At 100 Manly Street in Greenville, employees of The Baptist Courier pretty much can’t go anywhere without passing by Debbie Grooms’ office near the center of the building.
She sees a lot of traffic during the day, and people stop at her door and lean in — to say hello … to chat about tomatoes, grandchildren or aging parents … to pose a question about advertising or a church’s subscription. When two or more gather in Debbie’s office to seek her opinion on a business matter, an all-hands staff meeting may spontaneously bloom into existence.
If the kitchen table is the center of life in most families’ homes, then the people who work at the Courier feel about as comfortable pulling up a chair in front of Debbie’s desk; she’s one of those people who give off a warm and welcoming vibe.
Coworkers as well as customers may find it hard to think of the Courier without Debbie Grooms, but it’s a fast-approaching reality. On June 29, after 37 years of employment (over a 44-year span of time), she will retire.
In 1973, fresh out of college, Debbie joined the staff of the Courier as secretary to editor John Roberts. Over the next few years, she intermittently took time off to give birth and raise her children (Brian and Bonnie) before returning to the Courier permanently in 1985. Over the years, she held different jobs (in circulation, then composition and typesetting, then accounting/circulation) before being named business manager in 1994. Her responsibilities were significantly expanded when Don Kirkland became editor in 1996.
She has seen some major changes in the workplace over the past 44 years (the Internet as we know it didn’t exist when she came to work at age 22, and all business was conducted by postal mail, telephones and IBM Selectric typewriters), but one thing has remained constant in her time at the Courier: the importance of relationships.
“The friendships have been the big thing — with the staff, but also with the people in the churches and the institutions,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with them.”
When she was a student at Mars Hill College majoring in religion, Debbie hoped someday to serve in a Christian vocation. Her work at the Courier has fulfilled that desire, she says.
“This is what the Lord called me to do,” she said. “This has been an indirect way for me to serve the churches, and I’m grateful to the Lord for putting me here. All good things we have in the world come from the Lord.”
She has worked with three editors, including current editor Rudy Gray, who knew Debbie for several years before he joined the Courier but is “even more impressed with her genuine faith, cooperative spirit, and dedication to her Lord” after serving with her for almost five years.
“Her conscientiousness is top quality, and her work ethic has been tremendous,” said Gray. “She has sought to honor Jesus Christ with her life, and that is obvious to all who have had the privilege to know her.
“We will certainly miss her, but we pray that Debbie and her husband, Don, will have a blessed and active time of retirement.”
Speaking of retirement, Debbie and Don have a Thor Hurricane motorhome parked in their yard that’s raring to explore the American West. After that, it’s more time with the four grandchildren, helping her mom and being active her church’s ministries.
For the rest of us, it’ll be business as usual, warmed with the memory of an office where we always felt at home.