Turning the Corner
An act of kindness opens a whole new world for Longview volunteer
For 10 years, Sondra Gibson didn’t have a vehicle.
To get around town, she caught the bus. Or asked someone for a ride. Or just walked.
That changed last December when she got the keys to her very own Chevy Aveo.
Looking to give back
It all started with Doug Edwards, a longtime Whataburger Family, who created a relationship between Whataburger and the Longview Dream Center. Based in Longview, Texas, the Dream Center provides food, clothing, computer classes and job training to those in need.
“They just find people that truly need help, and they help them,” says Edwards, who oversees operations of the city’s Whataburger restaurants through the Whataburger of East Texas franchise. “That’s what we like to do, too, so it made sense to work with them.”
During a Whataburger-sponsored holiday event, Edwards experienced firsthand the gratitude of the Longview clients. That inspired him to make a considerable personal donation: a car.
Give it to someone who can use it, he told the executives of the center.
They knew just the person: Sondra Gibson.
Gibson came to the Longview Dream Center as a client. “I used to be a drug addict,” she says. “I’ve been homeless before. Now, I’ve been sober for four years.”
She credits the change, in large part, to the Dream Center. “When I came in, they treated me like I was OK,” she says. “There was no judgment. They were kind.”
Gibson began fighting her addiction and gaining control of her life. Then, she began volunteering. She came early. She stayed late.
Now, she’s the director of the center’s clothing program, manages more than 10,000 articles of clothing, shoes, and accessories given away each month. “She has the love for it,” says Shonna Barlow, the center’s executive director.
“I have a purpose every morning when I get up,” Gibson says.
A dream come true
Last December, Edwards turned the keys of his white Chevy over to the Dream Center, and Gibson became the proud owner of a vehicle for the first time in a decade. “I started shaking,” she says. “That they would pick me above everybody else to bless!”
Having a car means Gibson can visit her grandson and mom, both of whom live out of town. She can run to the store to pick up groceries, without items melting on the long bus ride home. She can make doctor’s appointments, attend church and help other volunteers or clients who might need a lift.
It’s given her independence.
And each day, before she turns the key, she still does a little prayer. “I think how blessed I am,” Gibson says. “Not a day goes by – not an hour – that I’m not blessed.”