She Isn't Paid Much, But This Retired Nurse Is Using Her Pension For Something Incredible
Charolette Tidwell is a 69-year-old retiree who spent her young life helping people in her position as a nurse. And even now that she's retired, he commitment to helping people in her community hasn't ended, and she uses her pension to make it happen.
After her retirement, Charolette used her pension to set up a food pantry where she works, unpaid, six days out of the week.
"The community that I was raised in did this. My mom did it. The folks at the church did it. The nuns at the school that I went to elementary school did it," she said. "We were mentored into this kind of work. Service was something that I've always been involved in."
Charolette says she feeds about 7,000 people per month in Fort Smith, Arkansas, her hometown. She hands out 500,000 meals a year through her Antioch for Youth and Family group.
Her little community has suffered the worst of a rapidly changing economy. In the past few years, factories have either shut down or laid off many workers, leaving people with low-wage jobs and barely able to feed their families.
"I was raised in poverty and I understand all the issues that go along with not having enough money," she said.
She started her charity in 2000 after retiring and learning that elderly people in her community were being forced to eat cat and dog food as a cheap way to get protein.
"Allowing the generation that raised us to go to the point that they're eating cat food and dog food, I can't imagine that," she said. "I think it's a forgotten population."
"We thank the Lord for this lady here, Mrs. Tidwell, for helping us out in a time of need," said Sherri Warren, a client of the food pantry.
Tidwell says she saves enough of her pension to get by, economizing her utility bills and figuring out the best deals on foods so she can get the maximum amount for her money. Fortunately, others have taken note of her work and she is now being given small grants to continue and expand her operations.
"I think if they have a persistence or purpose to come here, I have the obligation to serve them," Tidwell said. "And to serve them in a compassionate, respectful way."
Among clients and volunteers, there is a sense of community.
"Many of our people are repeaters. They tell someone, and then those persons become repeaters. So it's important for us to be not just a giver of food, but a giver of hope," she said.
"It makes me feel good because I get to help people," he said.
"I want it to continue, if anything happens to me, Tidwell said of her work. "I just believe it will happen."