Deidre (Wallace) Lhamon Named SIC Distinguished Alumnus
Deidre (Wallace) Lhamon has been selected by members of the Southeastern Illinois College Mu Psi Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society to join Southeastern’s Distinguished Alumni roster. Lhamon is the Founder and Executive Director of The Covering House, a non-profit organization that provides residential care, counseling, and education to minor girls who are survivors of sex-trafficking and exploitation. She has dedicated herself to bringing awareness about the issue of child sex-trafficking in the United States.
A Harrisburg native, Lhamon earned her associate degree from Southeastern in 1983. While at SIC, Lhamon helped write the script for the Madrigal Feaste in 1982, and was on the SIC Speech Team.
“SIC provided me with a life changing opportunity through the Forensics Program,” said Lhamon. “My participation on the Speech Team at SIC had the single greatest impact on my educational experience. It was through the speech team and the coaching of Gary Allen and George Dennis where I learned how to research, critically think, write for the ear and present with humble confidence.”
Upon graduating from SIC, Lhamon matriculated to Bradley University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. While at Bradley she was on the Forensic Team and was national champion in both Persuasive Speaking and Communication Analysis. Lhamon also represented the State of Illinois at the Interstate Oratory Contest in 1984 and 1985. From there, she earned her master’s degree in communications from Illinois State University. Early in her career she taught speech communications at the collegiate level.
“The invaluable lessons that I learned through my time at SIC will continue to impact my life,” said Lhamon. “SIC was a perfect choice for me. Graduating high school, I had no idea what I wanted to study and having a college that provided such a quality education that allowed me to explore my choices and skills was life changing. The atmosphere of SIC is unique in that the instructors set the high expectations while patiently guiding through the process of learning.”
Prior to working with The Covering House, Lhamon worked as a communications consultant where she provided coaching, training, focus group research and presentation development for executives and team members of several prominent St. Louis corporations.
“The Covering House came about after watching a program on TV about sex trafficking in the United States,” said Lhamon. “I honestly couldn’t believe it. I spent a year researching this problem by talking to people across the country and in the St. Louis area while also attending meetings and conferences to learn as much as I could. When I learned that the problem is significant and that the resources were few, I knew I had to do something.”
In 2009 The Covering House was incorporated and was set out to raise awareness and funds to help young girls who were victims of sex trafficking. In 2013 The Covering House started seeing clients through their out-client program and in 2014 The Covering House opened a home to help girls.
“The abuse these children suffer as a result of sexual trafficking is an uncomfortable topic for many people, and one that Deidre has worked tirelessly to keep at the forefront,” said Jerri Harbison, SIC Math instructor. “Deidre has distinguished herself not just by joining an organization that shared her passion and humanity, but by starting a movement where none existed in her area. She is an inspiration, and shows that one person from a small town can indeed make a difference.”
The Covering House provides both traditional and specialized therapy such as horticulture, equine and music. They also provide in-house education and life skill classes. The average age of girls visiting The Clearing House is 13 with the youngest being 11. These girls are from small towns, the city and the suburbs. They are all races and have diverse economic backgrounds.
“This passion was instilled in me by my heart for the hurting and the fact that I have two daughters,” said Lhamon. “I just couldn’t sit idly by and do nothing.”
Lhamon’s work with The Covering House has received local, regional and national recognition from media sources such as NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as several St. Louis and national radio programs. Additionally, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Wives have partnered with her to raise support for the children served through The Covering House. In 2013, Lhamon was honored to have been nominated by the St. Louis Rams for a Georgia Frontiere Community Quarterback Award.
“Deidre Lhamon is a most deserving recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award at Southeastern Illinois College,” said Dr. Jonah Rice, SIC President. “She has proven herself to be more than a successful professional but a successful humanitarian for her work with protecting children. SIC is so very proud of Deidre and her accomplishments.”
Married for 26 years, Lhamon enjoys spending time with her husband, Greg, and their two daughters Taylor and Rachel.