From Library Patron to Volunteer 
to Part-time Receptionist!

By Mary Giunca

One day in March 2017, Cynthia Shipp was sitting at home when she decided to go out and get a library card. She chose the Southside Branch of the Forsyth County Public Library because she had grown up in the area and graduated from Parkland High School.

Shipp, who had a challenging career in healthcare, had been injured several years earlier when she caught her arm in a door. She was on disability for reflex systemic deformity (RSD), which causes constant pain in her hand and arm, and requires her to wear a brace on her left hand.

“I’m a person who stays positive,” Shipp said. “I’m going to keep pushing forward. Life doesn’t stop. I have to deal with the chronic pain. I live with it. Eat with it. Sleep with it.”

At the Southside library, Shipp met Rhonda Smith, who works for the Forsyth County Public Library. Shipp asked for Smith’s help in getting a library card. The two women started talking and felt like old friends. Smith asked Shipp about the brace she wore, and Shipp told her about her injury, and how she sat at home all day and missed the work she used to do.

Smith asked Shipp if she’d like to volunteer as her assistant. Smith is the coordinator of the Computer Training Bridge, a program that promotes digital literacy by offering computer classes at county libraries and other locations. Shipp liked the idea of returning to a customer service role and being able to keep her computer skills up-to-date. She had always enjoyed working.

Shipp had graduated from Miller-Motte Business College in 1991, with certification to be a unit secretary in the healthcare field. She cultivated a spirit of camaraderie in school and enjoyed using her organizational skills to help other students study for tests.

“Make friends with people who share your values,” she said. “You never leave a brother by the wayside.”

After graduation, Shipp got a job transcribing doctor’s orders and filling out patients charts at a local hospital. She then moved on to scheduling surgeries. She spent 16 years in that job and enjoyed the challenge of providing excellent customer service in a stressful, fast-paced environment.

“It’s a challenge to maintain yourself and stay calm,” she said. “I bit my tongue so much I’m surprised I can still talk.”

Shipp raised a son and a daughter and enjoys keeping up with her three grandchildren. She’s a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church. Her injury set her back, she said, but it never made her quit. “You have to take control of the situation,” she said. “You can’t let the situation take control of you.”

When Shipp started out volunteering at the library in March 2017, she impressed Smith.

“Cynthia is a self-starter,” Smith said. “She’s dependable and she’s got a great personality.”

Smith was so impressed with Shipp’s work ethic that she worked with the Winston-Salem Urban League to arrange for Shipp to work a 20-hour a week paid job through the Senior Community Service Employment Program. Shipp started that job in June of this year and continues to assist Smith and work as a receptionist. She feels like she’s found her home.

“Even though I’m limited, I stay focused. I get my job done,” Shipp said. “When I leave here, everything is done.”

Mary Giunca is the public information officer for the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Library.

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