Helping those less fortunate is as common as breathing to Betty Smith.
Working as a cashier at the Sav-A-Lot Grocery, located in Harlan at 93 Industrial Park Road, Smith has spent the last three and a half years working there to help make ends meet.
“I’ve worked all my life and I don’t think I could just sit home and not work,” said Smith, 56, of Harlan. “Besides, during these tough times, every little bit helps.”
Smith said the one thing she loves best about working in a grocery is the interaction she has with with her customers.
“My customers are like family,” said Smith. “Some come in once a day, some once a week and some only once a month. They tell me if they are sick, lost a companion or loved one and things like that. So, you get close to them. I recently lost a loved one and I was off work for several days. While I was gone, one of my customers came in and asked about me and actually cried when they were told I had lost a loved one. That’s the closeness you feel. I care about them and they care about me. I love my customers.”
While she might be listed as a cashier, Smith admits you can call her a counselor of sorts.
“I’m a good listener and I try to offer everyone a smile and word of encouragement,” she said. “There is a lot more to working in a grocery store than just standing here and checking customers out. Every now and then you might get a customer that tries to be a little mean, but it’s one out of a hundred. Most days are pleasant and without incident.”
Smith said sees firsthand how the economy is bad for a lot of people in our county. “I see it as they come through the register to buy food,” she said. “Some used to be able to buy more and are now having to buy less. Some have to use food stamps because they have lost their jobs.
“Sometimes, if people don’t have enough to pay for their groceries, I take money out of my own pocket to pay the difference. If I’ve got it — I will help. If I see a little child wanting something and their parents can’t afford it, I’ll do my best to get it for them. I have a soft spot for children.”
Smith previously worked five years for Mack’s Grocery as a cashier. She also worked for Don’s Super Saver for a period of 12 years and for Kmart as a cashier. She said she is fortunate to have wonderful co-workers, which she considers to be a part of her family.
“It’s hard standing on your feet — you get tired, but a job is a job and if you have a job now in Harlan County you better hold onto it, because there are 10 more standing in line to get that job,” said Smith.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org