Billeb is unlikely to ever really ‘retire’

Joy Ufford photo Bonnie Billeb stands with her Brazos walking stick outside her home in town, surrounded by flowers.

Bonnie Billeb keeps her Brazos walking stick close at hand these

days, whether to move through her light-filled home or go outside to nudge her tomato

plant into the sunshine. Her flowerbeds are filled with bright blooms and she points out

the rows planted for her by the children from Pinedale Bible Church.

Just as plants that need tending, Billeb has nurtured and cared for many different

people in many different ways – and always with the Lord in mind.

Her entire life is centered around teaching, whether to help special needs students

read, show Peruvian missionaries how to teach or tutor students one on one. Billeb also

has spent years teaching Sunday school classes in Pinedale.

“The Lord has just provided me with such a wonderful life,” she said.

Several summers ago, she traveled to Brazil to teach missionaries how to write in

English. There, she considered a Brazilian hardwood walking stick to help her up and

down steps. But Billeb kept moving on and returned to Pinedale without it.

Last year, she found this Brazos walking stick and took it with her to Uganda where

her nephew and his wife are missionaries with a church where the congregation members

dance in their wheelchairs, Gods’ GEMS Mission in Kampala.

“I walked over that ground,” Billeb said of the mission’s land. “Without that stick I

couldn’t have done it.”

She has begun phasing out of her longtime roles at the Pinedale Community Food

Basket, with Jaime Mills taking over the food distribution part of her job. Billeb isn’t

sure but believes she has worked there “somewhere around around 20 years.”

“I taught at the Christian school in the ‘90s and worked there then,” she recalled,

adding that some Food Basket board members and employees have been there for much

longer.

“The longevity at the Food Basket is incredible and I think that says something about

it – our whole purpose there is to help people who need help. It’s not just a job; that

makes it a wonderful place to be.”

In the ‘90s, Billeb said a “much smaller” Food Basket helped feed 25 to 30 families

“at the most” and they collected goods as they were donated. Now, generous donations

mean that groceries can be purchased and distributed to 70 or 80 families each month.

Now, Billeb is waiting patiently to see how another more complicated part of her

work will be filled at the Food Basket, organizing a wide range of resources for their

clients – individuals and families – who need a little extra assistance.

“We do give clients a lot of second chances, if someone’s willing to put their life

back together, but they have to do some things for themselves too,” she said of her

work. “I’ve seen a lot of people get back on their feet, going to college, getting jobs,

taking care of their children…”

Billeb lists helping a woman keep her home, helping another through the government’s

disability process, helping families with special needs children find care or

programs.

“And we have helped 130 families financially over the last seven years,” Billeb said.

“We do have a wonderful place in our community with so many facets to it.”

Her patient waiting means that she is not quite ready to leave behind Pinedale and

Wyoming – although she hasn’t been “back home” to visit family around California’s

Bay Area since she graduated from college at UC Berkeley.

“Everyone is asking me when I’m leaving and I don’t know – I will be here a few

more months,” she said. “I would like to find somebody who would love to do this part

of the Food Basket job, someone with life experiences, to receive calls and willing to

sit and talk to clients, help them find a way out of a bad spot.”

When she finds that certain someone to share her own knowledge and experiences,

Billeb will feel more prepared to move on to the next part of her life. She was the

guest of honor at last weekend’s going-away party at Rendezvous Pointe, a bittersweet

get-together.

“My friendships here are from all over; I know that I will be leaving so many good

friends,” she said. “God is the motivator for the kind of life I live. I can smile and be

cheerful because I have a savior who has given me a life that I love.”

After being a teacher and devoted to others for much of her life, Billeb doesn’t see

“retirement” in her future after arriving in California.

“A Christian never retires – I know the Lord will give me something to keep me

going and then – I know I will be in Heaven,” Billeb said, standing outside with her

Brazilian hardwood walking stick in hand.

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