Tricia Boyd had to hit rock bottom before she realized that political activism was one of her callings in life.
For years the McDowell County native toured with a folk music band from Asheville, using her vocal talent in bars and restaurants to make a living. But similar to many others in this rural area of North Carolina, she spent much of her spare cash on drugs, feeding an addiction that consumed her life.
It wasn’t until 2001, when Tricia entered rehab, that she began piecing her life back together — and realized the opportunities and blessings of freedom in the United States.
Seated at a kitchen table in her family’s ranch-style home in Nebo, a small town nestled in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains, Tricia is eager to share the story of her transformation.
Her background is a colorful one. She dropped out of high school after finishing the 10th grade to help care for her dying father. Over the years, she worked in two family businesses — rock crushing and fruit selling — and picked up jobs on the side at restaurants, nursing homes, and even the circus.
Her main career, entertainment, led her down a path that she called “foolish and irresponsible,” but one that laid the groundwork for her future life mission.
After checking herself into Hope Valley rehab center near Pilot Mountain for her drug addiction, she began to realize the value of being an American.
“I got in touch with who I was as a person,” she said.
That led her to join FreedomWorks, a limited-government advocacy organization that stresses grass-roots action. It was the start of a volunteer career that would lead her, several years later, to become one of FreedomWorks’ 2009 activists of the year.
In 2007, she was a member of the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders, a North Carolina-based program in part funded by the John William Pope Foundation and administered by the John Locke Foundation. The Fellowship “encourages committed, diverse, and principled North Carolinians to pursue greater leadership roles within their professions and communities.”
A new life
Effecting political change isn’t the only aim of Tricia’s life, though. She says her past experience as a drug addict has given her a unique perspective for helping others, a desire born from her faith in God.
“It’s a calling that I feel goes back to my love for Christ,” she said. “As a Christian, I feel that it’s my duty to have a heart for others. I don’t look at people and judge them by how they dress or their circumstances, because you have to really be in someone else’s shoes to understand.”
As part of that calling, Tricia recently helped to start a church in Marion, New Hope Community Church, where she leads a women’s group with a recovery focus.
“We’re encouraging each other as women,” Tricia said.
Her experience with the E.A. Morris Fellowship laid the groundwork for her mission with the church. “It helped me to understand that I could take my place and accept my role and totally become an achiever,” she said.
One of her dreams for the future is to open a soup kitchen in Nebo and reach out to residents.
The government has a role to play in helping the poor and disabled, she said, but the private sector should be the driving force.
“We need programs, but we also don’t need to feel like we’re owned by the government,” she said.
Her immediate goals include organizing more tea party rallies against bailouts and deficit spending, and getting young people involved by teaching them about the issues.
She continues to work, now more than ever. Although optimistic about the future, she still sees storm clouds on the political horizon.
“I’m a little scared for my country right now. I’m a little worried,” she said. “We’re like sheep who are going to follow the first shepherd that comes along.”
To learn more about the Pope Foundation’s support for programs like the E.A. Morris Fellowship, click here.
Adapted from an article that first appeared in the John Locke Foundation’s monthly publication Carolina Journal.
Click the button to read more Achiever Spotlights