by Dr. Sheila Pope
I have loved working with senior citizens for most of my life because of Zeffie Lee Frazier, my aunt, who took care of me while my parents worked. While my cousins Lorraine Joseph, Charlie Mae, and Joann Smith were at school, I was with Muh (Zeffie).
My days were filled with activities. I watched the Edge of Night. I collected the eggs out of the hen house. I ate homemade biscuits and drank coffee at the age of six. I think Muh was around 50 when I was six. Muh’s love and nurturing shielded me from my mother’s and father’s dysfunctional relationship. Muh helped me figure out who I was as a child and as a woman. I thought I was white for a year or two because of my complexion and my long hair (Lol!).
When I was 16, I returned to Winnfield. Louisiana. I would sit on the front porch with Uncle Charlie and Muh and tell them my dreams. I know they were over 65 at the time. I was ambitious at a young age. She believed me. On our many fishing trips, she had me drive her and Alice to go fishing. Alice and Muh we well over sixty and very independent. I dumped spit jars filled with Snuff.
My first job was in Winnfield, Lousiana at Troy’s Supermarket. Muh’s encouraged me to apply for the job. She explained to me why it was important for people to work for a living. She was my first cheerleader. I am not sure when dementia started to steal memories of me from Muh but I never lost my memories of her and my childhood.
I have advocated for senior citizens because of the love and kindness I received from a senior citizen named Zeffie Frazier. People do not know, I fought for seniors like Marie Johnson from Acres Homes and for the ladies over 55 who worked in the kitchen over at Spring Branch Hospital before I became a teacher. Those ladies almost died from the stress and phsycial requirements of working in a hot industrial sized kitchen. Working with those senior citizens made me respect the value of a college degree. I was not designed to wash dishes in a hospital kitchen. I washed those dishes long enough for me to get to know each of ladies I was assigned to help. I was able to help them obtain their disability, helped one retire (hospital tried to fire her), and helped them obtain their social security. I even learned how to help one senior obtain her widow’s benefits.
I was never paid with money. I gained knowledge of how government systems worked. I learned literacy was critical. Many of the seniors I helped could not read. I learned I was smart and could do more by myself than I thought. After advocating for the seniors at Spring Branch, I thought I was going to become a lawyer. I became an educator instead. I still wonder how those seniors worked in the kitchen for 20 years.
I am sharing my story because the Mayor of Sunnyside, Sandra Massie Hines helped me to refocus my vision. She reminded me that money is not everything. She reminded me that I have a greater calling and God will order my steps to do more than I have ever thought. I woke up ready to continue my passion to do what I am called to do in business and in the Sunnyside community serving children and senior citizens.
God has partnered me with two community leaders in Sunnyside: Mr. Allen Provost, Treasurer of Peoples United Summit and Mayor Sandra Massie Hines, founder of Junior Achievers and Sunnyside Silver Hair Senior Group, Inc so I can stay focused and walk by faith to serve senior citizens and children while I continue to build my businesses.
I want to encourage each my readers to listen to your inner voice to help giuide you do the thing you know you are called to do in business and in the community. I want you to know serving others and volunteering are underrated. Being happy, helping others, and being at peace is priceless.