett touched on numerous other subjects during her correspondence with Front Runner New Jersey.com.
Having An Impact
FRNJ: What do you hope you can bring to NCBW-SNJ and to the community in general?
Delores Corbett: I hope to continue to offer the community transformative programs that teach and lead to economic independence and intergenerational wealth. I also hope to build upon my family’s legacy of helping underserved communities achieve the goal of home and land ownership. As co-founder of CSF, I hope to advance conversations, knowledge and appreciation for the immeasurable sacrifices and contributions of blacks throughout the history of America. I will also continue to advance my family’s legacy of advocating for and building safe, affordable homes and economically viable neighborhoods through our longtime nonprofit organization located in Wilson, N.C.: The Wilson Community Improvement Association (WCIA).
FRNJ: There is so much being made of African-Americans at the highest levels of political office. How do you hope your work with the NCBW-SNJ will help counter that?
Delores Corbett: I recently heard a statement that really struck me, “Black votes matter, but black lives don’t.” This rings true on many levels because blacks still suffer the highest levels of poverty in the nation, as well as the highest rates of mass incarceration, inclusive of a juvenilejusticesystem that cages our children at disproportionate rates. Additionally, blacks have persistently experienced the highest rates of unemployment; an ever widening racial wealth gap, and pay inequities. All of which limit the ability to accrue and pass down intergenerational wealth.
Given these and other historically pressing issues, the stakes are way too high for us to support policies, waste political clout, leverage and precious votes on candidates or political parties that fail to serve the social and economic interest of our people. We must be mindful of what is at stake as the airways, our places of worship and community organizations swarm with politicians and emotion based propaganda attempting to sway votes and show solidarity to the black community. Therefore, regardless of our political persuasion, preference or party, we must hold politicians accountable for the privilege of earning our vote.
FRNJ: How seriously do you take your role as a role model for other African-American youth and young people? Any advice for them?
Delores Corbett: I am simply a person who is trying to do good by serving others. I truly believe that each of us is called to serve one another, without calculation or strings attached. My commitment to service does not come with an agenda or ulterior motives. When I serve, I allow my heart to lead and do so freely.
One piece of advice I would give young people is to value, respect and learn from others regardless of their age, race or social status. In the African American community, one of our most valuable resources is our elder population and the vast wisdom and history they possess. Young people should begin to sit at the feet of the elderly to seek their knowledge and inquire of their life experiences. I guarantee they will learn something that will enrich their lives as they mature.
Also, today’s music and the sheer pressures of life places a high value on materialism and developing a selfish, it’s all about me, mine and exploit others attitude. I would advise youth to understand the importance and value of community and service, and to never look down on or diminish others.
My mother was the most inspirational person in my life. I always tell people, “Mom only had an eighth grade education, but she had a PHD in life.” She was a remarkably wise women with tremendous fortitude and faith in God. One of the most important lessons she taught me was not to settle for poor circumstances. She was known for saying, “I can do better than this.”
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