Each month this year I will tell the story of a strong woman on a journey. We’ve of course adopted that as part of our tagline at OUTsideIN. The phrase “Strong Women on a Journey Making Travel Gear for Yours” has become an important part of our brand as it perfectly describes not only the fact that we make gear for travel but that the women who make it are on a journey to reinvent their lives. One of these women is Mrs. Doris Weatherly, a widowed octogenarian from Sassafras Ridge near Hickman, Kentucky. 

I remember the day I got a phone call from her. It was 2014 and I was in Colorado with my daughter, preparing to hike in the Rockies. She told me she had just read an article about OUTsideIN and was interested in volunteering at our workshop. By this time, we had already had several volunteers who came in on a weekly basis and I was well acquainted with how effective they can be in modeling the kind of workplace behaviors that help our employees see that work can be a joyful, fulfilling  experience.  Let’s face it, some workplaces just don’t foster that attitude.  We know that ours must.  So, we’re always looking for women who have the kind of servant heart that allows them to work alongside other women who may have a completely different life experience from them.

I didn’t know Miss Doris, as we came to call her, and she didn’t know me. She read a newspaper account of a talk I made at a local church, but she wasn’t in the audience. I think she just knew she could sew, speak encouraging words and mentor, and was simply looking for an organization in need of those skills. She came to the right place!  For over five years she has faithfully driven over to Troy one morning a week from her home, a journey takes least 45 minutes one way. She has done basically every job in the workshop and has sewn on every machine we have. Plenty of times she has taken fledgling projects home with her, like the “Days for Girls’ hygiene kits and the Angel Gowns. She cheerfully returns the next week with completed items that she must have worked on the entire time she was gone to have completed so quickly.

A couple of years ago, Miss Doris got very sick and had to be hospitalized. The infection she had was serious and frankly, I doubted she would be able to return to us. I should have known better. After a few months’ recovery, she was her old self again and hard at work. We also had to give her a little time off in 2018 to take a trip to the Holy Lands with a local church group. She told us all about it upon her return and clearly it was a dream come true for her to be in the same place as her Lord had walked. 

And while that was certainly the journey of a lifetime, it’s not that journey that I’m talking about today.  Just last week I got a text (yes, Miss Doris texts) telling me that she thought it was time to stop making her weekly trip to Troy. I was certainly sad to receive this news but could not fault her for the decision one little bit. We have enjoyed the fruits of her giftedness for several years now and we want to unselfishly say we understand that it might not be the best thing for her anymore. 

So in the case of Miss Doris, I’m using the term “journey” in the metaphorical sense that her whole life has been a quest to live each day to the fullest, serving, loving, teaching and caring for each person God has put in her path. We are thankful that this journey brought her to our little workshop and want her to know how much she will be missed here. We might even try to go on a journey of our own someday to visit her at Sassafras Ridge if we can get our GPS to find it.

LeEllen Smith, Founder

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