Wineka column: For 18 years, Roxy Linker’s free time has gone to the Salvation Army
SALISBURY — This is not how most of us would spend our free time.
Roxy Linker reports to work at the Salisbury Army Family Store on Jake Alexander Boulevard at 9:30 a.m. daily and begins the tedium of sorting through donated clothing.
She usually stays until 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, working straight through. Linker prefers a corner in the back storeroom, next to a metal door that she props open for extra air.
The clothing comes in on hangers, in trash bags or in cardboard or plastic boxes. Linker and whatever helpers she might have — people from the WorkFirst program or high school kids looking to log community volunteer hours — try to move seven racks of new clothing to the floor every day.
Roxy says she can sometimes predict by reading the obituaries in the newspaper when certain men’s or women’s clothing will be coming in.
She doesn’t have a title or any official authority at the store, but the others look to her for guidance on what mountain they should tackle next. Or she instructs them on how to operate the baler for the clothing items deemed not worthy for sale.
So many store managers and Salvation Army captains and lieutenants have come and gone over her 18 years of volunteering, that Linker can’t count them.
That’s right — Roxy has sorted clothes for 18 years and done it for free.
“I like it,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to see day to day. A lot of time, I put in more hours than the ones who work here.”
Roxy likes to says she’s never been fired.
Since she suffered a stroke in 2007, Roxy has viewed her volunteer job of sorting clothes not only as a way to help others, but also as a chance to keep active and force her out of her house.
“I’ve got to have the exercise,” she says. “At home, I would just watch TV.”
She calls on her right hand, which moves a lot slower since the stroke, to do some of her work. She also puts in some walking, though her right side and her arthritic right knee in particular give her some trouble.
Roxy sometimes depends on a walking stick. She prefers to keep her age to herself.
“I haven’t been still long enough to get old,” she says.
You see, Roxy used to be an over-the-road truck driver, who owned her own company. From 1993 until her stroke in 2007, she drove tractor-trailers from North Carolina to California and back again with friend and fellow driver Bill Bryant, who died of cancer in 2011.
When she wasn’t on the road, she was volunteering at the Salvation Army store, first on South Main Street, and in recent years, on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
Service America, a food service company, employed Roxy before her truck-driving years, When she was even younger and living in Hickory, she worked in retail, selling clothes for Zayre and W.T. Grant stores.
“I sort of worked in clothes all the time when I was young,” Roxy says, explaining how she has come full circle.
Roxy and her husband, Larry, have lived on Briggs Road for more than 30 years. They adopted a daughter and had a child of their own, though Roxy claims to have raised plenty of others, including grandchildren and friends of their own children who were over at the Linkers’ house all the time.
“I’ve just been a giver,” she says.
Bryant taught Roxy how to drive a tractor-trailer. Her company bought two black-and-gold Peterbilt trucks new in California. She and Bryant wore out one of the Peterbilts, and Roxy sold the other one after Bryant’s death.
On their cross-country trips, which they could make in two days when they were pushing it, Roxy drove during the day, and Bryant took over for the nighttime driving.
Around North Carolina, Bryant would pick up the loads they would take west. Out in California, they loaded up fruits and vegetables to bring back to grocery stores here. Again, Bryant would do the deliveries.
“He was really my best friend,” Roxy says.
Her stroke had some warning signs, Linker says, looking back.
“I had not been feeling good,” she recalls. “I thought what in the world was that, but I kept on going.”
After the stroke, Roxy stayed in the hospital from Halloween to Thanksgiving in 2007, proving in her therapeutic sessions she could handle everyday tasks. But the days of driving her tractor-trailers were done.
“It was fun,” she says. “I miss it now.”
Later, Bryant’s illness came suddenly, too. He complained of stomach trouble one weekend, went to the hospital and learned things were serious. Within six months, he passed away.
Besides donating her time — no other Salvation Army volunteers come close to the hours she puts in — Roxy Linker contributes in other ways.
She donated, for example, the dock plate from her trucking company to the family store.
After getting home each day, Roxy will eat and rest awhile, but she never misses “Dr. Oz” on television.
“I don’t cook as much any longer,” she says.
When she and Larry go out for dinner, they like places such as the Golden Corral in Concord or places with an Asian influence.
Her given name is Margaret Roxanne, with the nickname “Roxy” coming from the middle name.
Looking back, Roxy thinks she has led an exciting life. She always was an outdoors, traveling kind of woman, she says.
Now that she spends more time inside sorting through clothes, Roxy still finds plenty of reward, knowing she’s helping others and herself.
“I guess I’ll be doing it until I can’t,” she says.
Remember, she’s never been fired.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.