From the Desk to the Driver’s Seat – Former ETBC Faculty Serves the Hispanic Community

Posted by Tiger Pride in Faculty/Staff

Virginia Hanna, former chair of the Foreign Language Department of then, East Texas Baptist College, stands in front of the white Neon she uses to drive people to appointments or shopping.

Driving carefully with both hands on the wheel, Virginia Hanna pulled out of Brookshire’s in her little white Neon. She noticed red and blue lights flashing behind her and pulls over to the side of the road.

“I didn’t know what I was in trouble for,” said Ms. Hanna.

She said as she rolled down the window and asked the officer what the problem was, he replied, “Ma’am, do you realize you were driving two miles an hour?”

“I didn’t know how I was going so slow and it surely didn’t feel like it,” she said. “But then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I was pulled over for driving too slow.”

Ms. Hanna has been pulled over three times for driving under the speed limit.

And she can be found most days driving a car filled with people – a line of traffic snaking slowly behind her.

Ms. Hanna is an 88 year-old Marshall resident and a fluent Spanish speaker.

“I have had contact with Spanish since I was 14 years old. And in high school, I took it because it fit with the schedule, and I liked it so I stayed with it,” she said.

After getting her Spanish degree in college, she decided to teach Spanish and wound up as a Spanish teacher for 44 years.

She moved to Marshall in 1968 to teach Spanish at East Texas Baptist University, where she was chairman of the Foreign Language Department for 15 years.

She also spent two years in Mexico, where she worked as a missionary.

“I mainly home schooled the children in Mexico,” she said. “So that is pretty good contact with Spanish.”

In 1995, a few years after she returned to Marshall, she was approached by Hispanic members of her church for help, since they knew she was fluent in the language.

“These Hispanics began to come here, and call on me. I would see them and speak to them, especially at church and then each one would tell the other one,” she said.

Today, Ms. Hanna helps out over 25 Hispanic families and she does it all for free.

“When they need help to go to a doctor’s office, or business conference, or to the bank, they would tell them about me,” she said.

She said that sometimes the people she helps will return the favor by cleaning her house or fixing her car.

“This one family does everything for me. A lady came here and cleaned the place front and back yesterday and they will not take a penny. She told me, ‘you haul us around enough,'” she said.

There are other families, she said, that actually ask her for money and even want her to fill up their own cars with gasoline.

“Well, a lot had the idea that all people here were rich, and they would ask me to buy them things,” she said. “Well, I let that go a little bit too far. Now I have to get out of a financial bind.

It is hard to say no when they say that they need medicine,” she added, “and they don’t have anything to eat, it is hard to turn them down.”

She said on a daily basis her phone does not stop ringing, and she spends the majority of her days picking up and taking people to places they need to be.

“Not many days I miss. It is not all work. It is a lot of going with them to business conferences, and getting medicine at the doctors office. But it is different places I drive them to,” she said.

She said she does have a disability tag on her car and frequently takes them to Wal-Mart, where she will sit and wait on the bench inside the store.

“I said Wa-Mart wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t show up. And I sit on the bench, while they do the shopping,” she said.

There is one aspect of Ms. Hanna that makes her even more unique. She was diagnosed about 10 years ago with bronchiectasis, and can only go without being on oxygen for an hour.

“I am doing okay with it. It is so much better since I have to have constant oxygen, Its doing just about the same, not any worse. It is just under control,” she said. “I would consider myself fairly healthy for my age. I try to follow my doctor’s instructions.”

She said one of her doctor’s orders was she was no longer allowed to drive at night. She still drives during the day with her oxygen cannister on her lap.

“The oxygen is hooked to a machine back in my bedroom, but when I leave the house, there is a heavy can that I have to carry out to my car,” she said.

She said it is hard for her to see over the oxygen tank when she drives – the reason she drives under the speed limit, which causes some of the children to pester her to drive faster.

“This one boy that I drive around always says ‘Hanna (that’s what they call me) can’t you go a little faster?’ And I tell him, ‘I can’t see to go any faster. If you don’t like my driving, why do you call me?'”

Although the little boy pesters her, she said one of the main reasons she continues helping out the families is for the children.

“I say I am going to stop, but they will call, and I have a hard time turning them down. Most children have to have Medicaid, and it is hard to get into offices that accept Medicaid. So I say that a lot of it is the children.”

She said she does not plan on stopping anytime soon, unless “something happens to her car.”

“It is difficult to say no, but I still enjoy it. A lot of times, at the end of the day, I am mighty glad to see my house and get some rest.

“But then when I get home, my phone often times rings at night, and it will be people asking if I am busy tomorrow.”

What a wonderful representation of service to a community and to Christ!  We are proud to have Ms. Hanna as a part of our Tiger Family.

Go Blue!

(Story and photo courtesy of the Marshall News Messenger, Reporter Hannah DeClerk, and Photographer Courtney Case)