“I’ve been here for so long that I’m just like one of the fixtures,” Ferguson said on Thursday, one day shy of her retirement.
Ferguson is one of the store’s original employees. She sought the job shortly before the opening in 1990.
One of her sons had already been hired, and she asked him to see if there was something there for her to do.
“He came home and said, ‘Mother, you can do anything they’ve got to do down there.’ So I said, ‘Bring me an application,’” said Ferguson, who is now 82.
As the mother of six, Ferguson’s work had usually been confined to the home. However, after losing both of her parents within days of each other in 1972, she went to work at Eldridge Children’s Home to help her get through her grief.
After 10 years there, she relocated to the sewing factory in Carbon Hill.
Ferguson was between jobs when the thrift store came to Jasper in 1990.
Her husband was battling terminal cancer, and she went with him to each treatment until the last one because she had to report to work.
Ferguson’s husband passed away four months later.
In the past 23 years, Ferguson has gained experience in every job and department in the thrift store.
Her current position is as a floor worker. Amid the rows of clothes and bargain bins, Ferguson sees a mission field.
“I have such a great opportunity to witness to people. I’ve hugged a lot of necks, prayed a lot of prayers, had my neck hugged a lot of times and I’ve seen lots of prayers answered,” she said.
Customers from several surrounding counties tell Ferguson that they drive all the way to Jasper just to see her.
Most would never suspect the long list of health problems that she overcomes in order to be there.
Ferguson has continued to work because she loves the opportunity to interact with people. However, she recently slowed down to part-time status and decided to retire on Friday.
“I’ve got two sons who have retired already, and I’m still working. I said, ‘Something’s wrong with this picture,’” she said.
Her plans for her spare time include visiting her sister in Texas, scrapbooking, writing and being more involved with her family and church.