Saturday, May 2, 2009

My sweet Pop and his Em

From the Fayette Senior Services Newsletter in Fayetteville, Georgia

Em Baldwin and Haskell Burks are a "volunteer team" here at Fayette Senior Services. Em was one of the first to come through the doors of our new Life Enrichment Center to become a member and volunteer in January, 2008. Haskell joined soon after in February. They have been volunteering together here ever since. Like perfect bookends, you will find Em filling the role as hostess for lunch on Mondays while Haskell serves as ambassador. They are both on the Event Planning Committee where they are part of a team of talented volunteers that help us implement special events here at the Center.

Haskell has lived in the metro Atlanta area all his life, graduating from Russell High School in East Point at the peak of World War II. He went right into business school after graduating at age 17, where he met his future wife, but realizing that he would probably be drafted into the Army as soon as he turned 18, he decided to join the Navy just prior to his 18th birthday. He served his two years and shortly after his discharge he married in 1946. He joined his father in a barbecue restaurant business in College Park which was very successful until 1959 when their leased restaurant space was sold by the owner. This is when Haskell decided to go into Real Estate getting his license in September of 1959 and he has been in the business ever since.

Through the many years of his career, Haskell has served on the Georgia Board of Realtors and several realty committees. He was president of Clayton-Henry Board of Realtors in 1978 and then President of the Fayette County Board of Realtors in 1989.

Meanwhile, Em was living and working in South Carolina. She was employed for twenty years with the South Carolina State Employment Security Commission. Her husband was a commissioner with the same agency. Before Em's husband passed away they were living in Walterboro, S.C., an island on the intercostal waterway located between Buford and Charleston where she and her husband enjoyed the boating, shrimping, crabbing and other marsh water activities that were part of the coastal lifestyle.

When Em's husband passed away, Em decided to move from her home in South Carolina to live closer to her daughter and grandchildren who live in Griffin. Em said she prayed, "Lord, lead me to a place where I will be safe and can be of a service to others." Em had grown up in Griffin but thought Fayette County was where she would like to live.

It was Haskell's real estate experience that brought he and Em together. Through networking, Em learned that Haskell was a successful realtor in Fayette County so Em gave him a call. Since Em was still living in South Carolina, Haskell worked with Em's daughter and found a home for Em right here in Fayetteville and she moved here in 1998.

It was several years before Em saw Haskell again. Haskell's wife passed away since the time he found Em her home. In 2006, when Em's church scheduled a picnic, a friend suggested that she call Haskell and invite him to attend. He accepted and they have been the best of friends ever since. "Everyone at the church was just so friendly and I felt like I had known them for a long time." said Haskell. Even though Haskell was a long-time member of another church, after he and Em started dating he decided to join her church so they could attend the same services and church functions together. In addition to volunteering at our Center, Em and Haskell are also very active volunteers in their church.

Currently, the volunteer activity that is most special to the two of them is with a project called "The Peter Burks Unsung Hero Fund." Army 2nd Lt. Peter Burks is Haskell's grandson who was killed on November 14, 2007 by an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) while serving in Iraq. When reading Peter's story at, I realized that this young man was a true military hero who cared deeply for his fellow soldiers as well as for the people of Iraq, especially the children.

Shortly before he was killed, Peter sent his family a list of the treats his guys were missing being away from home. But, the list also included items that would help the Iraqi people, especially the children. Peter's family and his large circle of friends started the care package collections. The response was very generous and Peter's family mailed the many donations to Iraq, each boxed into individual care packages to be distributed to the soldiers.

When Peter was killed his family decided to continue his legacy and through a partnership with Operation Iraqi Children, they recently delivered more than 6 tons of care packages and school supplies to Iraq.

“Em and Haskell are like comfort food or a good warm security blanket,” says Executive Director, Debbie Britt. She explains, “From the moment I met them, there was a warmth about them that made me feel that I had known them a lifetime, as if they were family. I’ve told Em before that I feel as though something is out of place if I don’t see her or Haskell at the Center – if you looked up Fayette Senior Services in the dictionary you’d likely see a picture of Em and Haskell on the page. They are one of the many caring faces that define Fayette Senior Services.”

Em and Haskell clearly represent the caring attitude that so many of our volunteers bring to our Center. They certainly represent the volunteers that go "above and beyond."

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