A Woman You Want To Meet – Donnis Kinder
Donnis Kinder grew up on a farm in Aynor. She worked hard, went to school and graduated from college with a degree in Physical Education. A graduate of Whittemore High School, Conway, SC in 1960; Kinder then attended and graduated from Benedict College, Columbia, SC.
If you are native to Horry County you will immediately know that Donnis Vereen Kinder is a black woman. When working on local farms, she and other black people were only fed after the whites had eaten and then on the back porch; being taught to “stay in their place,” says Kinder. She remembers moving off the sidewalk to allow white folk to pass; segregated water fountains and restrooms. For elementary and middle school she was able to attend “black” schools in Aynor, but to attend high school she had to bus in to Conway.
Benedict College was, and still is, distinguished by its continued commitment to facilitate the empowerment, enhancement, and full participation of African Americans in a global society. While a student, Kinder was part of a march on McCrory’s Five and Dime store. She remembers being scared but marched anyway. The store lunch counter had menus on each of the seats in an effort to keep African Americans from sitting and being served.
After graduation, Kinder was hired to teach at Chestnut High School, the black high school in North Myrtle Beach. It was renamed NMB High School and subsequently segregated; the first time Kinder had taught with white teachers and had both black and white students. She later transferred to Myrtle Beach Middle School to be closer to her mother. She left teaching after 12 years to work for the City of Myrtle Beach, using her physical education skills in the Recreation Department.
She loved her job; working with children as well as senior adults. She organized and started the Myrtle Beach Senior Games and was active in the Boys and Girls Club. Kinder is divorced and has one child; a daughter who is a lawyer in Baltimore. She laughs when she remembers a recent conversation with her daughter who said she was becoming more like Kinder all the time. Kinder loved to crochet; her daughter is learning to knit. Perhaps closest to her mother’s heart, she is also beginning to work with the Boys and Girls Club in her area. “We are alike, but do things differently,” says Kinder.
Nine years ago life changed dramatically for Donnis Kinder. A stroke took away her ability to walk and she now spends her time attached to a wheelchair. Her cousin lived with her until two years ago when she died of cancer. Kinder sadly said, “It’s not always a leaning tree that falls.” She has a lovely lady from Jamaica who lives with her now. A member of Joseph B. Bethea United Methodist Church, it took two years before she could return to services. And then she was the first person to use the wheelchair ramp!
It took that long before she could “feel totally normal” and not self-conscious of her circumstances. The worse thing about having a stroke – is not being able to play golf anymore. While she may not play golf these days, Kinder stays busy serving on the Administrative Council at church. She led the canned goods drive to help Street Reach and coats for the homeless. In her words, she has become a “news junkie and reads a lot.” She is convinced that “God hasn’t finished with me yet.”Twice a week Ms. Donnis tutors a four-year-old foster child; keeping her connected to children and improving their future.
Donnis Kinder’s life hasn’t always been easy; she’s seen her share of human ugliness and discrimination. She refuses, however, to let hatred or bitterness take root in her heart, mind or soul. A staunch supporter of President Obama, she shakes her head at the rude way people speak of and treat him and his efforts as President.
She believes in cooperation; and has proven she can work with anybody and everybody. She is warm and funny; interesting to talk with and listen to. A strong woman, Donnis Kinder has taken adversity and pain and turned it into living courage, choosing to remember and celebrate the best of the past and present; unafraid of the future. Find a way to meet this lady; she loves company!