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Living to Give: Widow Rediscovers Joy Through Caring for Others at Goodwill

After Betty and her husband of 36 years retired, they spent eight glorious years traveling around the country.

She and James visited dozens of states and enjoyed every day together. When they weren’t traveling, they cared for ailing neighbors or cooked meals for local police and firefighters.

Then, in April of 2015, James was diagnosed with cancer. He died two weeks later. Betty was devastated. For six months, she stayed mostly to herself in their Hendersonville home. Then one day, a friend asked her to go shopping at the local Goodwill and she agreed.

At Goodwill, Betty noticed a sign that said the nonprofit was hiring.

“I wasn’t looking for work, but it just hit me: ‘That’s what I need to be doing. I need to help somebody else,’” Betty recalled. “I couldn’t just sit around the house anymore.”

While her friend shopped, Betty filled out an application. Within a week, she was interviewed and hired as a retail associate.

Betty poured all her energy and enthusiasm into the job. Store Manager Anna Lindsey said Betty instantly became part of the team, mastering tasks that needed to be done in many areas of the store while becoming a favorite of customers and co-workers.

“Whatever she can do to bring joy to someone else, she does that,” Lindsey said. “It’s like she owns the Goodwill. She cares about this place like it was her own.”


Lindsey mentioned a time when Betty discovered that a fellow team member had been struggling financially and had nothing to eat for lunch. When her shift ended, Betty went home, cooked a full meal, returned to Goodwill and quietly gave it to the employee outside the store.

Betty said she finds it rewarding to help other people, and she also enjoys staying busy.

“This job has been a lifesaver for me” she said. “I was not ready to give up and sit in a rocking chair.”

After James’ death, Betty learned that in his final days he had left her an amazing gift that would help her through her grief. James arranged and paid for Betty to take a week’s vacation every month for a year with a local seniors group. She has now visited every state except Hawaii.

Only one thing has ever interrupted Betty’s vacation schedule. At Thanksgiving, Betty came home from vacation early. She got up at 4:30 a.m. and cooked dressing, sweet potato casserole, potato salad, several cakes and a pie, which she delivered to Goodwill and shared with her co-workers. Then, she went back out on vacation.

“We had the best dinner,” she said. “I love my job and I love being with my co-workers. I can’t wait to go back in.”

Because you donate to Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, I have a job I love that allows me to stay active and help others. Thank you!

“Find something to do. Find a job, stay busy and make your life worth something. Make it something you can enjoy.”

-Betty’s advice for anyone who is struggling with the loss of a spouse.

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— By Chris Fletcher
Prior to joining Goodwill as its PR & Communications Manager in 2014, Fletcher was a professional journalist for
more than 25 years working at media outlets in three states, including the Associated Press.

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