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Greatest Achievement

Life Story Club Contributor

July 29, 2020

I was involved with Toastmasters International, which is an organization that helps you with better communication through their program. I was president of one of their clubs and decided to improve my skills as well as others, so I offered my services to a charity called Play School Association. At that time, this charity was working with Mayor Dinkins’ administration with abused women and they accepted my offer.

My goal was to present an eight-week conversation program to give these ladies more confidence. I had two guidelines, the minimum of the program would hold only 20 applicants because I wanted them to have individual attention. And the other guideline was that if they didn’t show up on to lectures then they wouldn’t be able to come back anymore because it showed disinterest and it showed that they weren’t putting themselves out to learn.

Anyway, then what I had to do as my goal was I had to acquire speakers who had the discipline of various areas that would complement the children that they were going to speak to their audience. And my plan was that I wanted them to learn, I had offered to the lecturers some ideas on what I would like them to speak about. One was a school teacher so I asked her to explain to the students how to get a GED so that they could get a high school diploma. Another one was a librarian so I asked her to teach them how to get a library card at their local library. And the other one was just a regular Toastmaster, she was to tell them how to acquire inexpensive business attire so that they could go out and get a job.

And I did meet my goal because both the speakers met their goals and the participants, they were really very trustful. They weren’t at the beginning but they became each week, I could see, they started to trust me and they saw my sincerity and they were so motivated and stimulated and I felt that they felt better about themselves by the end of eight weeks. We had a graduation, that’s a picture of some of the students at the graduation. And they were all abused women that lived in a wayward house in Harlem. You know, they had left their abuser and they were trying to start a new life. And there’s their diplomas that we gave them.

We had a singer, a gospel singer was one of my best friends. She won the New York area and was the chief judge of contests so she sang a beautiful gospel for them. We had refreshments and then as they graduated, I had offered a six-month follow-up that if any of them felt that they needed a sense of direction, which I didn’t cover or they ran into for six months, they could call the charity and I would call them back and try and help them out. So that was one of my greatest achievements. I felt that I really made somebody’s lives a little bit better.

Jean: Well, what it was is that I always was involved in charity for 22 years because I was a stay-at-home mom so I occupied myself with various charities, different ones. And so I coordinated that as far as the charity because I was a member of that. And that charity, oh, gosh, I forget her first name but Mrs. Dinkins was on the board there. I had it on, well, anyway, it doesn’t matter. Oh, her name is Joyce, Joyce Dinkins. And I was a member of Toastmasters International because, you know, I’ve been a very shy person all my life until today, Sheila, I feel the same way, I’m never good enough for anything.

And I remember many times I was invited as a young adult and I would see… My mother and I were very, very close and I would say, “Oh, mom, I don’t know if I can go,” and she said, “Why not?” I said, “Because I really don’t fit into that crowd.” And she said, “Jeanie, you have to fit in whether you know it or not because they invited you. They invited you for a reason.” She used to tell me that but it still stuck with me. I’m 86 years old and many times I think, “Oh, God, I have to do that? I don’t know if I can make it.” I think even with you, Lena, I come to you for a sense of direction, to make sure that I’m doing the right thing.

So that’s how I got involved between being a member in Toastmasters International and also being involved with many charities. But that was the charity…I had sent the letter out to about four or five charities and that was the first one that accepted. So that’s the one, the one I went with.

You go back to how you think, it never disappears, I guess, I don’t know. So now, I’m not in square one like I was before I joined them but I’m still in one of the squares.

July 29, 2020 I was involved with Toastmasters International, which is an organization that helps you with better communication through their program. I was president of one of their cl...

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A Memorable Stranger

Life Story Club Contributor

July 22, 2020

Okay. I’m taking the question, a stranger who had an impact on your life. After being home 22 years as a home…an at-home mom, I decided that I’d like to go to the workforce because I had just come outta high school, and then I got married, and I had my children, and I concentrated on them, and I had a full life. And I would hear every now and then, a mom would go to work. And in those years, moms didn’t go to work, you know? And I would go, “Well, how is it?” They said, “I was never in an office or anything.” So I decided to get a job. And I looked in the community newspaper. And oh, my goodness, it sounded like such a great job. And you would meet people from the film industry. And you didn’t have to know shorthand because there was a lotta secretaries, women who were being secretaries in those years. So you didn’t have to know shorthand or any of those technical skills.

And I said, “Well, gee, the other skills that I acquired during the 22 years was, you know, I was be able to socialize with people, I knew how to do fundraising, and all the things, so I figured that would help.” So I go to apply for this job. And the gentleman that changed my life totally, his name was Mr. Mort Hight [SP]. And he was the Director of Human Resources. So he was talking to me and he said, you know, “Go for the interview with the other gentleman in that department.” And what it was, it was the camera. And oh, the interview was at Berkey Marketing in Queens. And Berkey Marketing did the camera, Konica camera. And that was the camera that was wrapped around the fender of the car that race through underneath the L in the French Connection. So all their cameras in that particular area had to do with the film industry.

And of course, I didn’t have any skills. I didn’t even know how to make a photocopy. So obviously, I wasn’t prepared and I was very embarrassed because by this time, I was, like, 41, 42 years old. And oh, my god, all the things I don’t know. So anyway, I have to prepare further on this. So anyway, I go back and he said, “How did it go?” And I said, “Well, it didn’t go well. I really wasn’t prepared. I’m very sorry that I took your time.” And he said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, where are you running to?” And I said, “Well, I think I should leave.” And he said, “No, no.” He said, “Jean, you’re not going to leave.” He said, “You’re very nervous.” And he says, “We’re going to have lunch together. And we’re going to try for another job. I want you in this company,” he said.

And we went to lunch. And he offered and treat me to lunch. And I won’t eat because I figured the fork would fall. I was so nervous. So I just had, like, a beverage. We get back to the office. He said, “Okay. Jean, now,” he said, “do you know how to type?” And I said, “Oh, my goodness, I did that in high school, junior high school. But I don’t know even if I remember the keyboard.” So he said, “Well, give it a shot.” So we go back. And there’s all these glass modules in a row, and all young girls that are secretaries there.

So anyway, he points me to one typewriter and he says to the girl, “She’s taking the test for a position.” So anyway, I took the test and I knew I failed. I mean, I was so nervous. I go back to…you know, he said, “How did you do, Jean?” And I said, “I don’t think I did well.” And he said, “Gee, Jean, what’s up now?” And I said, “I’m just too nervous. And I’m not prepared. I really…” I said, “If you want me so bad in this company,” I said, “you know what, give me six months a year,” I said, “and then I’ll come back if you’re still here.” So anyway, he said, “No, no, no, you’re gonna be in this company.” So he sends me back again for a test. And this young girl was so rude. She must have been friends with the next girl in the glass module. And she said, “Oh, my god, they must need help pretty bad in this joint,” she said, “because having this old lady go for seconds.” And I thought I was going to collapse.

And I don’t know, when somebody does that, something like that to me, I don’t fight, you know? And I really kinda gain my senses again. But there’s, like, maybe an anger in me that kind of motivates me, and it brings up the tiger in my tank. And I decided, “I am going to pass this test.” So I take the typing test again. And I knew I did better. And I actually thought I passed. So I went back and he closes the door of his office. And he said, “How do you think you did, Jean?” And I said, “Well, I think I did better. I might have passed, but I’m not sure.” He said, “Well, you didn’t,” he was very serious, “Well, you didn’t.” He said, “You’re five words off.” And he said, “But, Jean, who knows that, only you and I behind a closed door.” And he said, “And I want you at this company. And I can’t give you another test in another department.” So he said, “So you’re staying here. You passed the test.”

He said, “Here’s the story. We’re thinking of firing an employee because he’s a problem. And he’s already gotten two notices. And he gets one more. And he’s out of a job. And it’s called an international department,” he said. “And so what I’m going to do is make you an extra clerk in the International Filing Department. And all day long, all you’re going to do is file international files. Now, you’re not allowed to speak to anyone, you’re not allowed to bring in magazines. It’s a very boring job,” and he said, “And maybe possibly up to a month,” he said, “you might have that job. And if not, I’m going to get you a job,” he said. But meanwhile, he said, “I think that’s gonna be very interesting for you from what I can gather.”

And so, all right, I was in this department. And it was like a long closet, just a little wider than a closet. I couldn’t breathe well. But anyway, by the third week, I was getting headaches. And I said, “I can’t do this.” So I went in and I said, “I’m sorry, sir, you’ve tried so hard, but I really can’t do it.” “One more week, Jean,” he went like that. “Well, oh, gosh, this guy has been good to me. I have to listen.” So I go back and one more week. And all of a sudden, he puts me into this international department. Well, it ended up I was a clerk there. And they taught me everything. And I had a wonderful, wonderful boss. She was German and she was right to the point. Everything had to be perfect. And she would go over and over, “No, you missed this, this, that, and the whole thing.”

So anyway, it ended up that she had to go take care of her father in Germany because he was very ill. And by the second year, they approached me and they said, “Would you like to be the head of this department until Emily comes back?” And I said, “Oh, my god, I don’t have the skills to do this.” And, “Oh, yes, you do. We’ve been getting very good comments about you all through the department. You have a very good attitude, you’re very quiet, you get things done, and stuff.” So all right, I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” So anyway, while she was gone 6 to 8 weeks, and a couple of the presidents, there was 21 presidents where those young ladies were, and they start getting together. And they wanted me to take Emily’s place when she came back because she was a little hard to get along with with other people. But she was an excellent worker. And she was a good person. And she was a single mom taking care of her child.

And so anyway, when they approached me if I would want her job in the future, I said, “Absolutely not. I couldn’t live with myself if I took a job away from a single parent.” And meanwhile, I didn’t tell them at the time because this was only in the second year. I’m goal-oriented, so I wanted to go into New York after the third year. And meanwhile, I figured I needed a little education here. So in the evenings, $18 a semester in Queens in a community college. So I got my associate’s degree in business in that three-year span of time. And then I left the company. And everybody was sad to see me leave. And one of the gifts that Mort gave me was this rag doll.

And I was looking at it and laughed. And he said, “Well, don’t you like it? You’re not saying anything.” I said, “May I ask you the truth, sir?” And he said, “Sure.” And I said, “May I ask you why a rag doll? If there’s some type of significance to it or something, or is it just funny, or what?” I said, “I don’t seem to understand.” He said, “Because you have a very colorful personality. And I knew that you would be able to do the job. And I knew that you weren’t going to stay here a long time, because,” he said, “I knew that you were going to be somewhere else.” He said, “You’re gonna do big things, Jeannie.” And I said to myself, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And I thanked him. And I stayed in touch with him for about seven years. But when I went on to the next job, and the next job was coordination, and teaching, and doing manuals for traffic management to show people in the 10 divisions how to run an export department.

So with that job, it was at 345 Park Avenue, it was King Corporation. It was their corporate office where the person that is skilled in that discipline monitors and controls 10 divisions. And I stayed there for three years. But meanwhile, while I stayed there, I had… My director there was from Argentina, and he was crazy, wonderful crazy. So when I’d go on business trips, he would rent sport cars for me. And then I had an incident where I had to go to the renting agency to find out how to start the ignition and to practice in the parking lot before I went on the highway in Greenville, Tennessee. And then I started a network for women in those years because who wants to stay with the president of the division four days in a row? He didn’t want me as much as I didn’t want him.

And so I start talking to the traffic managers. So when they would come to New York, I would go and entertain them, and they would do so in their division. And then my real dream was to work for Fortune 500. And after three years, I applied to W.R. Grace. And that was my dream. I was accepted and it was a career that I stayed with them until they relocated to Boca. And I really wanna say, here’s to Mort High for giving me a chance of having an ordinary business career and to an extraordinary one.

July 22, 2020 Okay. I'm taking the question, a stranger who had an impact on your life. After being home 22 years as a home...an at-home mom, I decided that I'd like to go to the workfo...

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