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Hometown Hero: Denise Wiggins

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In Huntsville, Alabama, there is a hardworking mother of three who is acknowledged for helping out her neighbors with their light bills, taking time out of her day to volunteer organizing and cleaning elderly citizens' homes, and going to businesses asking others if they need any help. She will proudly tell anyone she is a custodian at Weatherly Heights Elementary, and yes, "I can say I honestly love my job." Her name is Denise Wiggins.

ESSENCE.com caught up with the busy worker about why she gives so much of herself, no matter what, and what other people might be able to learn from her.

ESSENCE.com: Each year you pick a project to give back during Christmastime. Can you explain?
WIGGINS
: Well, I help out all year. It is just that every year, I try to do Christmas for different groups or wherever the spirit leads me. I did Christmas for a guy who was killed and left his pregnant fiancee. I, along with a group of young people, put together a Valentine's Ball in his honor to support his little girl. We raised about $7,000 to help his family out. I pretty much do whatever I can in the community to help other people. I clean houses, strip floors, wash cars, and rake leaves. Wherever there is a need I help out. And, each year around this time I find a group of foster care kids that I can adopt and I celebrate Christmas with them. I may have a party at my house or give them gifts. The kids are usually the foster care kids who have aged out of the system and I try to do something for them since they are normally forgotten. Think about it, each year the little children have Angel Tree and Toys for Tots but there really isn't anything for the older kids.

ESSENCE.com: What made you want to give back?
WIGGINS: My grandmother had such a big heart. She would feed strangers and give away stuff from her house even though she didn't have money. I would always be like, "Grandma, You are on a fixed-income and receiving a disability check...Why would you give away your money?" And, she would answer back, "You pass the blessing and it is better to give than receive." She always told me, "Sometime you will find people in need and you must help them out." I would watch her and I noticed that she was so happy giving. It was like that was her job. She told me once you start doing it, the joy is so overwhelming that the feeling stays with you. Just making someone smile is huge so I got hooked once I started helping other people out.

ESSENCE.com: What do you have to say to people who want to give but don't have the financial support?
WIGGINS:
[Laughs]. If I can give on my small income than anybody can do it.
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