Brenda Cox has always considered it a calling to help others.

She had done so as a special needs teacher, teaching for 35 years in the state of Maryland. She also worked as a special ed coordinator and assisted with young adults at job sites.

"I enjoy helping people, and I enjoy helping them out," she said. "I've always had the compassion and the heart to work with others and help others."

Cox continues to serve others in her role at Antioch Consolidated Association for Youth and Family, which she has done for at least three years and is now primarily doing administrative duties as part of her volunteer service.

"Basically, I do a lot of paperwork at the office," she said. "I started off doing things like filling the bags and helping with the boxes and the door, but earlier this year, I started doing basically administrative activities like doing the paperwork and keeping the records."

Cox came to Fort Smith from Maryland to help take care of her parents, who were seriously ill at the time.

"I came as a caregiver," she said. "I haven't gone back to Maryland yet. Even though they've passed away, I've kind of remained here."

In her time at Antioch, Cox said her volunteer work has helped expand on what she had been doing previously when Cox was in an educational capacity.

"I can't really say I've learned anything; it got me to work on things I've always been doing anyway," she said. "It's just extended on my opportunities to continue on the work that I was doing before, because I had not worked exclusively with a nonprofit organization, so I'm kind of getting used to working for that and that's huge. We do a lot of things with the public, which I have had that experience before being a teacher and kind of like an administrator in the school system.

"But it's a little bit more than that. I'm getting to meet people from all aspects of life and listen to the difficulties that they're having, which I probably didn't have that much of an opportunity to do before."

In addition, Cox has enjoyed the experience of getting to know Charolette Tidwell, the executive director at Antioch, and Cox said she sees a kindred spirit in Tidwell.

"She is an excellent role model," Cox said. "She loves people, she wants to give to people and that's a good role model even though we are very near in age, she's still a role model to me. ... We relate very well together.

"Working with Charolette, she has the same compassion that I do. She has a great team of volunteers who are very hard workers and they don't mind working and that's very gratifying."

With the holidays fast approaching, as well as the cold weather which has entered the area in recent days, Cox said she has seen more people come in through the doors at Antioch. She added there is another reason for the spike in visitors.

"It's been busy as usual," Cox said. "We're now in the Times Record with the Christmas Card (series) and there are a lot of people learning about us through the Christmas Card, so we're having a lot of new clients coming in and I've been registering a lot of new clients.

"Sometimes, we've had lines outside the door. It's been getting colder and there's been more people that's been needing to be able to have some food in the house in case of inclement weather or whatever, and Christmas time is coming, so we're just very busy, just constantly busy."