Three Local Women Share Their Passion & Compassion
December 2020 Issue
Photography by Mike Force Photography & Nancy J. Reynolds Photography
More than any year in recent history, 2020 has shown us the utmost importance of lending a hand and doing for others. Particularly, thanks to our magazine editorial and other media sources, we have been able to witness countless women in various stewardship acts of kindness. Thanks to our wonderful readers and friends of Paisley Magazine we found three local, dynamic representatives, who are full of heart and emulate what it means to lead lives driven by purpose. Read on as each woman gives us a peek at how she is helping to be the difference…
Retired Registered Nurse
Home state: Alabama-lives in Darien
Manager, The Rummage Room Thrift Store
Do you feel you have had a purpose or a calling in life? I have always been inspired to bless others because, as a Christian, I have been blessed by Jesus. The Bible says in Proverbs 11:25, “A generous person will prosper, he who refreshes others, will himself be refreshed.” My greatest joy comes from investing in the lives of others.
When and how did you discover your best life skill talents? Were there any hints in your younger years leading you to what you do now? In first grade, I felt compassion for a special needs boy who was teased by the other children. I felt compelled to defend him and help him when he struggled with normal activities. This sparked a lifetime compassion that led me to a career in nursing and 27 years of missionary work in Hong Kong and China. It still guides my life today.
Tell us about what you do in your current career. The Rummage Room is a faith based thrift store in Darien. The sale of donated items generates funds to support our food bank, which serves more than 200 families a month. We also draw names each month to help pay power bills and provide shopping sprees. We donate clothes and food to mental health clients, homeless people and those struggling financially.
How does your work spark your passion for helping others? In our daily work at the Rummage Room, not only do we see the general public, we also encounter people who are struggling with emotionally broken lives in their relationships, bodies, finances and even their dreams. This opens up an opportunity for us to encourage them, direct them to other organizations for assistance and pray with them if they so desire.
How do you usually get your creative juices flowing? I see a need and dream about how to meet it. For example last year we met people who had no one to celebrate Thanksgiving with, so I organized a family style dinner, where we not only ate together, but also played games, watched a movie, and sang songs as a family. They loved it. Now I’m dreaming how I can get a motel to house homeless people. Also, we are in the process of opening a home for abused women, turning an old house into a place of refuge. We have the house; now we are looking for the finances to make it happen!
What advice would you give to people who might be interested in following your footsteps? My advice is: “You can’t go wrong by helping others. Your reward for blessing others is always JOY!
CEO, Coastal Georgia Area Community Action
Volunteer work: President, Georgia Community Action Association; CCGA Foundation Board of Trustees; Glynn County Family Connections Board of Directors; Brunswick Chapter of The Links, Inc.
Do you feel you have had a purpose or a calling in life? Absolutely! I firmly believe every person blessed to be here on earth was born with a purpose. It is up to every person to make a conscious decision to actively seek to find their path in life—the only way to truly live a meaningful life fulfilled. An inner voice has guided me to the path I am on and keeps me headed in the direction I believe to be my purpose in life.
Tell us about your career: I am currently the CEO for Coastal Georgia Area Community Action, a not-for-profit organization providing services for low income families and children. We provide services such as Head Start/Early Head Start, Pre-K, weatherization, Homeless Prevention services, Rapid Re-Housing, Free Tax preparation, case management and senior services throughout nine coastal counties: Camden, McIntosh, Liberty, Bryan, Long, Wayne, Tattnall and Evans, with our main office in Glynn County.
Our organization has been at the forefront of addressing issues of poverty for over 50 years. People say to me: "Your organization does so many things". It’s just that we work with families from a holistic perspective, families facing many obstacles as they try to move towards a point of self-sufficiency.
We understand we cannot just provide services to the child through our early childhood education programs, leaving out the parents when the parents themselves may be trying to keep a roof over their head. We look beyond their “now” circumstances in order to see their possibilities and help them achieve their goals.
How does your organization spark your passion for helping others? I am blessed to be in my position with my passion for helping to make this community be all it can be. I was born and raised right here in Brunswick. There were so many people who poured into my life growing up, many who are still around today.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to have a better quality of life for themselves and their families. The CGACAA mission: “Helping People…Changing Lives…Building Families” is the foundation on which our Rise Risley project is built.
We have so many families in Brunswick struggling daily to make ends meet. The pandemic has only served to magnify their struggles. We have children living in conditions of extreme poverty, which drastically limits their opportunities in life.
The Rise Risley project, a collaborative effort led by CGACAA, is currently located in the highest poverty rate within Brunswick, surrounding the historic campus of Risley High School, which is the first local school for African Americans. We’re taking our grass-roots approach to strengthening families and empowering community by bringing opportunities directly to where they live, addressing contributing conditions to intergenerational poverty. I absolutely love our community and the possibility it has to offer. I want to make sure that hope and opportunities are afforded to all.
If I ever become doubtful as to what I’m doing, I work through my doubt by… If I am ever in doubt, I turn to prayer and meditation. It is times like these when I know to be still and listen to my inner voice. With so much going on around us, it’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced world.
When I was young, I would see my mother pull out her bible and read it whenever she was troubled, in doubt, or life was just overwhelming her. I wasn’t allowed to bother her when she was reading. Looking back, I now realize why she needed that quiet time with her bible and God. I learned at an early age during times of trouble, questions and doubt, I need to get still, pray, meditate and listen. This approach has never failed me.
How do you usually get your "creative juices" flowing? I love all genres of music. When I need to get going, I turn the music on, and it takes me away. I am partial to Christmas music because I love the holiday season. It gives me a sense of hope for future. In reflecting on 2020, I think we should all be creatively thinking about how we can make 2021 the best year ever.
What advice would you give to people interested in following your footsteps? I would tell anyone that you are not going to get rich working in the non-profit world. However, in so many other ways, this work has been rewarding and my life enriched. I’d tell anyone interested in following my footsteps that you must have a love for all people.
You need to be compassionate because people must see you really care about what they may be going through; understanding because you need to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But most of all, patient because those you are trying to help will have setbacks, but you can’t give up on them. You just may be their only voice of encouragement. This job is my calling in life. The reward is the pleasure of helping those who are often forgotten realize they can accomplish amazing things and reach their goals in life.
Shirley D. Wilson, M.D., FACOG
Board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Obstetrics & Gynecology
Hometown: Crossett, Arkansas
Volunteer/Community Work: Healthy Hugs for Haiti Board of Directors, Safe Harbor Board of Directors, Brunswick Georgia Chapter of the Links, Incorporated., Southeast Georgia Health System Inc., Board of Directors.
Do you feel you have had a purpose or a calling in life? I’m Not sure. When I was a teenager in rural Arkansas, I spent a summer with my oldest brother and his family in St. Louis to help out by babysitting their small children while they worked. One day, just for fun, the whole family went to visit an old lady who was a palm reader. She asked me what I wanted to do when I left high school, and I said I planned to become a teacher. After my reading she told me I would be a healer. Whether predestined, or the influence of an old lady’s ramblings, either way here I am today.
Tell us about what you do in your career and as a volunteer: As an OB/GYN physician I care for women from adolescence through the senior years. I welcome the variety of opportunities this specialty offers from caring for women in an office setting, to delivering babies, to providing surgical services. I have enjoyed a wonderful career as an OB/GYN physician. Now in my later part of my career and growth as an individual, I have developed a passion for volunteering, especially medical mission volunteerism. Each year as a member of the local chapter of the Brunswick Georgia Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, I have taken part in medical missions to Ghana in West Africa and to Haiti.
What is the best advice you have received? If you don’t love the work or career you chose, then change it.
If I ever become doubtful as to what I’m doing, I work through my doubt by… I try first to work it out myself; I examine the situation to see if I can figure out what would resolve the doubt. If need be, I talk to my family, friends; sort of a second opinion in a way. But the most helpful way I resolve doubt is to pray on it.
What advice would you give to people who might be interested in following your footsteps? Try to choose a career you love. And, as for as volunteering, again, choose what you love. People argue with me all the time that medical missions probably don’t change a lot, but I think, like Mother Theresa said when asked how she was going to help all the lepers. She said something like, “I will start with this one.” So, if I help one person, or change the health habits of one individual, then I’m okay with that.
Name someone you consider to be your mentor. How did they inspire you? I had this older lady who was my first-grade teacher and a friend of my mother’s. She lived in town, and we lived out in the country. Sometimes she would ask my mother if my sister and I could spend the weekend in town with her to help her with her chores. It got us away from gardening and such, so we looked forward to it. We would go with this teacher as she made her “rounds” through some of the poorest streets of the town. She would take food items, clothes, and in some cases, a few dollars to homes of people, many who were her old students but had grown up to be adults and fallen on hard times. I think because of this woman, I wanted to be a teacher, but maybe I just wanted to be someone who cared about the plight of others who were less fortunate.