Never Giving Up Giving Back
At what age do you stop giving back? 30? 40? 50? Maybe even 60? Nope, definitely not according to Thelma Burton whose still going strong on the volunteering front at the grand age of 91.
For decades, Thelma has been a timeless giver, helping out her local church members and senior citizens, even during times when it has been a massive struggle to herself. It is this dedication and commitment to giving something back that earned her the Home Instead Senior Care network's Salute to Senior Service Award.
“I don't like to do like most old people,” she told local news media, “...and I even try to help old people stay alive.” She does this by encouraging a lively spirit into all the seniors that she helps five days a week, whipping up home-cooked meals and fostering an infectious enthusiasm for exercise.
Thelma is a remarkable lady, diagnosed with dementia and told to use a wheelchair, yet this active and vibrant 91 year-old isn’t about to let the words of her doctors interfere with the thing she loves to do most of all, helping others.
This caring and considerate lady was born 1921 in Glenmore, LA to poor family, with very little, and within five years the family had even less. There had been a killing in a nearby town and suspicion fell on Thelma’s father, apparently he looked like the killer and the family were told to get out of town. “A man came to our house and told us if we didn’t get out of there,” Thelma recalls, “he was going to kill the whole family.”
The family moved and remained safe, although they had very little to see them through. Life was pretty tough, but they made it, Thelma recounted. As a girl, she picked cotton which is where she developing her strong work ethic. Despite racial laws in those days capping black education at the 11th grade, Thelma was an exceptional student and was offered two college scholarships. However, her economic reality at the time meant that even with the scholarships her college dreams remained just that, “My parents didn’t have the money to send me.”
After an ill-fated first marriage, Thelma married Matthew D. Burton, who took her with him to California where they could build a better life for themselves and their family. They moved into a rent house, working together to provide opportunities for their family. Her husband was illiterate and had a job in the docks area. When he was promoted, she feared their lives could unravel at any point–as the promotion came with paperwork. Unable to do the paperwork and fearing Matthew could lose his position, Thelma would turn up at his workplace each day to bring his lunch and while she was there she‘d complete the paperwork. It was a solution that lead to a number of other promotions for Matthew.Continued on the next page