BY LEANN DILBECK –
Retirement, as it so often does, opens the door to enjoying a long-time passion or even discovering brand new opportunities to serve and to give back to a cause whose mission is at the core of what defines you. Such is the case with Cathy Martin of Mena.
Cathy actually grew up in central Louisiana on her parents’ small farm and describes herself as a “pure country girl.” The Louisiana country girl graduated valedictorian of her class from Verda High School.
“After moving to Shreveport, I was employed at the Caddo Parish Clerk’s Office, but after my daughters were born, I returned to my home to raise them in the country. Later, we moved to Natchitoches where I was employed by Northwestern State University in the Men’s Basketball Department until we relocated here to Mena in 2006, where I worked for a local bank.” She explained that she and husband Michael share a “sweet blended family of three children and nine grandchildren.”
Soon after Cathy retired, she began volunteering at the local Salvation Army store often and explained, “I really came to love serving there. Once I understood the wonderful mission of Salvation Army, I loved it even more. When the position [Assistant Manager] became available, it was mentioned to me by three people that I would be a good fit for the job. I didn’t consider it at that time, because after all, I was retired! I earned it, right? After all those years of working? It was my time to rock on the front porch.”
Cathy explained that she soon realized, “God, however, had another plan in motion. It was during a Sunday morning service and a message from Pastor Victor Rowell about God’s purpose in our lives. He asked if we were living our lives serving ourselves, or were we living our lives serving God? In my mind, I saw myself in my rocking chair going nowhere and knew at that moment that I was meant to turn in my application. I began as Assistant Store Manager on Oct 1st and it has been one of the most rewarding decisions I have ever made.”
Particularly proud of a recent store remodel, Cathy explained that the store works diligently to provide true quality merchandise. “Our store has a new look inside… a much better layout, which our customers seem to love! We have remarkable volunteers who keep donations flowing into the store continuously. We stock only the ‘best of the best’ to allow our shoppers the opportunity to purchase quality merchandise at a very low price.”
With a true heart for people, Cathy said the most challenging part of the job is seeing people in their most vulnerable state and needing assistance. “From illnesses, losing a job, being homeless, or unexpected tragedy there are many needs in Polk County that we can help with… it is difficult for me to not be emotional when I see people hurting. I am very thankful to be able to live up to part of our mission statement, “…to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
Cathy and her husband, Michael, attend The Crossing and serve together in the “Connection Center” during worship services, welcoming newcomers to the church. She explained that he, too, has not only been supportive in her decision to return to “work” but has become a very popular volunteer at the store.
When the couple is not working, they enjoy many of the joys of the country life in which Cathy was raised, “We stay busy at home with woodworking, gardening, crafts, cooking, and best of all… grandchildren!”
Cathy explained that, for her, retirement has meant returning to something that brought her great joy, even as a child. “When I was a little girl, my very favorite game to play was ‘store’. I would cut paper into small pieces for cash and borrow dried beans from my mother for coins. Everyone who came around would have to buy something imaginary from me. And now, here I am, playing store again, except this is the real thing. I feel God was grooming me all along for this job. As with “….perhaps this is the moment for which you were created.” from Esther 4:14, I feel I am living the purpose God had for me.”