by Len Lear

Laverne P. Hoffler-Duckworth, who sings professionally under the name Blessed Noble, was homeless as a child and was in the foster care system. “We were not in the streets, but we just didn’t have stable housing. I never lost hope, though,” said Duckworth, 42, who in addition to her music is now a masters degreed drug and alcohol counselor and licensed therapist (Peaceful Start Counseling) with an office in Blue Bell, “because I knew someday I’d be able to look back on my life and help others.” She also works with a psychiatrist in Erdenheim and Huntington Valley offices.

“We went from one person’s home to another. My mother and I even slept in a car with no windows, and it was cold out, but I have so much to be grateful for. A white pastor name Don Mears made a home for me and my family in the basement of his church in West Philadelphia. I was 7 when he baptized me. He died from cancer years ago, but I got a chance to thank him, and he acted like it was nothing, like it was just something he was supposed to do.

“I am passionate about helping people with mental health hurdles because someone helped me to not give up and realize that I don’t have to be a product of my environment. I believe in starting my day off with meditation and quoting affirmations. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ (Proverbs, chapter 23:7) Giving up is never an option for me because I believe in impossibilities, and whatever you put your mind to, you can accomplish.”

For Duckworth, music has been an instrument of self-improvement. It’s music that inspired her to return to and finish college, and it’s through songs that the gospel rapper has encouraged others and shared her story of overcoming Rocky Mountain-sized obstacles.

Duckworth’s counseling service, Peaceful Start Counseling, specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, addiction therapy, individual therapy, grief and loss therapy, self-esteem issues, parenting concerns, bullying and online therapy in certain cases. “Sue Devine, a licensed professional counselor, encouraged me to get a higher degree so I could be licensed.”
Having released three music CDs and other motivational CDs, Duckworth is often asked to speak at Pastor Kenneth Walker’s First Born Church in West Philadelphia, where she is a member. Blessed has also ministered at Temple University, Biblical University, Messiah Bible College and a Radisson Hotel in front of 5,000 people, among many others. She started writing poetry at age 7 and began rapping in 8th grade.
The singer has BA degrees in theology and social work from Cairn University in Langhorne, and graduated from Liberty University in 2004 with a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling. “I am a Christian,” she said last week, “and I cannot deny that, but I usually don’t use a religious approach because some of my clients don’t believe in God. I only incorporate faith into sessions if this is what the client wants. I believe in taking a holistic approach looking at the mind, body and spirit as a whole.”
After overcoming homelessness in her youth, Duckworth could not afford to return to finish her final year of studies at Philadelphia Biblical University in Langhorne, which changed its name to Cairn University in 2012. “I got discouraged about school, and I got discouraged about rap music,” she said at the time.

Perhaps it was destiny that caused her to leave the bible college at that time because a year later, while working as a waitress at a Ruby Tuesday’s near the Philadelphia International Airport, the John Bartram High School graduate (in Southwest Philly) met her husband-to-be. A romance developed between the manager and server, and in September, 2006, the couple married. It was her husband, Joseph Duckworth, who paid for his wife to return to school to finish her final two semesters. It was her husband who continued to encourage his wife to express herself, pick up the microphone and take up gospel rap again. “He would say, ‘You’re pretty talented,’ and tell me to get back into what I love doing. It took a few years before I was actually convinced.”

What convinced the singer that she could capture the stage again was a performance she gave at the KeyStone Center in Delaware County, where she later became a drug and alcohol counselor. When she received a standing ovation, she felt the old feeling of performing to share a message resurge within her. “When I perform, I get to be another person,” she said. “I feel alive. I’m able to express myself as an artist and bring my message across.
“I also have to mention my sister, Tammy Cambria, for getting me off the couch at age 18 and telling me that I had to enroll in college. If it wasn’t for my older sister pushing me, I probably wouldn’t have gone to school because I wasn’t motivated. And my husband keeps me grounded.”
The Duckworths have two sons, Justin Zachary, 7, and Jeremy Liam, 3. “Justin is my miracle baby,” said Laverne/Blessed, “because he was born two-and-a-half months early, and he is very inquisitive. Jeremy is my million-dollar baby because he was 10 pounds, and it was a difficult C-section. My stepson, Christian Duckworth, works just as hard as his father, and all three boys adore their father.”

Duckworth is presently offering counseling via video while people are forced to stay home because of coronavirus. For more information: mrslphd@gmail.com or peacefulstart.org. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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