Red Bank community gives back to woman who gives so much to others
Red Bank, SC (Paul Kirby) – When Ms. Darlene, a plainly dressed, slightly graying woman, was asked to meet a small group of people at the Christmas tree in the park off Nazareth Road in Red Bank Tuesday evening, she had no idea why. It had been a day like any other for her; get up, get her grandkids ready for school, work, clean the house, just the mundane things that go with many folk’s daily lives. Little did she know that God had a special blessing for her that day.
As she drove up in her old mini-van, the group she was to meet stood shivering in the wind near the tree. It included her friend Curtis Fink, a mountain of a man that drives a big diesel truck and has attended church with her in the past, along with his young son, who was huddling against his dad in hopes he’d block the wind. There was Tiffany Taylor, a beauty that you’d never know was a house-painter by trade, her teenage son, and a portly newspaper guy that most call either Mr. Paul, The Ledger man, or that guy from Facebook. I’m sure she must have wondered what this odd bunch wanted on such a cold windy afternoon.
Ms. Darlene is a very special lady. In her life, she’s raised her family, and now because of some circumstances beyond her control, she’s raising her grandchildren too. She still works a full-time, hourly job, runs the food pantry at Lexington Church of God, her home church, and does everything you’d expect a mom to do. The thing is, she’s just not as young as she was when she was a first-time mom.
As with most women, she won’t say her exact age, but it’s a little north of 50. As those of us who have gotten to that point know, this means she’s beginning to have some of the health problems that we all experience with age. Life’s a little tougher, but that doesn’t deter her. She lives on faith, hope, and happiness.
Curtis Fink is a man of faith himself. He knew Ms. Darlene through church and he knew that at this time of the year, struggles could increase, especially for a woman who had four grandkids she is raising and an 18-year-old of her own that was still at home while going to school. Curtis lives in the Red Bank area, runs a ministry of his own called God Speed, and has a hand for helping in times of need and putting the right people and resources in the right place, at just the right time to make people’s lives better. Curtis has done disaster relief, and isn’t the kind of man that minds getting his hands dirty or his shirt sweaty to make a positive difference in the world.
Curtis knew Ms. Darlene well, and knew the many hours of work she put in through her ministry at the food pantry. He also knew she wasn’t one to complain, ask for help, or ever distrust that the Lord would come through right at the last moment. In fact, she seems to always have a smile, a constant kind disposition, but she was never the one looking for accolades; she just wanted to help quietly from the background doing the work of God’s body here on earth; helping the sick, the poor, the down on their luck. When Curtis thought of Ms. Darlene facing another Christmas struggling through, he knew there was something he could do.
Quietly, so not to draw too much attention, Curtis began to contact other friends. Most were good, hardworking, friends he knew through church, Facebook, and other places. Most were Red Bank folks, people who didn’t have a lot themselves, but also people who would give if there was a need and they could help.
Tiffany Taylor was one of those people. Curtis and Tiffany talked, and together the two began to muster resources. It was easy really; you see this wasn’t Curtis’ or Tiffany’s plan, rather it was the work of the Lord using his followers on earth to carry out the mission.
In short order, the pair had collected more than $600 in cash and gift cards for Ms. Darlene, through friends and acquaintances. Some donated money while others gave washing powder, home essentials, the things you need when you have a house full of children. People gave what they could. Some gifts were small, but they gave.
Tuesday evening Curtis, his young son, Tiffany, and her teenage son all gathered at the Christmas tree at the Red Bank park. Darlene had no idea what we were there for. I asked her about her life, and she happily talked about the feeling it gave her when she could fill a food basket and give it to a family in need. “I have been blessed so many times by the feeling I get when I see their faces, when they know they can fix a good meal and make it a few more days,” she said. “There really isn’t another feeling like it in the world,” she said.
At this point, I told Ms. Darlene that we weren’t there to talk about the food bank or her work at the church. I told her that Curtis, Tiffany, and the Red Bank community wanted to give back to her for so much she had done for the area and its people. I told her about the money as a stunned look came over her face and tears began to roll down her cheek. Stunned she was, but surprised that God had provided, no. “God has always provided for our every need,” Ms. Darlene told me. “He’s never given me more than I needed, but he’s always provided for us right on time, just when I needed him most.” She went on to say that she lives on faith and love, and those two things provide her the fuel she needs when she aches, isn’t feeling well, or thinks she just too tired to go on.
Curtis said, “We just don’t love on you enough for all you do Ms. Darlene,” as the giant of a man gave her a big bear hug. “You’ve done so much for this community and we wanted to give back to you as a simple gesture, a way of saying thanks.”
Tiffany said that she has lived in the area for years, and knows what it’s like to struggle. “This area used to be know as one of the roughest, toughest, in the county,” she said. “The fact is, these are all just hardworking people that would do anything for you if you’re doing all you can to help yourself.”
Before we parted, I asked Ms. Darlene if she would mind if I wrote her story. “As long as God gets the glory, I don’t care who knows what I’ve been through,” she said with a grin as she wiped away tears. “That’s what this is anyway, a God thing.”
With that we all parted company. As I drove toward the store to pick up a few things to take home, I realized how blessed I really was. My debit card worked when I scanned it for the groceries, my car was running and there was gas in the tank. I had a lot to be thankful for. Suddenly, I wasn’t so cold any more.