Lawrence credits faith, constant energy for her community work

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

Isabel Lawrence knows how to dedicate herself to a task.

The female winner of the Lee County Community Foundation’s second annual Man and Woman of the Year award was a Sunday school teacher for more than a half century, has been involved with the Brush and Palette Club for more than 40 years and still works as an ambassador for Temple Theatre, of which she was one of the founding members.

Lawrence, 84, was also instrumental in the building of the new Lee County Library and helped found Sanford’s t.l.c home inc., which cares for severely disabled children. And she’s not done yet; after attending First Baptist Church for 65 years, she’s set to be confirmed at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in February — the start of yet another spiritual journey for a woman who said her faith has been one of the largest factors in her community service, which she contends really isn’t all that special.

“Well, I wondered why I was being chosen because I haven’t done anything exceptional at all,” she said. “I’ve just done the things that have come in my life, and I’ve enjoyed every single thing. ... I guess it’s just that I’ve lived longer than most.”

As a member or founder of at least 16 different clubs, groups and educational organizations, she said many of the things she became involved in were due to something in her personal life that made her aware of an opportunity to help others.

The t.l.c. home, for instance, came about when one of her grandsons was born with extreme developmental disabilities. She realized then that many other local families in similar circumstances had to drive an hour or more to get to the nearest care facilities in Raleigh. So she and her husband, the late Bill Lawrence, successfully petitioned for government funding and private donations. After that, local families with disabled children didn’t have to send them away for care.

“The thing is to just go ahead and jump into the area that is appealing to you and that you would like to help out with,” she said. “You don’t have to know anything ahead of time. If you’re a willing, warm body that has the energy and the interest to do it, you just jump in and do it.”

She added that Christians like herself should also shape their service around biblical instructions, especially those to help the less fortunate.

“With this kind of attitude, you can do anything you want,” she said.