Sometimes Fran Darling dresses up on Sundays to encourage parishioners to bring in donations for the food pantry. Here, she is pictured dressed as a jar of peanut butter with retired pastor Dr. Paul R. Aughinbaugh.
SEMINOLE – Fran Darling is one of those people who never stops moving. The spunky 84-year-old is very active at Faith Presbyterian Church in Seminole, where she works part-time as the missions and volunteer coordinator.
She is always doing something, and parishioners will usually see her running around with some sort of apron on – a “Fran trademark.”
When you meet Darling, you don’t get a handshake, you get a hug.
“A hug means so much more than a handshake,” she said.
And Darling is all about hugs.
Her job for the past 23 years has kept her busy, not only at Faith Church, but also in the community. She loves being around people.
“I’m involved with people and that’s what keeps me ticking,” she said.
Darling was married for more than 60 years to her husband, Frank, who passed away six years ago. She has two children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as well as her rescue dog, Casey.
Her family also keeps her pretty busy, and her dog keeps her exercising with daily walks on the trail.
Being healthy is important, Darling said.
“My philosophy is: if one of the body parts breaks down, you need to fix it for quality of life,” she said.
She had a hip replacement two years ago and was right back working again.
Because Darling heads up so many volunteer efforts she is always looking for people to help. Darling will tell you the opportunities to volunteer are endless. She has a way in which most people just can’t say no.
Recently she lost her voice and she joked, “How can I badger someone to do something without my voice?”
The truth really is, Darling explained, the more people give of their time, the more they receive. Once they figure that out, she doesn’t have to ask them to help. They just help.
So just what does this mission and volunteer coordinator do? She is in charge of the outreach for the church, including the local, national and world missions.
She also organizes a huge flea market two times a year, collects books for veterans, fills hundreds of shoe boxes for children for Christmas, gathers Christmas gifts for the kids of Bethel, provides socks for men at Pinellas Hope, collects food for the local food pantry at Aldersgate Church, helps with the community outreach Faith Café providing meals once a week to local families in need, organizes the Feed the Hungry program with St. Vincent DePaul, heads up the prayer shawl ministry and baptismal blankets, collects handmade pillows for kids at All Children’s Hospital and is
involved with collecting items for the Honduras mission team to bring on their trip.
“She is the Mother Teresa of Faith Presbyterian Church,” said Dr. David A. Miller, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church.
For Darling, serving others is what it’s all about.
“I don’t have time to fret,” she said.
Most people at Faith Church know Darling on a first-name basis. If she isn’t behind the scenes working on her projects, she sometimes dresses up for the congregation on Sundays, as a soup can or a jar of peanut butter to remind them to bring in donations for the local food pantry.
“Fran embraces both the young and the old. They see her as a second mother, and she is always focused on the needs of others,” Miller said.
What’s Darling’s advice for staying so young and active?
“Be around people and be as active as you can be. Everyone can do something. You can volunteer. There are hundreds of organizations that need volunteers,” Darling said. “I hope I set an example by doing.”
She advises would-be volunteers to take small steps. It can be as simple as putting socks together for the men at Pinellas Hope or setting up tables for the church flea market, she said.
By being active even just a little, you can feel like you have accomplished something. Once you’re involved and around other people, friendships evolve.
Get out of your box no matter where your box is, Darling said. Don’t be afraid. You have to think positive.