Profile: Effie Hopkins
Passengers on the blue route of Mississippi State University's shuttle system have more than a driver at the wheel — they have an angel in disguise.
For years, that's how students have described "Miss Annie," a woman who remembers the names of nearly all of her regular passengers and cares for them like her own family.
A self-described "granny for those away from home," Effie Hopkins' selfless actions and caring nature have become legendary for the more than seven years she has driven a shuttle at the university.
Students send her flowers and cards thanking her for being so kind to them, often years after they have graduated. Miss Annie keeps a thick folder of them, reminding her of how much her "family" loves her.
"I'm having a great day — what about you?" Hopkins says as she greets students getting on her shuttle.
Students gush about how much better she has made them feel on bad days, how she helps them put problems in perspective and find a better attitude.
Ravi "Raj" Sadasivuni, a graduate student in geosciences, said during the years he has known Hopkins, she has inspired him when he's stressed.
"She helps everyone," said Sadasivuni, who works at the High Performance Computing Collaboratory. "She knows how to inspire everyone."
Ask nearly anyone riding her shuttle route and they respond with glowing praise for her. Some students intentionally park so they can visit with her during the shuttle experience.
"I could drive straight to class," said Tiffany Bridges, a senior marketing major from Yazoo City. "But I chose to ride with her because she makes my day better."
Hopkins remembers the names of regular riders and asks about things they discussed during previous rides. She even helped a group of German graduate students visiting campus find a laundry and particular shops to buy gifts.
"You want to be a welcoming committee to them because you have to remember they've left their family behind in this new environment," she said.
But Hopkins doesn't stop helping students when her shift ends each day. She regularly uses her personal vehicle, an old Chevy Blazer, to take them to the grocery store and other places when they can't find other means of transportation.
"She could be at home, but she gives rides to people who need to go and buy basic necessities," Sadasivuni said.
When Hopkins' church learned about her giving rides to students in need, the congregation began helping pay for gasoline. She even carries business cards with her contact information that say "Being a helper of one another."
"I said I wanted to be out here to make a difference in the students' lives," she said. "So far, I think I've held up my end of the bargain."
Next week … Chris Cooksey !