Diane Holt finds purpose and founds a nonprofit along the way
By Sue Siens
Lebanon businesswoman Diane Holt never dreamed that someday she would operate a business with a humanitarian mission in mind, providing income for poor families in a remote area of India. A successful construction contractor for many years, Diane’s primary focus was taking care of her family, surviving divorce, and keeping her business afloat during the downturn of the economy.
Then in 2009, she made a personal decision that radically transformed her heart and life.
Diane grew up one of six children in the Huddleston family, who learned about hard work and responsibility on their Wilson County farm on Hwy 231 North. After graduating from Lebanon High School and working at a local factory, Diane followed in her father, Roy Lee Huddleston’s footsteps, with a career in the construction industry. She went on to own multiple construction related companies, earning multi-million dollar contracts.
Then her life hit some hard bumps—including divorce and the loss of many dear friends—and serious financial setbacks with the slowdown in construction work. It was these personal struggles that encouraged her to refocus her priorities.
“I grew up in a Christian home with Godly parents who raised us going to church, and I gave my heart to Christ at an early age,” said Diane, “but even though I went to church, I let other things in life pull me away. I always felt that tug at my heart, to give Christ my all. On December 17, 2009, I knelt down on a cold, concrete driveway and surrendered my heart fully. That was the beginning of my life. I call it my new birthday. I had never felt so much peace, and I became a new person. I couldn’t wait to call family and friends who I knew had been praying for me.”
Following that December day, Diane immersed herself in Bible study and daily prayer, and joined the Joy Church International in Mt. Juliet, where the message from her pastor is the love of Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him. Soon she began to wonder about what kind of ministry she’d be called to get involved in.
Then she talked with her brother, Andy Huddleston, who has been a missionary for over 30 years (now with Mission Enablers International).
He told her about the tremendous needs of the people in the Kashmir Valley in Northern India, an area devastated by terrible flooding with little help from the government or outside world. He does missions work there, along with another missionary friend who lives there named Greg Watts. (www.wattshappening.org) Their mission is to provide clean water, solar light, food, and education, and to share the gospel with impoverished people in remote villages. Her brother told her “when you help others, your own troubles don’t seem so bad.”
He asked her directly: what can you do to help?
Diane’s first response was, “Can I bake a pie and send it to them?”
Her brother explained that these hard-working and talented people make beautiful crafts, pillows, scarves, jewelry, ornaments, but they need someone to buy them. They need income. And the missions work also needs income. That conversation was the beginning of Commerce for a Cause.
In order to provide wages to the artisans in India, Diane decided to start a business to sell their arts and crafts, and then recycle those funds back to purchase more of their products and also help the missionaries. With limited income herself, she sold her jewelry to start a website and buy their products. Commerce for a Cause (CFAC) was started in early 2013.
“I make a living with my painting company, TN Coatings, and make a loving with CFAC,” Diane said. To help sell these lovely handmade products, she started exhibiting at local craft fairs, including the Wilson Living Holiday Expo. She noted that she is working to improve the website and internet sales, and would welcome volunteer help with that. Commerce for a Cause is also a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, dedicated to ensuring the artists receive a fair wage for their goods, providing them with dignity and hope.
To learn more about Diane and purchase the handmade products from Commerce for a Cause, visit her website atwww.commerceforacause.com and contact her firstname.lastname@example.org. To make donations, and for more information about the missions work, visit Andy Huddleston’s website athttp://www.missionenablersintl.org.
Caption for lead photo: Fatima, Indian artisan who has been making export-quality handmade products for eight years to help support her family.