Answering the call: Betty Gaylor reminisces on ‘blessed’ life as Huntsville volunteer

single-meta-cal August 9, 2022

Giving back to her community is part of Betty Gaylor’s nature. In fact, you could say it’s a calling – literally.

Newspaper clipping from 1977

Gaylor saved many mementos of her volunteer work, including this photo with former Mayor Joe Davis.

“The people from St. Jude’s and other different organizations kept calling me and wanted me to be a volunteer for my neighborhood,” Gaylor recalled. “They kept on and kept on until I said, ‘Yes.’ That got me started and kept me going to where I am now.”

A life marked by years of service

Gaylor, 83, pointed to a newspaper clipping that has yellowed with age. On it is a picture of Gaylor, two young leukemia patients from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and former Huntsville Mayor Joe Davis. A caption underneath gives details for the upcoming 1977 telethon hosted by WAAY to benefit St. Jude’s.

Gaylor has kept the clipping since 1977 as one of the many mementos of her volunteer work in Huntsville.

I just like people. I never met a stranger. – Betty Gaylor

About the same time, Gaylor also received a call from the March of Dimes, and she said yes to their volunteer request, too. She said yes despite the many commitments of a single mother raising a young son while working full-time at Huntsville Utilities and part-time at Sears.

From her time as an Honor Flight guardian for WWII veterans traveling to Washington, D.C., to years of community work through Beta Sigma Phi, Gaylor has a long history of volunteerism in Huntsville. She currently serves on the Huntsville Beautification Board, Community Development Advisory Board, Community Emergency Recovery Team (CERT) and Holiday Homes Neighborhood Association. She even finds time to volunteer with Huntsville’s Green Team, all while working for a local law firm.

“I just like people,” Gaylor said with a shrug. “I never met a stranger.”

The blessings of volunteerism

Perhaps it was this accommodating and helpful attitude that recently propelled Gaylor into action – and the news – when she noticed a man struggling with his groceries while leaving Walmart on Jordan Lane.

“He had a case of water in his wheelchair and was carrying several bags,” Gaylor said. “He couldn’t walk very easily, it was dark and it was about to pour down rain.”

Concerned by what she saw, Gaylor struck up a conversation with Reginald Rice, who has multiple sclerosis, and discovered he was planning to start the 20-minute walk home, pushing his groceries the whole way. That’s when she called the police and asked them to help him get home safely. Huntsville Police responded and Gaylor parted ways with him.

When I help people, I feel blessed. – Gaylor

Several weeks later, WHNT’s Jerry Hayes ran a feel-good story on the incident. During the segment, Gaylor can be seen speaking with Rice and police officers in security camera footage from the store.

Whether through a simple act of kindness out of concern for another person, or a more formal volunteer effort through an organization, Gaylor said helping people keeps her going.

Summarizing why she answered the call from St. Jude’s years ago and why she continues to answer the call today, Gaylor’s answer was simple yet evocative.

“When I help people, I feel blessed,” she said.

And we are blessed to have a woman like Betty Gaylor call Huntsville home.

Visit the City of Huntsville’s website for more information on volunteer opportunities with City boards and commissions.