At the college, she travels in several counties recruiting students as community resource director. She visits high school career fairs, General Educational Development (GED) centers and factories to tell them about programs at the college.
"I promote education, whether it be our college or if we don't have a program, I refer them to another college. The key thing is to get them into education."
One of her symbolic gestures is to offer gold, chocolate coins to potential students.
"I tell them if they chew it up and throw it away, it's gone. But if they hold onto it, it's an opportunity of education. It's like a pot of gold."
With the current unemployment rate, Combs has no problem attracting new students, especially older ones. The college enrolled 82 new students at fall orientation.
"About a third of them are laid-off workers," she says, noting that the college draws students from 18 counties.
Combs knows first-hand the value of education. She is a graduate of the college where she has worked for 10 years. She created the position she now has and now that position exists at all of the college's 16 campuses in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
"Through my efforts, we've probably gotten 1,000 laid off workers into education," she says.
Although most people would shy away from working 70-hour weeks, Combs like the 9-11 job because it allows her to use her medical assistant degree.
"I love helping people whether it's education or saving a life with 9-11," she says.
She credits her grandmother in Indiana, Nancy Dudley, and her aunt, Kate Thompson of Burnside with teaching her to cook.
"Nobody could beat my grandmother's fried chicken or my Aunt Kate's blackberry cobbler or chicken and dumplings."
Combs admits that she leans toward desserts, although Broccoli Casserole is a favorite of her 21-year-old son, Matthew. She also has a daughter, Jessica, 23.
During Combs' travels, she often picks up old cookbooks. The Buttermilk Pie recipe is taken from an old cookbook and one that her grandmother made. Her grandmother used buttermilk in a lot of recipes and for Combs, Southern Belle is the preferred brand.
Although her desire to win is strong, Combs says she also learned there are many good reasons for cooking.
"My grandmother always said that good deeds come from good cooking."
Two deep-dish Ms. Smith's pie crusts
3 3/4 cups of sugar
1/2-cup of self-rising flour
2 sticks of margarine or butter
1 teaspoon of butter extract
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Mix sugar and flour. Add margarine or butter and cream together. Mix in one egg at a time and stir well. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crusts. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until centers are firm and pies are golden brown. Garnish with a scoop of whipped topping.
Grandma's Jam Cake
(More than 100 years old)
1 1/2 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs separated
2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of soda
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup of blackberry jam
1 cup of mincemeat
1 cup of chopped walnuts
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and beat well. Combine flour and spices. Add salt. Mix buttermilk and soda, then add to above mixture. Alternately add flour mixture. Stir in jam, mincemeat and nuts. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Grease and flour tube pan. Pour mixture into tube or bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue to bake for one hour.
Glaze for Jam Cake
1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon soda
Bring to a boil and boil for three minutes. Use a toothpick to poke holes in cake and pour glaze over cake.