(left to right: Gordon Critchlow, Ethel Critchlow, Sandy Hill, the Rev. Edgar Sabin)
The year was 1956. An honors student, I was ready to graduate from high school, but college was only a dream.
With five brothers and sisters, a sick mother and a dad who drove a taxi, we were desperately poor. Poor as in put cardboard in the soles of your shoes to keep the rain out, poor as in stand in line at the Salvation Army for your classmates’ discarded clothes, poor as in government surplus milk and cheese.
I’d cleaned houses, waited tables, babysat, but the amount I’d saved wouldn’t pay tuition at any college.
Enter three people who changed my life: the Rev. Edgar Sabin, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Towanda, Pa., and Gordon and Ethel Critchlow, an elderly, childless couple with big hearts.
One night, three months before high school graduation, I led a program at the church youth group. The Rev. Sabin was there, and apparently he saw something in me that I perhaps wasn’t quite aware of myself.
He moved quickly to find Pfeiffer College in North Carolina, where I could work 40 hours a week and go to college free except for books and incidentals.
Mrs. Critchlow rallied the women of her Sunday School class to sew clothes for me and buy a suitcase to put them in.
Then the Critchlows and Rev. Sabin drove me 600 miles to college – my family had no car – and got me settled. Through my college years, they continued to support me with small, but important, gifts.
Their generosity changed my life forever. I graduated magna cum laude, ended up a newspaper editor, became an active volunteer, and donated toward helping another aspiring college student at my home church.
And they changed forever the lives of my daughter, who was able to graduate from college debt-free, and of my grandchild, when her turn comes.
Words can never do justice to what they did for me.
They’re gone now, but I think of them often with gratitude.
Sandy Hill, a former newspaper editor, is the author of five novels: “Tangled Threads,” “Kate & Delia” (sequel to “Tangled Threads”), “The Blue Car,” “Bonds of Courage,” and “Deadline for Death.” First chapters can be read free on Amazon and ordered through Amazon, Kindle and bookstores. She volunteers as an ESL and citizenship tutor of adults and tries to perfect her intermediate Spanish.
Read another story about a mentor who influenced the course of a young man’s career.