Denese Watkins

You probably had to pick Denese Watkins up off the floor when she learned she’s been chosen as a 2014 Woman of 

Impact. That’s despite a longtime friend who’d mysteriously started seeking details that turned out to be for the nomination application.

The recently retired executive director of the El Paso Alzheimer’s Association managed a chapter that at one time covered over half of Texas, with up to nine different offices; the El Paso chapter was the headquarters.

There’s a personal reason Watkins got involved back in 1995. “I was looking for help for my mother, who was exhibiting the symptoms of Alzheimer’s,” she says. “I started by volunteering, then was asked to serve on the board.”

Soon after, she was elected board chair. The local organization provided good services but didn’t have the money to continue, so she and founder Virginia Fisk went to area businesses and foundations and raised money.

Growth followed, more staff was hired and the board asked Watkins to take the paid director’s position. The chapter grew to cover 60 percent of the state, and had a budget of just under $2 million.

So it’s easy to understand why Watkins considers the association’s growth as having the most significant impact on El Paso. She’s also proud of being able to help sustain the Alzheimer’s Association of El Paso as it deals with thousands of individuals with the disease and helping families deal with its challenges.

And added bonus: bringing recognition to the area through her state and national leadership roles.

Watkins’ résumé includes working as a field representative in the district office of former New Mexico congressman Joe Skeen, she holds real estate licenses in Texas and New Mexico, and she’s been active in Executive Form, Junior League of El Paso and Leadership El Paso. In 2006, she was inducted into the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame.

Watkins advises future women leaders to believe in themselves and not let others define you. She’s been there – she had just one year of college but educated herself and used her skills and abilities to move into leadership positions in everything she’s done.

That even includes her months-long battle with West Nile virus. In order to help others protect themselves against the dangerous disease, Watkins recently revealed details of her own illness and recovery – a very personal example of her desire to help others.

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