Seventeen years ago, Dee Mower co-founded a company at her kitchen table based on the idea of product purity, a company she hoped could some day go head to head with the giants of cosmetics. It was a classic pipe dream--except for one thing: it came true.

Today, having moved that mighty mission into 23 countries and weathered the trials and tribulations of starting a new company, Dee is on top of the world--and her mission has expanded exponentially to: "teach, love, heal, feed, clothe and shelter the world!"

Dee is no stranger to pipe dreams. She recalls her mother once telling her, "DeeDee, you know, you can't mother the whole world!" If that's true, Dee doesn't seem to have absorbed the message; likely she never will.

"I've got this 'world' thing," explains Dee. "I don't know why. Everything has to have the whole world in it. A piece of the pie isn't enough for me; I want the whole pie. I want to take care of as many people in the world as I possibly can."

An Unquenchable Thirst
Before she began taking on the task of mothering all children in need, Dee had seven children of her own. Five of them--Derek, Tom Jr., Barry, Bob and J.J.--participate with her now in taking their company's products to the world and giving hope and sustenance to those less fortunate than them.

"It's hard to imagine what goes on in the world until you've stepped foot in other cultures. In the 23 countries we serve, we've seen a lot of poverty and tremendous sadness. We decided early on that if we became significantly wealthy, we would give back not only to our own communities but also to the world--especially to the children."

For the past seven years, that's exactly what Dee's company has done. Each year, without fanfare, they help needy people and projects with the gift of education, medicine, beds, wheelchairs, and more.

"People hear about us or they see our building and think, 'It doesn't hurt to ask; they can only say no.' So we help wherever we can."

Once when Dee's attorney asked her whether the company was making any substantial community or broader philanthropic contributions, she showed him the company's financial records. Impressed, he said, "I don't know many companies that give as much as three million dollars a year, Dee!" "That made me so happy," Dee recalls, "because I never felt like we were giving enough; I always wanted to do more."

Dee speaks highly of two gentlemen who have worked with her for many years and who head up their company's donations program.

"Ben Jolly and Rick Evans, our PR directors, are acutely attuned to people's needs. They spend my money pretty fast and it makes me really happy!"

Tasked with the awesome duty of being on the lookout for needy charitable organizations, Ben and Rick have a donations budget.

"In special situations, they will come to the board. Michael Cunningham, our CEO, is very generous and will add to the budget for an exceptional need. He never says, 'Too bad--this is our budget and we've already gone over it.' "

Still no matter how much they give, it's never enough for Dee, whose passion for giving has become an endlessly unquenchable thirst.

A System That Works
About two years ago, Dee's son Bob presented the company's board with a humanitarian system he had discovered along with another employee, Shane McClellan.

"They found a partner, someone they said was both honest and huge. We did our due diligence and found that their buying power for humanitarian causes was colossal. We were thrilled, because we weren't in the business of buying goods for the needy and didn't know how: we just wanted to put up the money to make it happen."

The partner was Globous ReliefFund, rated by charitynavigator.org as a four-star non-profit humanitarian concern. Dee's company began their association with Globous with a substantial cash donation that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical supplies, clothing and other aid to needy orphans in Romania.

"We were a bit worried about the distribution of the products. We had heard horror stories about humanitarian organizations that manage to put no more than 10 percent of their donations into the hands of the people who need it, with the rest siphoned off into salaries and administration costs. We didn't want that to happen, so my sons Derek and Bob loaded our trucks themselves. Every dime went to purchase and ship eyeglasses, wheelchairs, crutches. We padlocked the containers."

To further ensure the security of their donations, they sent McClellan over to Romania to meet the padlocked containers when they arrived. He brought his wife Rachelle with him; they both say their lives will never be the same.

A Life-Changing Experience
Shane offers some perspective on the situation in Romania.

"Anyone following world politics during the late 1980s remembers the dictator Ceaucescu and the stories of evil that accompany his name," says Shane. "During his reign, the Romanian people were told that they were a superior culture because handicapped people were practically non-existent among them. The nightmarish reality was that approximately 100,000 orphans and newly-born handicapped infants had disappeared into secret government institutions.

"Ceaucescu claimed these institutions did not exist, but after his execution on Christmas Eve, 1989, most of these children were found, many of them tightly tied to their cribs or beds. There were seven-year-old children who couldn't walk, having never been out of their cribs. Others were dying or dead: detergent had been poured down their throats to ease the crowding of the institutions." There were many atrocities; some of the stories, say Shane and Rachelle, are not for the faint of heart.

After Ceaucescu's death, the Romanian people, bolstered by an outpouring of foreign financial support, adopted as many of these children as possible. Shane and Rachelle showered much-needed gifts on these children and the institutions that now serve them. Among them were special schools funded by the government for just one week a year, where teachers often work for no pay to keep the schools running.

They witnessed handicapped children roll into a medical center in wheelchairs and days later, walk out on new feet or legs--and rejoiced in the knowledge that the medical equipment their company was donating would be put to good use there.

"Joaco du Plessis, the center's prosthetist and orthotist, held a pair of donated surgical scissors in his hands and declared, 'This is gold to me,' " says Shane. "In some Romanian towns, the average monthly pay is only about $75 US dollars."

The McClellans' most haunting experience was meeting a young pregnant girl who was living in the sewer with her two small children in order to keep warm.

"It was this girl who drove Rachelle's determination to set up humanitarian speaking arrangements," says Shane.

When some of Dee's top distributors heard about the new project, they wanted in. The project was christened "Empower" and its mission articulated: "to empower individuals and communities in need with the resources to significantly improve their lives."

A system of donations was set up in the US and Canada that allowed customers to participate simply by purchasing a small amount of product along with an educational item (called an "Empower Pack"). The company donates two dollars each time one of those packs is purchased. Additionally, with every phone purchase, customers can donate one dollar or more to the Empower Program.

Difficult Beginnings
What has driven Dee to lead such a huge charge with so much passion, dedication and commitment? She's not entirely sure herself, but speculates it may stem in part from the life lessons she learned as a child.

In first grade, Dee lived with her parents in Mexico. Because of her light skin color, the other children taunted her, called her bad names and threw rocks at her--"every single day," she remembers. Yet, says Dee, when she would return home, she realized she felt more sorry for these children than resentful.

"I was going home to a lovely house and food, clothes and maids; they went home to shacks."

Several years later, Dee got to have her own experience of "not enough." After her parents divorced, her mother took her and her two older sisters to live in Phoenix where she worked for the government. No matter how hard her mom worked, there was never enough to go around.

"Often we simply didn't eat. I remember being so hungry my sisters and I sat together and vowed we would never be hungry again when we got big.

"Whenever my mother would go out on a date we would wait up for her, because she would never eat her whole meal; she would bring some home to share with us. We were so excited when mom had a date!"

With what little money there was to go around, Dee's mom barely kept the three girls in enough clothes for each day of school--a fact Dee remembers well, now that she finds herself in a position to offer clothing, food, medical and dental supplies and other aid to children all over the world!

Passionate Enterprise
While Dee's efforts and those of the others in her company are clearly driven by an unending passion, she is also quick to acknowledge the other part of the term, "passionate enterprise." Enterprise, says Dee, means work: and make no mistake about it, the best intentions in the world go nowhere without persistent application.

From her father, a Greek immigrant, Dee says she learned about hard work.

"He was successful even though he had only a seventh grade education, because he was the hardest worker I ever knew. He was the most wonderful man," says Dee proudly.

And that work ethic proved to be an indispensable part of Dee's journey, as the early days of the company Dee co-founded were often far from smooth sailing.

"We didn't know how far it would go; there were many times we thought we were going to go under. We'd just work harder, and I'm so grateful that we did, because today we get to reap the extraordinary opportunity it provides us to help so many more people--and especially those people who are in serious need."

Dee says, "When you have been blessed with much in life, much is expected. I believe that the more you give, the more you will receive, which enables you to give even more."

With seven children, 18 grandchildren and hundreds of thousands of people now using her safe personal care products, Dee indeed feels blessed. And she's ready to give back. Not just one slice of the pie--not only in her own backyard--but the whole shebang. There's a world of children to serve and Dee has a heart big enough to mother them all.