Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — When Carrie H. Mitchell was a child in Alabama, her whole family cared for those less fortunate.
Her parents would let people live on the family’s farmland until they could afford to pay rent. Her grandparents fed those who had no food with the extra produce from the fields.
And then, there were the weekends. Her grandmother would send the young ones off to lend a hand to whatever neighbor needed assistance. “You had to go help somebody every weekend,” Mitchell recalled with a smile.
While it may sound unnatural to immerse children in service work, it certainly set the tone for Mitchell’s life.
The former home economics teacher, active still in so many community agencies from the United Way to the Niagara Falls Public Library, is being presented with the YWCA of Niagara’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mitchell has devoted years of service to her community because, “I love my community and I was taught to support where I live.”
Her affection for the Niagara Region was, originally, hard won. She first came to Niagara Falls with her new husband to visit her aunt, and she was not thrilled when her husband wanted to stay. It was just too hard to think about leaving her family in Alabama. But, stay the young couple did. Her husband, Mathews, took a job with Union Carbide. Carrie became a home economics teachers with the Niagara Falls School District.
She loved her work. Her classes, taught to both boys and girls, were never just about pie-making and sewing. She also taught about preparation for marriage, child growth and development and other life skills that she believes today’s children aren’t learning in school. “There was so much living taught in those classes,” she said.
Since her retirement she has immersed herself even further into volunteering. She’s a strong supporter of the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where she received an award for her work to support the new Heart Center. She has recently joined the board of directors at the Niagara Falls Public Library. But, her favorite agency is the United Way.
“I love the United Way. It does the most with the least,” she said during a recent interview in her Hyde Park Boulevard area home.
And, that feeling is mutual according to Carol Houwaart-Diez, president of the United Way, who as a young business manager for the organization was inspired by Mitchell to get a college degree to achieve her goals. “Every woman needs someone like Carrie to inspire her and encourage her,” Houwaart-Diez said. “Everyone she meets, young and old, she does that.”
“She’s somebody who is always there,” added Jane Schroeder, a board member at the YMCA. “She quietly goes about and does her job and she is just the epitome of what we should all strive for.”
Mitchell, who never had children of her own, concentrated her energy on other people’s children, from her nieces and nephew, to her godchildren, to her students and beyond. “They all belong to us,” she said of the children. “Every child belongs to all of us.”
Mitchell’s award is the top honor at the 2012 “Tribute to Women” being sponsored by the Y. There are also 31 nominees from the Niagara Region being spotlighted for their service to their communities at the dinner, which is being held at 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Conference Center Niagara Falls.Contact Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.