OKEECHOBEE — Although we know her now as a One Blood recruiter, Linda Hazellief has had an assortment of unusual occupations.
She was born and raised in Florida and in her lifetime, has only spent three years outside the state. “I just love it here so much,” she said. “When I was out of state, I felt like a piece of my heart was missing.” She moved to Okeechobee in 1996
Linda met her now ex-husband, Daniel Hazellief, while she was living in a small town in North Florida called Dover, near Plant City.
While out of the state, she lived in both North and South Dakota. Her father-in-law had honey bees in North Dakota, and they worked the bees. Hazellief enjoyed learning bout the bees and working with them, but was not fond of the climate in North Dakota. “The winter was pretty bad,” she said. “But, there are deer fairies in North Dakota!” She went on to explain there are a lot of deer up there and they often are hit and killed by vehicles. The law allows the person who hit the deer to keep it after the game warden certifies it is dead. Linda and Daniel were on public assistance at the time and more than once woke up to find a deer carcass by their back door. “That really helped us get through the winter. We had ground deer. We had deer sausage. We had deer roast and steak. You name it, we had it. It kept us going.”
After that first winter, something happened to the bees, and the couple moved to Roscoe, South Dakota, where two of the largest bee companies in the United States were located. “I worked in the honey house some and went out in the field some. I got to extract honey. It was pretty neat. I got to sit on a little dirt road and watch the buffalo go by.”
After two years there, she wanted to come back to Florida for a visit. She intended to go back up north, but Daniel followed her to Florida, and they ended up in Vero for a little while. Soon though, Daniel got a job offer to work on Davie Dairy, and in 1996, they moved to Okeechobee. For a while Linda was a homemaker, but there were times she drove a tractor for the dairy when they were doing haylage. Daniel worked in the “mooternity” ward some of the time, and Hazellief enjoyed helping with that. “I’ve seen c-sections on cows. I’ve helped with surgeries. I had nothing else to do, and I was fascinated.”
After six and a half years at the dairy, Daniel decided he wanted to go do something else, and Linda did not want to go with him. She felt it was the wrong time to do what he wanted to do, and they split up in 2002 but remained friends.
Linda floated around for a while doing whatever work she could find in order to survive.
In 2007, she was homeless. She had a migraine and went to the hospital, where they attempted to do a spinal tap and injured her back. She could barely move or walk for a while. “It was bad. I was bouncing around from place to place trying to mend. Finally, I ended up on the streets. Every thing I owned was in three grocery bags.” Before long, she was picked up by the sheriff’s office, and the daughter of a woman she had worked with in the past was working in dispatch. She recognized Linda’s name when she was brought in and called her mom. The two of them got Linda a place to stay for the night and the next day, took her to Believer’s Fellowship, a small local church. “Churchwise, that’s where I have been ever since.”
Linda credits God with turning her life around. “While I was almost hysterically crying because I had no idea what to do or where to go, I prayed to God and asked him to help me out of the situation. I promised I would never turn my back on Him again.”
With help from the sheriff’s office, her former coworker and her daughter and the OCSO, Linda found a place to stay. She lived with an older woman in town, who needed some help around the house. This woman had a reputation for taking in strays, and Linda was another of her strays. The two helped each other, and this worked for them both. While she lived there, Linda worked at The Clock.
After the woman went into a nursing home, Linda found herself homeless again and bounced from place to place until she found a small trailer she could afford. “I was scrimping and saving every penny I could and was able to afford the rent.”
For a short time, she lived in a duplex with her sister, but then someone at church mentioned they had a small travel trailer they wanted to get rid of. They were willing to give it away. She’d just have to pay lot rent. “That’s what I had been dreaming of. My friends and I looked at each other and thought here was the Lord providing just what I needed.” She lived there for almost seven years and then about three years ago, she was finally able to buy her first home.
She got a job at Hammerheads, but almost immediately was laid off along with most of the staff. She didn’t let it get her down though. “I was definitely becoming my own person by that point. I used to be very shy, believe it or not. I would sit in a corner and watch life go by. Not any more though. Now, I’m out in the middle of it.”
She went to work for the county as a custodian and cleaned several county buildings. She worked there just shy of four years.
For many years, she did not have a vehicle and either walked to work or rode a bike. To friends, she is known as Ms. MacGyver, because she can fix almost anything and carries tools around with her. Laughing, she said, “Well, I never know when I might need to fix something.” She can do maintenance on a vehicle and is the person her friends call when they need something put together. “I love doing that. When I was a kid, I used to take transistor radios apart to see how they worked. I wanted to know how they got that voice to come out of that little box.” Back then, things did not always work when she put them back together, but she is much better at it now. ”If it can be fixed, I’d rather fix it than go buy a new one.”
At one point, Linda worked on a chicken farm. Her job was to drive a golf cart through the hen houses collecting eggs. Mostly raised by her two older brothers after her parents divorced, she was quite a tomboy. She thought nothing of walking through the chicken farm barefoot.
In addition to the chicken farm job, Linda has also driven a dump truck for the department of transportation and driven a service truck for a wrecker company. “I got a lot of strange looks when I would pull up to change someone’s tire or jump start their truck.”
In 2009, she began volunteering for One Blood during the roundups. Soon, a position became available working for One Blood, and she thought about applying. She talked to Raye Deusinger, whom she had become friends with while volunteering. “Do you think I can do the job,” she asked. She felt unsure of herself. Deusinger said, “Well, of course you can.”
“Raye is my biggest cheerleader,” said Linda. “Between her and the man who used to do all the blood drives here, I got the job. Almost six years later, I’m still with them, and I give all glory to God, because I have the best home I’ve ever had, the best car I’ve ever had, and the best job I’ve ever had.”
Linda is a recruiter/greeter for One Blood. She is the person you meet outside the bus. She works in Okeechobee, Saint Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach Counties and all the towns around the lake. “I love my job. I get to help others help save lives, and that is an amazing feeling.” Linda donates blood herself and will soon hit the 22 gallon mark. “Somebody out there needs my help, and I like to help. I also like the anonymous part of it, that nobody really knows where the blood is going or who it is going to unless it is a directed drive for someone in the community.”
Linda has an adult son, a granddaughter and a small dog. In her spare time, she enjoys crafting. She is also an Avon representative and participates in Quarters for a Cause.
“There have been things about all the jobs that I have loved. They say when God closes one door, he opens another. I think all of it has been a journey. It has brought me to where I am right now.”