Since late 2011, Prattville Health and Rehabilitation in Prattville, Ala., almost 15 miles outside Montgomery, has housed one of the region’s great treasures. Marguerite McKinnon cannot speak well, an effect of the strokes that landed her in a physical rehabilitation facility. Even if she could, the octogenarian would never tell how she has served as Christ’s hands and feet, tending to the poor and disabled.
Instead, the people around her tell the story.
McKinnon worked for years with the Alabama Department of Services to the Deaf and Blind. She escorted patients to doctor appointments, physical therapy, the grocery store, and anywhere else they needed to go. She also provided emotional support and assisted families with end-of-life arrangements. When she retired from her job in the mid-1990s, she continued her services on her own time and without pay.
The Rev. Henry Smith was a longtime pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prattville, where McKinnon has been an active member for more than 30 years. Smith said that even after she retired, McKinnon would be out helping people before sunrise until after sunset. He called McKinnon “the Protestant Mother Teresa of Alabama” for her ceaseless care for the often overlooked in her community.
“She materially assisted an often-neglected segment of the population: the working poor — those who are employed and industrious, but unable to make ends meet,” Smith said.
The Rev. Bryant Hansen, who currently serves at First Presbyterian, said that when McKinnon was healthy, she would sometimes accompany him on visitations to the nursing home. As the two walked the halls together, residents would come out of their rooms to greet McKinnon.
“As she would go down the hallway, a wave of smiles would go down the hallway because people knew her,” he said.
She and her late husband never had children, but McKinnon cared for her siblings with this same devotion. She and her husband raised her youngest brother after her parents died, and in the past five years she cared for her two sisters until they died.
In 1998 McKinnon received the prestigious Lotus Award, given by the Women’s Committee of the Spain Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham to honor those who serve the handicapped. In recommending her for this award, Smith wrote, “In my observation, no one I know is more worthy of such recognition than this humble lady.”
McKinnon’s service to her church, family, and community is not a topic she will probably ever discuss willingly. But the wave of smiles at the nursing home is a small tribute to a life spent in humble devotion to the kingdom.
Megan Fowler is a freelance writer. She loves to tell the simple stories of faithful believers using their God-given talents for building the kingdom. Megan and her husband have two young sons.