Despite a rough year, Paula Deen is doing great, according to her son.
"Mom's super tough," says Jamie Deen.
A scandal erupted in June when Lisa Jackson, a former employee of Uncle Bubba's, which is co-owned by Paula Deen, filed a lawsuit alleging racial and sexual discrimination. When Paula Deen admitted in a deposition that she had used a racial slur 30 years earlier, the Food Network announced it would not renew her contract and several companies dropped their endorsement deals with her.
On Aug. 12, Jackson's claims were dismissed. The lawsuit levied against Paula Deen and her brother was dismissed, as well.
"Mom's going to be fine," Deen says. "She's worked hard enough she can kind of pick and choose, and she's going to do exactly what wants to do.
"She's healthy and in a good state of mind. After the ruling, there wasn't a celebration, but a realization this is past now, and we're able to go forward.
"People can see it for what it is," he says. "When Judge Moore came out and dismissed the charges, everyone knew the truth."
It was hard to watch the situation unfold, he says.
"We really have experienced just about everything a family can," Deen says. "It all blew up over the course of three or four days.
"We feel what was most unfair was the light the case reflected on our current employees, some with 15 and 17 years of employment with us," he says. "To think they'd put up with unfair practices is unfair to them."
Deen says his faith never wavered.
"We've always been steadfast in our support of Mom," he says. "Bobby and I did one interview and Mom did her piece."
The family has survived hard times before, Deen says.
"Mother lost her parents at a young age," he says. "My father also faced challenges.
"There were two bankruptcies. But we never lost our faith in each other and in our employees and our customers."
Today, the entire family is thriving, Deen says.
"We take positives from every challenge, and we've certainly faced our share," he says.
"We are thankful for the love and support Mom felt this summer," Deen says. "This was a huge deal to the media and not so much to the man on the street."
Once the scandal started, it was impossible to stop.
"A friend who has had experience with the media said it was a story that was impossible for people not to sell," Deen says. "We were kind of in the background.
"It put us in an underdog role," he says. "Now we're back where we started and where we're most comfortable."
Deen recently participated in the 22nd annual San Antonio Express-News Book & Author Luncheon in Texas. Hundreds of fans turned out to express their support, he said.
"Our current sponsors have been grateful," Deen says. "They're benefiting from the support for our mom.
"In the holiday season, we focus on helping feed the hungry and contributing to the food bank," he says. "We'll get back to business at the first of the year.
"Bethesda, Safe Shelter, the Food Bank, the Salvation Army - people know we're dedicated to those less fortunate. Our friends know who we are. Our self-worth is not dictated by others. How we live our lives speaks for itself."
Another group that benefits from the family's efforts is the American Red Cross. Paula Deen Enterprises will sponsor its sixth blood drive in Savannah on Nov. 22 at three locations: The Lady & Sons, Uncle Bubba's and the Inn at Ellis Square.
"As a longtime blood donor, I encourage others to support the Red Cross by rolling up a sleeve," Deen says. "What takes a little over an hour of your time could give someone else a lifetime of memories with their loved one."
Presenting donors will be rewarded for their gift of life. Donors can enjoy the Lady & Sons signature Gooey Butter Cake in the canteen.
Each donor will receive a limited-edition apron that is autographed by Paula Deen and a $40 gift card to The Lady & Sons, Uncle Bubba's or Paula Deen's Retail Store that must be redeemed by Nov. 24.
"It's one of those things where people usually make a reservation to have a meal the next day," Deen says.
The need for blood is always great. About 1,200 blood donations are needed daily in the Southern Blood Services Region to maintain an adequate supply for 100 local hospitals.
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days by most healthy people age 17 and older who weigh at least 110 pounds; 16-year-old teens also can donate with parental permission.
Deen first became interested in donating blood after learning about someone who had donated 100 pints.
"When I was in high school and they had a blood drive for those who were old enough, I said, 'Cool, I'm going to do it, too,'" he says. "I've been doing it since the 1980s.
"It's an easy thing to do to save lives," Deen says. "You don't ever know when the need for blood is going to hit."
Tying the blood drives in with the family business is beneficial to everyone.
"It's easy to tie it in for our business," Deen says. "There are so many people who want to come to the restaurant, it can have a huge impact."
In the past, the entire family has made appearances at the blood drives. Deen says this one should be no different.
"Every year, we've made an effort to get there," he says. "Mom usually pops in. I'm always one of the first ones at the table."
As many as 250 donors participate each time the Deens host a blood drive.
"The Red Cross usually maxes out their capacity for beds and time from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Deen says. "We're going to continue to do this as long as there is a Red Cross. We'll never be able to give back to Savannah as much as it's given to us."