Edna Gibbs: Volunteering Fills My Soul
“Well, I’ve had cancer three times. And, I’m still here, so I figure God wants me to give back,” says Edna Gibbs of Milford.
Edna was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Then, in 2006 when the cancer returned, she underwent surgery and radiation therapy.
“I thought that was it. I was done with this cancer thing,” she says with a chuckle. “But, that was not to be. God had other plans.”
In 2016, Edna went in for her routine colonoscopy and found out she had advanced colon cancer.
“The doctor was shocked. I was shocked. But, I told myself, I’m going to be just fine,” Edna recalls.
Following surgery and treatment at Beebe’s Tunnell Cancer Center near Rehoboth Beach, Edna said she knew it was time for another new journey for her life. “I’m blessed to still be here and I was blessed with great experiences at Beebe, so I was drawn to volunteering. I wanted to give back to the people who gave me so much.”
Edna signed up with Beebe Volunteer Services and went through orientation to volunteer at Tunnell Cancer Center.
Not Her First New Journey
Edna Gibbs, now 63, was born and raised in Sussex County. She is one of 15 children born by her mother.
“My older four siblings were born at home. I was the fifth and my parents intended to have me at a hospital, but didn’t make it. I was born in the backseat of our car,” Edna chuckles. “My younger 10 siblings were all born at Beebe.”
As you can imagine, growing up with 15 children in the house could be challenging. “It was loud and maybe sometimes crazy, but there was always love. Our house was full of love,” Edna recalls.
Edna attended elementary school at Millsboro 204. Then in fifth grade, schools were being integrated and she completed fifth and sixth grade at schools in Lewes. In fifth grade, the students met at Army barracks that used to exist on the site of what is now Shields Elementary School. In sixth grade, she and her classmates went to school in what is now the Consortium building.
“I remember it being good times back then,” Edna said. “We would do our schooling and we would walk to the high school for lunch and library.”
After sixth grade, Edna returned to Millsboro and attended Sussex Central.
She dropped out when, at age 16, she had her first child. She would go on to have four children – two boys and then twins, a boy and a girl.
“I worked part-time jobs at poultry companies and in daycares while my kids were little,” Enda recalls. “There was always work that I could find that I enjoyed.”
As her eldest started to get closer to high school, Edna told herself that she couldn’t let him get a diploma before she did. She completed her GED at James H. Groves Adult High School in Georgetown in 1986.
“When I graduated with my GED, I was working for Allen Family Foods and I told myself, this degree means it is time for a new journey,” Edna said. “I went downtown Lewes and applied at the New Devon Inn as a housekeeper. They liked me and I liked it there, so after I gave my two weeks, I started working as a housekeeper.”
Edna loved the work and the feeling of doing a good job helping customers at the hotel. She worked there until 1998 when she needed more flexibility to help take care of her father.
She did private housekeeping and worked part-time with a travel-cleaning company, eventually getting a job cleaning at the Stockley Center in 2000.
“It’s all good work if you like what you are doing and the people you are doing it with,” Edna said. During this time, she also worked part-time for Beebe.
In 2003, she had the opportunity to work for Walmart near Rehoboth Beach and took it. She started as a cleaner, eventually moving up to floor associate and cashier.
“It was fantastic. Now, I had all the customers I ever needed!” Edna said with a big smile. “I even met Hoda!”
During a trip to the area, Hoda Kotb, popular Today Show host, was given a tour around Walmart and Edna got to accompany her.
Time to Give Back
“I’ve had a great life and I just know it is becoming my time to give back,” Edna said. “I will be helping out at Tunnell and I look forward to bringing smiles to all their faces – just like they did for me when I was there for treatments.”
Giving back is a core part of Edna’s faith. As a member of The Bible Church of Christ in Dagsboro, Edna gives her cleaning and organizing skills freely, regularly helping tidy up the church. She also serves as a Deaconness and Sunday School teacher.
“It’s all about teaching the children – I just love working with the little ones,” she says. “I always talk about the importance of giving back, but it’s more than just something you should do. I get more out of volunteering my time than I ever imagined. It fills my heart and my soul.”