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Difference Maker: Shirley Clark

Shirley Clark of Greensboro has been retired from the Gadsden County Extension Service since 1999 but still sees people who recognize her as someone who was once a part of their life.

She now lives in Greensboro with her husband, B. Scott, where they raised their two children – now “grown and flown.”

“I find this so humbling yet rewarding,” Clark said, reflecting on the almost thirty years she spent working with families, helping to make their lives better.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and a master’s from Florida A&M. She worked a few years at Talquin Electric Company as a home service advisor, but the rest of her career – beginning in 1961 – was with the Extension Service, mostly in Gadsden County, but with a few years in neighboring Liberty County.

What made you choose this career?
Well, I belonged to 4-H, which turned me in that direction. Mainly, though, as happens in so many cases, I was influenced by a teacher. I had the most wonderful home economics teacher, Miss Montgomery. She didn’t just teach us to cook and sew – or ‘stir and stitch,’ as they say; she taught us so much more about running a home. I upholstered my first chair in her class.

What does a home demo/extension person do?
It has evolved over time. In the early days we were called home demo agents because we went into the homes to teach sewing, upholstery, making draperies and so on. We taught them to use new appliances such as blenders and microwaves. We worked to improve their homes and home life. Other entities were not doing those things then. Later, the name changed to Extension Service which provides educational programs for adults pertaining to home and family life. The latter part of my career was mostly teaching people to work in child care centers and then how to get certified. I also taught child care centers how to get certified.

Do you have an especially interesting or unique home visit you’d like to mention?
I can’t really think of one. Each was interesting and unique in its own way.
I understand that your career skills come in handy in one of your many church activities. Tell me about the prayer quilt group.
This is such a good activity for our community. We make prayer quilts for people who have lost someone, who are sick or those who just have problems. Each time we tie an embroidery knot, we say a prayer for that person.

What do you miss most about your job?
That’s easy. I miss the people. I spent all those years working with people and I miss them.

What do you think Gadsden County residents don’t know but should know about the Extension Service?
I want people to know that they have a lot of good programs. The Extension Service has been around a long time but many residents aren’t aware of it. We all need to help get the word out.

By Judy Conlin