Born and raised in Bloomingdale, Tenn., where she still resides, Little once dreamed of becoming a fashion designer or the president but her desire to teach and help others has remained constant throughout her life.
"I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was a little girl," she contemplated, and "there's never been much of a time in my life when I didn't volunteer."
By the time she was a teenager attending Sullivan North High School, Little was involved in the Junior Achievement Program and volunteering as candy striper at a local hospital. From 19 to her early 20s, she taught Sunday School and served as youth leader at Bloomingdale Baptist. In college, Little worked part-time at downtown Kingsport's adolescent hot spot, Rascals, while volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters and then the YMCA. She'd heard her calling and the answer seemed quite clear.
"I feel a burden to work with teenagers and young people," Little explained, "and I was blessed with some amazing teachers through the years that really influenced my desire to do that."
After years of teaching English and Spanish, first at high schools Central and North and now at CHMS, Little still finds her job exciting.
"I love their thoughts and ideas, she said, "they teach me way more than I teach them."
In her efforts to keep in touch with former students, Little uses Facebook as her main conduit for communication. To witness the type of people they "blossom" into as adults is, as she describes,"better than a paycheck."
After responding to former Central student Julie Keeton's Facebook post about needing a child's bed, the two reunited. Their sons became fast friends and it soon became apparent Little could assist Julie with more than just the bed.
Julie and Adam Keeton have seven children. One of their sons, 6-year-old Weston was born with a heart condition and after seeking care for his pulmonary hypertension episodes at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), doctors discovered he would need a double lung and heart transplant. Weston is still at the top of the donor list after waiting nearly 18 months in Philadelphia. The cost of his crucial care is financially inconceivable.
Little has taken on the role of community fundraising coordinator to organize events, raising money to ease the financial burden on the family.
Two benefits have already been held this year, the Shabang and Westonfest, both named by Little's 8-year-old son, Cade, and combined have raised over $7,000.
"When you hear that story, how could you not want to help?" Little asked. Since Westonfest (a spaghetti supper and day of shopping with local vendors) was held on Oct. 20, she's been brainstorming new ideas for the next fundraising event for Weston. Perhaps a pancake breakfast or a dinner and silent auction, she mentioned aloud.
She's also quick to point out that anyone who wants to learn more about Weston can join the Facebook group, Praying for Weston, or donate to his medical fund securely online at www.cotaforwestonk.org.
On top of Little's other commitments, the self-titled day brightener has volunteered for seven years at the Hope House for Women on Eastman Road.
"Their ministry and mission really spoke to me," she said, they offer anyone with a child, struggling,"a hand up, not a hand out."
She used to teach at the center every month, but as Cade got older and after her husband, Greg, was diagnosed with the rare auto-immune disorder, myasthenia gravis, time grew scarcer. With Greg's disorder affecting his vision and muscular function at times, Little had to take a lesson in receiving the help she has always so willingly given. Co-workers of hers from CHMS spent two days (one in the rain) building a ramp for Greg's power chair outside the Little home.
"We were amazed and humbled by that,"she warmly stated. "It's a blessing to help people and, when you don't ask for help, you're robbing someone else of a blessing."
With Christmas fast approaching, the "very frugal" Little plans to add to her lifelong ornament collection and make her precious family time count with the most inexpensive of holiday traditions.
"We ride around in our PJs and look at Christmas lights," she said smiling, "and go through Pal's to get french fries."
Little holds no grand illusions about her life, but operates under the realization that,"I'm probably never going to be famous, I'm probably never going to have a million dollars but I think it's important that we try to make a difference in the corner of the world where we are."
Unsung Heroes is a monthly feature recognizing volunteers or employees who work mostly behind the scenes to help their agency, business or communities succeed. If you know someone who deserves to be recognized, please contact Sunday Stories' editor Carmen Musick at firstname.lastname@example.org.