When Sue shakes your hand, she holds it in her hand for a long time — her eyes are warm and welcoming.
Why do you come to Wellspring?
“I enjoy the women,” she said. “I watch the women come in with the children and see how those children have grown up and now are bringing their own children in. I like to see the wins and sometimes the losses, but we keep looking for a win. It’s changing their lives. They are getting educated. They are finding that they can say no.”
She brings her husband, Don, in with her when she volunteers. He suffered from a stroke recently, but he says, “hi,” to guests when they enter the door.
What do you do at Wellspring?
“I’m the low man on the totem pole,” Sue said. “Sometimes I work at the door. I used to like to great the people at the door. I have fractured Spanish so I say, ‘Hi,’ to them. And now, I’ve been promoted to toast.”
Is there any memory of Wellspring that sticks out to you?
“How it’s changed,” she said. “I would see a lot of abuse happening to the ladies who would come in, our guests, and now it is a lot calmer. There is no more abuse and no more fights. I see happy people giving back to other people.”
Our interview paused, when Sue said, “And I’ve got to get to work.”
“Do you like Dark or Light toast,” she asks a guest.
Her hands shook as she placed the toast on a napkin for a guest.
“These ladies have become my friends,” she explained as she and Cheryl, a Wellspring guest and the center’s songbird, started waving and smiling at each other.
Why is this work important to you?
“It gets me off the street and I see a lot of the women have gotten off the street,” she said. “I just love to see the progress that so many have made and the friendships that we have fostered.”
What was your career?
“I raised three children,” Sue said. “I owned a travel tour company called Cultural Studies International that took teachers and kids from all over the United States to all over Europe. I retired from that.”
Where did you take them?
“They went (depending on the tour) from Scandinavia down to Spain, Greece and Turkey.”
She hands toast to a woman — as she is handing the toast over, she cups the woman’s hands in her hands and says, “Your hands are cold babe.”
What did you enjoy about the tour company?
“Exposing them to new things. In Rome, there are Operas outdoors and I said, ‘We are going to go to the Opera,’ to these High School kids. And they said, ‘Ugg.’
I said, ‘Opera has murder, incest, fights, love affairs – everything. We have to see it, but we won’t know what is being said. It’s a play, but it’s also music. Just give it a try and then you can say, ‘I’m never going back to the Opera again, it’s yucky’ or you can say, ‘Oooh, I did enjoy the Opera, I’m going to go another time.”
What does being a mother mean to you?
Sue has seven grandchildren.
“Sharing the past and helping for the future,” Sue said. “I just celebrated something with my grandson Saturday. Our whole family came in and now, this week, I go to a graduation of another grandson from Law School. To just watch them expand and see the world and get their feet on the ground – and to have them call me “Mom” or “Grandma Sue.”
How has your relationship to the community and your life perspective changed as you’ve moved through life?
“Maybe I am more understanding about what happens in the community,” she said. “When somebody says something to me, I wait before I comment.”
A woman asks for dark toast and asks Sue to put it through the toaster again so it is warm.
Sue turns to me and says, “Ten years ago I wouldn’t have put that toast in for that woman.”
And what changed? Why is your attitude different?
“I am more giving and more caring.”
Can I interview Don?
Sue at first says that he won’t speak very much and then takes me over to Don and introduces him to me. He is seated by the door. In very few words, he cut to the essence of Wellspring.
Why is Wellspring important to you?
“Just serving and growing,” he said. “I enjoy it.”