Spreading her generosity

Barbara Fisher offers free clothing to those in need out of Jo-Lo's Automotive Center. Fisher used to operate out of her east Gainesville home but storage for the items became too much.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 2:39 p.m.
Barbara Fisher's generosity can be traced back to her upbringing in Lake Butler, where she and her 15 siblings learned the true meaning of sharing and benefited from the generosity of others.
Now 66, Fisher is spreading her generosity by offering clothing free of charge to those that need it out of JoLo's Automotive Center at 3530 SE Hawthorne Road.
"It's not about the building, but about helping people. Everything here is free. I just ask those who come to pass the word. The joy from giving helps me go with the flow," Fisher said. "I don't care about the surroundings, the tires or the auto work being done nearby."
Fisher started the clothing giveaway in her east Gainesville home and wanted to expand, so she approached Joseph Rentz, owner and manager of JoLo's Automotive Center.
Rentz said, "It's a great thing. It's part of our ministry here. We talked about it, and I told her to come on in and I set up a place for her. We do a lot of community service here. Barbara is diligent. She has hopes of going further and expanding. We hope to have a food pantry soon."
His wife, Lorene Rentz, said the clothing giveaway is in a good location for the community access.
Fisher explained why she thinks her clothing giveaway is so important.
"I do this because people don't have money, but they want to look nice. They want their children to look nice and clean. No matter what color we are, we're all God's children. I pour my heart into what I can," Fisher said.
She continued: "It is a joy doing things for people. That's my dream. You have to start somewhere. You have to crawl before you walk."
Fisher takes the donated clothes to her home and launders them, sometimes causing her utilities' bill to skyrocket.
Back at the giveaway site, sweaters are neatly stacked in one corner, shoes of all sizes and style are lined up on a nearby table, and women's suits and dresses are arranged on one side, while men's clothing and household items are in another area. Children's clothing is also available.
"I'm very particular about what I give people," Fisher said, adding she spends time washing and making presentable pots, pans and other household items that are donated.
Fisher is a mother of seven children, two deceased. One child died in a car accident, another in a home fire. She said she learned not to question God. She believes she was made stronger and her faith has encouraged her to help others.
Kisha Hicks, one of her helpers at the clothing giveaway, agrees. Her husband is a mechanic at JoLo's Automotive Center and she frequently assists Fisher by folding and straightening donated clothing.
"Ms. Fisher is a sweetheart, and everything she's been through has helped her. This is God's way for her to give back. It was something that was already in the making," Hicks said.
Fisher came from a family of 16 children in Lake Butler, and said that is what instilled in her a sense of sharing and not believing in waste. She said that when growing up, even though much of their clothing was secondhand, they looked their best when going to school and church. She kept that philosophy when she moved to Gainesville in 1950.
"I'm blessed from growing up in Lake Butler. We had a lot of food and a lot of love and that's all you need," Fisher said.
Fisher said she often worked several jobs to keep herself busy and to keep food on the table for her family. She worked as a housekeeper for the family of James G. Richardson for more than 45 years. She also worked at Tacachale in Gainesville before being injured and becoming unable to work.
When she isn't working at the clothing giveaway six days a week, Fisher loves to cook and bake. She also attends church at Southeast Tenth Avenue Church of Christ and volunteers at local hospitals.
She spends any spare time with her family, which includes 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, with an eighth on the way. She also visits thrift stores and yard sales to find clothing and household items for her clothing giveaway.
For donations to the clothing giveaway, contact Fisher at (352) 373-6567.
Teresa D. Southern can be contacted at southet@gvilleguardian.com or at (352) 337-0373.

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