Did you ever see a female Leprechaun? I did. Maybe less than 100 pounds soaking wet with eyes that glittered like stars at midnight. Her name is Linda Livesay. Never heard of her? I spent an hour or so with her recently and what an hour it was.
Brought up in a Baptist orphanage in Jackson, Mississippi, Lovesay dispels all of the usual orphanage horror stories factored into a Charles Dickens novel.
“The folks who raised me were Southern Baptists and I can honestly say I never knew what it was like to be unwanted. I always felt loved and wanted. There have been times in my adult life when I had those feelings, but never as a child.”
At Christmas and Easter, as well as back-to-school time, Livesay didn’t receive a lump of coal. “That was never me. Especially at Christmas. We made up lists of five items we would like to receive from Santa. We were guaranteed to receive three and always received the five and more. Churches from all over the state contributed to our welfare. I didn’t get shoes and socks and maybe a hat. Oh no, I was provided with everything from under garments to coat and gloves.”
From that early life, Linda learned the art of giving. “To say I had a perfect childhood, would be a mistake. I would never want a child of mine raised without real parents: that is special. However, being raised as I was, I always knew that I would owe it to myself to give back and so that is why I’ve always been a willing volunteer.”
Lori Jo VanArsdale, former mayor of Hemet and Chairman of every important agency in the valley suggested I interview Linda and boy did she hit the mark.
“I grew up in a giving community. I have tried all my life to give back.” That, she has done with the gusto of a Leaping Lena.
Linda and her husband came to the Valley when they purchased Churchill Transportation, a moving company with offices in Hemet back in 1977. “We came here to run the business. When my husband died in 2007, thirty years later, the business shut down.”
With both sons grown, she no longer had an obligation toward any children.
“I was not ready at that point to reire, so I started doing volunteer work. I didn’t feel good about sitting at home watching soap operas trying to live vicariously through someone else’s life. I still had a life of my own to deal with and I had no intention of frittering away that life doidng nothing.”
Shortly thereafter she volunteered part-time at the Hemet-San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce.
“I worked from 9 to 5 at least three days a week. When I first started at the Chamber, the beloved Patty Drusky was the secretary. The Chamber had a full staff. I usually worked from whatever day I started through Friday afternoon.”
She remained with the Chamber into March 2019. “I would walk into the office at ten and before noon everybody was gone and I was in charge for the rest of the day. I did that for 12 years.”
When she left the Chamber, she moved into one of the three offices on the east side of the building, now occupied by Habitat for Humanity. The girl that took care of that office was rumored to be leaving, and being idle, Linda took up a desk in Habitat and began to log in checks and mail.”
She finally decided to find out what she was volunteering for. “I called Mr. Koka,, past president of the Chamber, then running Habitat for Humanity, and told him that Lorena wasn’t coming in and the checks were stacking up. He told me he’d be down to pick them up. When he came in he told me she had quit and that I should just continue as I was. Again, I knew nothing.”
That’s when Livesay settled in and began to learn what Habitat for Humanity is all about.
“I began investigating here and there and opened all the computer files and before long I learned about Habitat and how it served the community. They brought in Brandon Lea to run Habitat. Koka is now Chairman of the Board of Habitat for Humanity and immediate past President of the Chamber.”
Livesay didn’t rest on her laurels during all this time.
“I volunteer up at the Ramona Bowl because I like to get things done. One simply cannot turn down anybody who needs help.”
Her first job as a teenager was clerking at a Woolworth’s five and dime store in Jackson. “Something else happened to me during those early days. I learned about “LAYAWAY.” I began to buy my winter clothes in June and July on Layaway and by time the weather got cold I would pick them up all paid for in advance.”
She also remembers Christmas savings accounts which were popular among young folks who would put away fifty cents a week in January. By December they had all the money saved to spend on Christmas without going into debt.
“And then, there was what we called ‘stuff..’ In the moving business you would hear people say, ‘What are you going to do with your stuff?’
It really becomes ‘stuff’ after somebody dies.. “I knew a guy who recently passed away and his family literally gave away everything he had. What a tragedy.”
Livesay is a classic example of the old expression, “to those who are given, much is expected in return.”
“I never had a “poor little me” attitude. I had an aunt who used to say, “I’d rather have food on the table, than chandeliers on the ceiling.’ I grew up knowing what was expected of me and so I give back. Volunteering is my way of doing that.”
Her final words to me were an inspiration. “If I stayed home, I would be in all kinds of trouble, but being out among people and learning, makes me feel good. If I tell somebody I am going to do something for them, it gets done. Lose your word and you’ve lost yourself.”
How can anyone not say amen to that. Just sayin’
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