Last year, Help At Your Door made more than 42,000 personal interactions with our clients. While visiting the homes of the seniors we serve, we often receive snippets of their lives – growing families, memorable adventures, and celebrated milestones captured and shared in pictures and stories. Some are inspiring, others are cautionary tales, and there are those that make us grateful for the sacrifices made on our behalf. Below is a glimpse into the life of one of our grocery clients, Betty.
Imagine a childhood without electricity or running water. 100 years ago, that was a reality for some of the clients we serve, and it was the case for Betty, a cheery 89-year old from Mississippi. She grew up picking cotton in the fields and, as the oldest of ten kids, regularly helped her mother take care of her siblings: “I called them my children, but they were really my brothers and my sisters.”
On the surface her upbringing may seem unbearable, but some of Betty’s happiest memories occurred when times were tough, and resources were limited. In particular, she remembers Christmas and how wonderful it was to have everyone together, enjoying the holiday. It was also at Christmas that Betty received her first doll, created from cotton, tree limbs, and her mother’s love, making her feel like the “luckiest person in the world” despite living in poverty.
Betty’s father passed away in 1941 when she was 37, bringing about a whirlwind of change. Her brother went to fight for our country in the war. Her mother and the rest of her siblings moved away from the family home. And it was at that time Betty went to live with her aunt in California to help take care of her niece and nephew. She sent all her earnings from nannying to her mother and the children.
While in California, Betty met her first husband. At the age of 18, she got married and moved to his home state of Minnesota. They had a son, John, and stayed together through his graduation from high school. When John left to fight in the Vietnam War (a sacrifice that ended up impacting his health later in life), Betty moved forward with her life a single woman.
Betty’s work ethic and resourcefulness enabled her to secure a job at the first Radisson Hotel, located in Minneapolis. She started at the hotel as a waitress and moved her way up to a hostess. It was there, after vowing to never be reliant on a man, that she met her second husband, Craig, a sales manager for Johnson and Johnson.
She loved Craig fiercely. Their adventures took them across the county – to New Jersey (where she learned to play golf) and then back to California, finally landing in Michigan with the plan to start an engineering business. But that did not come to fruition. The costs associated with startup ate up their nest egg and Craig fell ill and passed away.
Two months after she lost Craig, Betty’s other rock – her son—died, turning her reality upside down and making her feel like there was nothing left to live for in the world.
It was at one of the lowest points of her life that she came across a job at Cargill. Betty’s resilience landed her the job: “I may not be pretty or young, but I am a worker.”
And boy did she work! It was not until Betty reached the ripe age of 84 that she retired and was able to financially support herself – though she needed a little extra help when it came to receiving groceries.
That’s where our nonprofit steps up to ensure that she has access to food. As Betty will tell you, “I don’t know what I would do without Help At Your Door. I’m not supposed to lift heavy things.”
Every other week, John, a Help At Your Door driver, brings Betty her groceries: “He is just like my son. He makes me feel like I had a visit from him. And after dragging it [the groceries] all the way up here, he then wants to put it where it would be best for me. I think I got it pretty good.”
A hard life can be made wonderful with an optimistic outlook – and occasionally a friendly, helping hand along the way.
If you or a loved one is in need of a help with groceries like Betty, please call 651-642-1892 or Request a Service online.