In 1964 I was in sixth grade at St. Mary Cathedral and my father was dying. My mom spent weeks at a time in Detroit at Ford Hospital. I could have spent that year getting in a lot of trouble but instead my best friend, Janet, and I were chosen as Red Cross Youth Volunteers.
We collected goods for friendship boxes to send overseas and that took hours and hours after school. We would stop down on Jefferson Avenue to that beautiful old home that was the Red Cross office and Mrs. Fordney would give us direction. We went to meetings every month and after one of those meetings she suggested we volunteer more of our time. That was when I became an Office Volunteer. Every week I would go to the Red Cross Office and work on collating newsletters, answering phones and anything else that needed to be done. That summer after sixth grade I even took a typing class at Central Jr. High so I could do some typing at my volunteer work.
All through my school years Janet and I were involved with the Red Cross Youth. If Mrs. Fordney needed volunteers for swimming classes with the mentally disabled children she called us. If she needed someone to go see the young men drafted for the Vietnam War off from the bus station, she called us. We took our volunteer work seriously because Mrs. Fordney took our work seriously and she appreciated everything we did.
As I became an adult I continued my volunteer work, many times as the secretary of an organization. I give a workshop to adults and sometimes to high school students on the importance of volunteer work and how a person can use that experience on their resume and I tell of Mrs. Fordney and how she focused the direction of my career with her mentoring. I chose secretarial work as my profession and Mrs. Fordney had so much to do with my love of that work.
I saw Mrs. Fordney many times over the last few years of her life and she was always genuinely interested in my career and my life and she always asked about my friend Janet, too. Many times Janet and I talked over the years and wondered why we never could or why we never wanted to say no to her and we decided it was the goodness in her that radiated out to us when we were near her. As children are growing up they realize that some adults just placate them and put up with them – Mrs. Fordney was never like that – she took time and mentored us throughout our lives. When I look back on the importance of that mentoring in my life I am amazed at the time and effort she took with us. I made sure over the years that she knew how important she was in my life and she will always have a place in my heart.