Spencer church raises money to bury homeless woman

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rowan County was the first place Jennifer Wofford said she’d ever felt at home, but she didn’t have a chance to enjoy her new home for very long — she passed away just months after leaving a local battered women’s shelter.
Now, members at First Baptist Church in Spencer want to make sure she receives a proper burial.
The 41-year-old woman fled her abusive partner in Atlanta, and with the help of a shelter, she found herself in Salisbury, according to church members.
Wofford eventually had to leave the shelter, but with her application for disability funding still pending, she was left with nowhere to go.
That’s when she turned to Bob and Pat Schmidt for help.
Wofford frequented their antique shop in Spencer, and the couple spent time talking to her and getting to know her.
“When she smiled it was kind of like a glow, you know. You could see her love for God when she looked at you and smiled,” Pat Schmidt said. “I don’t know how to explain that.”
Wofford told them she had left the battered women’s shelter and didn’t have anywhere to stay. Wofford had suffered extreme physical and emotional abuse, Schmidt explained, adding that it led to some mental problems as well.
“The way she’d been beaten, it was a wonder she could even walk,” she added.
The couple decided to take her into their home. In return, she helped at the antique store by moving furniture around, greeting customers and helping clean up.
“She was a hard worker. She’d do anything we’d tell her to do,” Schmidt said. “She made friends real easy. Everyone that met her liked her.”
Wofford was a “special person,” she added. “She gripped your heart and made you want to help her.”
Several days before her death, Wofford went to the hospital for kidney problems but was released and told to go to a specialist.
“She was sick and we didn’t realize how sick she was,” Schmidt said.
Wofford didn’t have the money to go to a specialist, but continued to feel poorly.
On the morning of July 9, the Schmidts planned to take her back to the hospital, but Wofford passed away before they had a chance.
More than a week after Wofford’s death, several First Baptist Church members heard Wofford’s story and wanted to help.
“We didn’t have anywhere to bury her,” Schmidt said.
Bob Schmidt approached the church, shared Wofford’s story and asked them if there was a way to hold a memorial service for her.
“Her whole story touched me,” said Marie Lomax, adding she felt that if Wofford touched so many people’s lives, she should have a proper burial.
So, Lomax began looking for a way to make Wofford’s burial and memorial a possibility. She donated a cemetery plot and raised funds to cover the rest of the burial costs.
“She’ll be buried on the same plot as my great-grandparents, my grandparents and my father,” Lomax said.
Community members donated anywhere from $5 to $100, but Lomax said she’s still trying to cover the final burial costs.
Any extra funds received will go to the battered women’s shelter.
“It’s wonderful to know there are still people like that in the world,” Schmidt said.
First Baptist Church in Spencer will hold a memorial service for Wofford Sunday during its 11 a.m. service with a luncheon afterward.