NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – How do you reach the next generation of leaders? One Norfolk woman believes it’s through creativity and giving back. She’s done that for decades through her nonprofit, Teens with a Purpose.

At the edge of Norfolk’s Calvert Square sits a special, safe place just for teens.

“It’s a home away from home,” said Teens with a Purpose staff member Jacoby Boone.

What started as a place to go after school has turned into a place to give back for 19-year-old Boone.

“It made me find a purpose,” he said. “Like I really want to be something.”

There’s one woman at the center of it all.

“That’s Momma D,” said Boone. “Ms. Deirdre Love, but we call her Momma D. She’s a mom away from home.”

Deirdre Love, also known as Momma D, founded Teens with a Purpose in the late 1990s.

“We listen,” Love said. “We help young people to do the things that they dream of doing or that they know need to happen. They feel empowered to make a difference.”

For decades, Love has poured her heart into the nonprofit, lifting up every teen she encounters.

“We are a community together and we work together to change things and we don’t judge each other. We support each other,” said Love.

This is why Love is one of our Remarkable Women finalists for 2023. She said, “I don’t know how to be anybody other than who I am, so this is what I do with my life, it’s natural for me.”

It’s a recognition she’s not quite sure how to process.

“There are so many people doing amazing things so I just…it’s really humbling,” Love said.

Michelle Sims, who nominated her, sees Love’s passion and dedication day in and day out.

“She always finds ways to really, really empower young people and to elevate them,” said Sims. “It’s never for self. It’s always for the young people or it’s always for the community.”

At its core, Teens with a Purpose uses the arts — poetry, music, paintings and more — to create future leaders and give teens a way to express themselves. However, the impact of Teens with a Purpose reaches far beyond the building. Mentors go into schools, lead community events, beautify the area, and so much more.

“We impact thousands of people,” Love said. “There are so many young people whose lives we’ve impacted by showing love, by showing up, by listening, and by following through, we just don’t let you go.”

Leading this organization takes endless dedication from Love.

Her motivation?

“That I didn’t have a place like this,” Love said. “That I wasn’t an empowered person.”

That motivation keeps her going and determined. However, there is one secret ingredient, one that’s quite literally part of her identity.

“We do what we’re called to do and what is necessary,” said Love. “We do it really well. We love.”

Inside the walls of Teens with a Purpose, with the teens she helps, that love is clear.

“Momma D, I love you so much,” said Boone. “From the bottom of my heart, you just mean so much to me, even since I was a little boy.”

Said Love: “I’m honored that they call me “Momma D,” because this is my family and this is what I do with my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”