Volunteer Stories

Arlene White


Arlene White- “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Hello! My name is Arlene White. I’ve been a resident of Christian City’s active senior living community since August 2016. It is said “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” in an expression taken from a Chinese proverb. I’d like to share some steps along my path to residing at Christian City during retirement.

Never one to be idle, I’ve had plenty to keep me busy during my lifetime. I have family residing in the Atlanta Metro area consisting of my son and two daughters, two granddaughters, and two grandsons. My working career spanned years of working in the finance and accounting field with government agencies, non-profit organizations, mortgage companies and other private corporations.

An abiding faith in Christ and love for people has kept me involved with church groups and volunteer activities from my youth. I volunteered with the American Red Cross…

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…as a physician’s assistant at United States Air Force Hospital, Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal; Project Open Hand in meal delivery to elderly and disabled residents in Atlanta; United Missions as computer literacy facilitator and volunteer coordinator in Smyrna, Angkor Resource Center’s corporate office in Riverdale assisting in voter education for Cambodian citizens in Atlanta Metro Area; and Liberty Point Elementary School as a guest reader.

In fact, I was introduced to Christian City through the Senior Usher Ministry of Zion Hill Baptist Church, Campbellton Road, as we volunteered by engaging with assisted living residents with guidance from nursing staff. For some years, my knowledge of Christian City’s many facilities, services, and amenities remained limited because I was only familiar with the assisted living and skilled nursing and rehab center. That view would be altered, of course, as life changes ushered (pardon the pun) me into being involved with Christian City as a resident.

I was, as I often like to say, a few doors down from 60 when my youngest daughter completed college, married, and started a family. I was employed as an office administrator at the time and started thinking about what I’d do upon retiring in 10 years or so. Knowing full well I couldn’t be (here’s that word again) idleand stay home in retirement, I decided to go to college. Yes, college! I would work toward getting that “piece of paper” which was my mother’s term for diploma.

A two-year course of study earned me a certificate in General Business from a technical school in my hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi, when I was in my early 20s. It served me well in earning a living, but I wanted to do more in retirement.

You can imagine comments I got from people when I told them of my intention. Some asked why I should bother since I was approaching the end of my career and had succeeded in getting my children through school with them obtaining advanced degrees. My perspective was that it was my children’s success, not mine. Others reminded me it had been years since I’d been in a classroom and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with younger people straight out of high school.

A Bible verse countered that reasoning: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).” I enrolled at KSU because it was a good fit for this non-traditional student; though I must admit most people my age were graduate students not undergrad. I started out by taking a class or two each semester while I continued full time employment.

Little did I know a health issue would impact my plan to remain in the workforce until full retirement age. I received comfort from the Bible and support from my family during that season. I held to the following verse from the New Testament: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 1:2 KJV).”

I kept the following verse from the Old Testament at the forefront of my mind: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil to give you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11-13 KJV).”I lived in my son’s home for the duration of my health issue. He and my daughters saw to my immediate physical needs while out-of-state family, friends, and church family fervently prayed for me.

After about two years, I regained enough strength to move out of my son’s home with renewed enthusiasm to earn a degree. I searched unsuccessfully for active senior communities in Cobb County near KSU. My daughter suggested I look for a place closer to her home in Fairburn and my son’s home in the City of South Fulton. When she called one day and suggested I consider Christian City as a place to live, I told her I didn’t need assisted living! Again, that was my limited view of Christian City at the time.

She asked me to look at the website because Christian City had an active senior living community of patio homes and affordable apartments. I was totally surprised and wasted no time in calling to make an appointment. After a visit and contemplation, an apartment proved to be the better option for me. I now live in an apartment at Christian City.

I never imagined living in a community with so many activities and a host of caring people.  Even if I had nothing to do away from home, I am afforded access to an activities center, pool, events on-site (something is going on at Christian City every day), off-site trips and transportation to stores, banks, pharmacies. I never knew active senior living could be so ideal.  My son visited shortly after I moved in to be sure I was “safe and happy” (as he put it). He left with the assurance that I am indeed.

My university studies continued despite the long commute and I declared a major. I graduated magna cum laude on May 9, 2018, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and African Diaspora Studies from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at KSU. It only took me eight yearsto earn a four-year degree! My only question upon graduation: what would I do now to remain active? Volunteer at Christian City, of course! With perfect timing, a volunteer opportunity for a freelance writer appeared in Christian City’s monthly Partyline newsletter. I inquired. After completing volunteer orientation, I was directed to the Marketing and Communications department to assist in that area.

But there’s more! Professors at KSU encouraged me to apply for grad school. I did and was accepted into the Master of Arts in Professional Writing program in the English Department. My concentration is Creative Writing and support area is Rhetoric and Composition.

Who knew?  God knew! I’m convinced all of this was orchestrated by God as part of His plan for me. KSU didn’t know about my volunteer status with Christian City; Christian City wasn’t aware of my entering grad school at KSU. But God knew, and I’m grateful to Him for ordering my steps.

The testimony I have at this juncture in my life may be uttered in lyrics of a song from my childhood rendered by the senior choir at Greater Mount Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church in Vicksburg: “I’ve learned how to lean and depend on Jesus; He’s my Strength and He is my Guide. I’ve learned how to lean and depend on Jesus; I found out that if I trust Him, He will provide.”