September 11, 2002 - Fort Wayne Sentinel: Widow, 58, prepares for a new adventure as PCV in Ghana

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 09 September 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: September 11, 2002 - Fort Wayne Sentinel: Widow, 58, prepares for a new adventure as PCV in Ghana

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, October 14, 2002 - 12:28 pm: Edit Post

Widow, 58, prepares for a new adventure as PCV in Ghana

Read and comment on this story from the Fort Wayne Sentinel on Sylvia Goins who leaves for Africa later this month, beginning an adventure that first stirred her imagination when she was 19 and her dreams and energy knew no bounds. The years might have sapped some of that energy. But it has done nothing to slow her dreams. Read the story at:

Widow, 58, prepares for a new adventure*

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Widow, 58, prepares for a new adventure


Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - Sylvia Goins has rented out her house in Davidson, N.C.

She's put her things in storage.

She's got her high blood pressure under control.

She's made peace with having to say goodbye to her two sons and five grandchildren.

Nearly 40 years after life got in the way, the 58-year-old widow is about to join the Peace Corps.

Goins leaves for Africa later this month, beginning an adventure that first stirred her imagination when she was 19 and her dreams and energy knew no bounds. The years might have sapped some of that energy. But it has done nothing to slow her dreams.

"I can no longer offer my youth," Goins explained to the Peace Corps. "But I can offer my maturity, my work ethic and my love of mankind.

"I'm gonna try hard. My generation tries hard."

At 11a.m. Sunday, her fellow members at Trinity Fellowship, a Pentecostal congregation, honored Goins with prayers, a meal and an offering.

The lesson is obvious, said the Rev. Bill Phipps: "It's never too late in life to fulfill dreams."

Sept.17, she'll fly to Philadelphia for orientation and vaccinations, including for rabies.

Sept.19, she leaves for the West African nation of Ghana, where she is to spend two years living and working in a remote village. She has been promised a leak-proof roof, a bicycle and little else - no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no running water. A woman who last lived in the golf course community of River Run will take her baths in a bucket.

Despite an effort by the Peace Corps to recruit a more diverse group of volunteers, it's still a haven for young idealists seeking one final adventure before settling down. Only 7 percent of the 7,000 volunteers are age 50 or older. The average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is 29 - younger than Goins' two sons, Scott, 37, and Stephen, 32.

Some who know Goins have shouted "You go, girl!" while others have politely wondered, "What, are you nuts?"

Goins admits at this point to being more apprehensive than excited. She's just a woman who responded to the voice that first whispered to her a lifetime ago.

A native of Stokes County, 90 miles north of Charlotte, Goins was 19 when she asked her parents' permission to join the Peace Corps. She had just completed her freshman year at Georgia's Emmanuel College. Before she married and started a family, she figured it would be the perfect way to satisfy her taste for adventure.

But they said no, Goins recalled, "So I pursued another life."

She dropped out of college after one year and ran off to marry Vernon Goins. For 34 happy years, she helped raise a family and sustain their three businesses, including the Lake Norman Dairy Queen.

"I don't think he could have done it without me," she said. "I was always there, coming in behind him."

Plus, Goins added, "I can make a mean Blizzard."

It wasn't the Peace Corps, but she made time through the years to serve others. When she wasn't making shakes, keeping the books or mopping the floor, she was driving cancer patients to radiation treatment, helping out at church or sitting with a friend at the hospital.

In a keepsake tin where Goins stores pieces of writing that inspire her, she has a poem that sums up what she wants her life to be.

"Let me live in a house by the side of the road," poet Sam Walter Foss writes, "And be a friend to man."

Goins would have been perfectly content to go on like this.

But then Vernon Goins died of an aneurysm on Jan. 5, 1998, while they were having supper with relatives at the K&W Cafeteria in Greensboro, N.C. "If I had had just one minute to tell him I love him and goodbye,'' she says.

He was 56, survived by a widow who didn't want to spend the rest of her life running the family business by herself.

So more than four years after his death - and after several months of serious thought and prayer - Goins made up her mind to join the Peace Corps.

She dreads the thought of going two years with perhaps just one visit home to see her sons' families (she'll have to pay her own way). She's not sure what she'll be doing in Ghana. She worries about learning a new language; her memory isn't what it used to be, she said.

But of this Goins is certain:

She is about to do something that's hard. Something that matters. Something she meant to do a long time ago.

"To live your life safely and not fulfilled " she says, looking as if she just swallowed a lemon.

"I just want the things I do in life to stand.

"No more wasting time."


(Ken Garfield is the religion editor at The Charlotte Observer. Write to him at: The Charlotte Observer, 600 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28232.)


© 2002, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Visit The Charlotte Observer on the World Wide Web at

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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