At 75-years young, Maxine has accomplished quite a bit.
The widowed mother of one daughter, devoted grandmother of five, and great grandmother of seven, has dedicated her life to making a difference for others who are at-risk and in need of help.
In 1959, she moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to San Francisco and landed a job at Wells Fargo while she was attending City College. After graduating, she attended San Francisco State University, earning a degree in Child and Youth Care Administration from Nova University, and she earned an MBA and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Northfield University.
After college, Maxine realized she wanted to do something to help people in need, so in 1969 she opened a residential facility called the Pine Street Guest House, which became a group home for adults who struggled with mental health issues and were in need of food and shelter. At the same time, she also started a residential care facility for the elderly.
One day in 1981, Maxine learned from her neighbor that there was a growing need for services for young unwed mothers who chose to keep their children but did not have any resources to take care of themselves or their babies. She was stunned that these teens were alone so she established the Hickman Home for Mothers and Infants.
In 1993, she decided to branch away from managing group homes and focus on providing services and programs for at-risk youth. She opened the Hickman Home Foster Family Agency right out of her own, three-story home in the Richmond with the focus of helping prospective parents train to earn their certification to become foster parents, and then matching them to youth aged 12 to 18 in the program. Maxine continues to be involved in the business today and says she doesn’t consider helping people in need work at all.
“When it gets to be work, it’s different; but for me, as long as I’m enjoying it, it’s not working. So I basically, never worked a day in my life.”
She beamed as she recounted a recent success.
“We had a young man transition to Sacramento State; it’s great when you have kids that do well as a result of your efforts. It’s very rewarding.”
In 2014, the same year that her husband of six years passed away, Maxine began struggling with severe arthritis, and other health issues. The arthritis was so bad she could not stand for long periods of time and walking was extremely painful. Maxine countered this with her own philosophy:
“We have to make choices as to how we deal with things that happen to us. I could stay home and do nothing because of the pain knowing that it’s going to get worse. The more I stay home, the more it’s going to get worse and I could potentially end up not being able to walk on my own. But, if I stay active and I tell myself it’s not that bad; I can keep moving, keep going.”
With no family to turn to nearby (her daughter and other relatives live in Wisconsin) Maxine realized she was going to need some help in order to live independently and in San Francisco. A friend who was also a Meals on Wheels recipient suggested she call and apply for services.
“I think a lot of it had to do with the fact I was living by myself. Meals on Wheels is a good check; it gets family off my case because someone is knocking on my door. You never know what’s going to happen. And I don’t have one of those things [life alert system] that you wear around your neck but [with Meals on Wheels] I just feel safe knowing that someone is going to check on me.”
Maxine says the meals help her manage her diet and that in turn helps keep her hypertension in check. Since it’s difficult for her to stand for long periods of time—popping a good meal in the microwave is a better alternative than standing over a stove and cooking.
“Aging, to me, is really is a state of mind. As we age, we start to have issues with our bodies, but everything is about how we deal with it.”
Maxine has chosen to live her life to the fullest in the service of others. In addition to her passion for helping abused and neglected youth, she is an active member of the Cosmopolitan Baptist Church. She also gives back through her work with the San Francisco Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women which helps underserved African American women and girls who struggle with health, education, employment, and violence.
Did You Know?
79% of home-delivered meal recipients, nationwide, are 75 or older
1 in 4 seniors lives alone