Whispering Pines resident Gina Elliott likes to relate the story of how she learned the circumstances that led to her adoption.
"My father is a retired preacher, and about five years ago -- before he retired -- we had a visiting preacher here from Yuma who is also a very good friend," she said. "His sermon was about how the bottom line is faith and prayer, and then he told a story to illustrate it."
Although her parents had told her "from the beginning" that she was adopted, this was the actual story of how it came about -- a story she had never heard.
"He said he had dear friends (my mother and father) who wanted a child very badly but found out medically they couldn't have one," she recalled. "They spent at least 12 years going to a lot of adoption agencies, and they continued to pray and help out as foster parents.
"One day, (the visiting preacher) went to a Prescott hospital to see a sick woman and overheard a doctor say, ‘We are going to have to place this baby up for adoption.' The visiting preacher ran to the office and said, ‘I have someone who can do it.' He called his friends (my mom and dad) and they came and got me."
Growing up as a preacher's daughter had its challenges.
"You know the old saying about the preacher's daughter," she said with a laugh. "I rebelled a lot. Sometimes I got caught and sometimes I didn't."
There's another reality preacher's children learn to live with.
"A preacher's kid is always at risk of being used in a sermon," Elliott said. "Even as an adult, listening to my father preach, I would hear stories from my childhood that I didn't know."
Elliott moved to Payson from Yuma 21 years ago when her father became the minister at the Church of Christ in Payson. She went to work for the Time Out Shelter in 1997 and is currently its program coordinator.
"I assure that all programs are running, I help bring in new programs, and I read the grants that are written and make sure we're in compliance with them," she said.
It is a job with plenty of intangible rewards. "I've always been a people person," she said. "I love people and I love helping people.
"I feel very blessed that in my work I'm able to touch people's lives. I wouldn't want a job where I couldn't touch people."
The Time Out Shelter is licensed for 16 beds, but that doesn't include cribs, rollaways, or youth beds. It has housed as many as 28 people at one time, and a total of 1,300 since it opened in Oct., 1993.
The facility is funded by a combination of state and federal grants, the Time Out Thrift Shop and a variety of smaller grants. Private contributions are also accepted.
Elliott says the shelter is growing rapidly in an era when financial support is decreasing, and therefore needs all the help it can get.
"The need is greater now than it has been," she said.
Besides financial support, the shelter can always use more volunteers, especially men who are willing to help pick up heavy loads of donations to the thrift shop.
Elliott is confident the community will continue to support the shelter as it always has.
"This community is awesome to Time Out," she said. "People individually and other agencies in town are wonderful to us -- everything from the police to the courts to the hospital to the guidance center."
In what spare time she has, Elliott likes to garden. "I grow mostly indoor plants and flower plants, but I also have a vegetable garden," she said. "I collect water from my roof in barrels and a huge horse trough."
Elliott is also a mother and a grandmother. "I have a teenage daughter at home and two teenage stepdaughters, so they keep me pretty busy," she said. "The rest of my kids are grown but they all live here, and I have a grandson I like to spend time with."
But she admits that the majority of her time is devoted to her work.
"I'm very happy and fortunate to do something I love," she said.
Name: Gina Elliott
Occupation: Program Coordinator
Employer: Time Out Shelter
Birthplace: Prescott, Ariz.
Family: Husband Sebastian, sons Bryan (24), Benjamin (20), Joseph (19), Daughter Bonnie (14), Stepdaughters Samantha (14), Lanie (12), Grandson Kyler (17 months).
Personal motto: Be true to yourself.
Inspiration: The Bible
Greatest feat: Raising four children.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Camping, gardening.
Three words that describe me best: Energetic, compassionate, strong.
I don't want to brag, but ... my grandson Kyler is perfect!
Person in history I'd most like to meet: Jesus
Luxury defined: Bubble bath with candles.
Dream vacation spot: On a white, sandy beach with a beach house in a secluded spot.
Why Payson? It's a wonderful community with caring people.