Isabella-- Many people find it almost impossible to find good, dependable employees, but if you travel a little ways north of Sylvester, you will find what you might call a saint of responsibility.
Some people go to Isabella's Baptist Church every time the doors open, sing the same songs, and sit in the same places. "That's right. It's got my name on it," says Emma Lee Bozeman, a dedicated member who always sits on the end of the third row on the right.
She spends more time in her church than most of the 100 members, cleaning it week after week like clock work. "I've been right here. Stuck with it for 30 or more years," says Emma Lee as she fills a kitchen sink with water to wash knifes and spoons, sticking with a job few people want that gives her something to look forward to. "I just can't sit and hold my hands," says Emma Lee.
She holds brooms, "As long as I can sweep I can be doing something," says Emma Lee before getting a mop out of the kitchen closet. "I'd rather do most anything than mop the floor. That's pretty hard work," says Emma Lee.
About how many times has she cleaned and mopped her church in 30 years? "I wouldn't even begin to try and say," says Emma Lee who rarely, if ever, misses a cleaning day. And, like most people, she doesn't like cleaning bathrooms. "That's about the worst job, keeping the bathrooms clean," says Emma Lee, as she cleans one that already looks sparkling clean.
Looking back, Emma saw the financial trials of a small church that couldn't afford weekly cleaning. "That was when the church wasn't able to pay nobody," says Emma.
They asked for volunteers. It didn't work, but Emma Lee Bozeman did. "The church has never hired me. They hired my husband," says Emma Lee. Her late husband, Marion, cleaned the church as a second job, but Emma Lee realized he needed her expertise. "Ain't many men who know how to mop," says Emma Lee with a laugh.
He died about four years after getting the job, but Emma Lee kept on cleaning. She does not clean the entire church by herself, but took it upon herself to make sure the church looks its best week in and week out. She has some help every week, younger people who can tug machines like vacuum cleaners.
Emma Lee usually dusts the stained class windows and makes sure all the hymnals get returned to their holders. She usually finds a hand full of chewing gum, candy wrappers and discarded church bulletins. They spend about four hours cleaning the church. "I look forward to every Thursday," says Emma Lee, who has been known to change the cleaning day so they can go fishing, but the church always gets its weekly cleaning.
She looks forward to her next birthday. "This January, 29 I was 99," says Emma Lee, who doesn't look or act her age.
She has no thoughts of giving up her weekly appointment. "I'd rather die with a broom in my hand than be tied to a rolling chair," says Emma Lee confidently. If the old saying about cleanliness is next to godliness is true, then without a doubt Emma Lee Bozeman has a front row seat in cleanliness heaven.
She plans to continue cleaning Isabella Baptist Church as long as she lives.