The Circle of LIFE

Published: Monday, August 31, 2015

They say what goes around, comes around.

For LIFE Beaver County Center Director Marie Timpano and LIFE participant Lucretia Bentley, this couldn't be more true.

Timpano grew up in Pulaski Homes, a 100-unit public housing development in New Brighton. The youngest of four impressionable children, Timpano remembers her Italian family and her neighbors of various races and ethnicities being stereotyped and ridiculed for being poor. "There was a lot of negativity in Pulaski, and plenty of ways for us kids to get into trouble."

Until a woman came into Timpano's life who changed her forever.

Lucretia Bentley began working for the Beaver County Housing Authority in 1968, and was employed there for 27 years. As the apartment manager for the Pulaski housing community, she did far more than just run the day-to-day business operations of the complex. She became a friend, confidante, advocate and mentor for many who lived there.

"Mrs. Bentley would walk around the community every day, engaging everyone. She would sit in my kitchen and have coffee with my mother. She always encouraged the kids and taught us the importance of education," Timpano said. "And if you were getting into trouble, she would gently, yet sternly point you in the right direction. She always saw the good in people."

Even at a young age, Timpano recognized what a special person Bentley was, and knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of others one day, as Mrs. Bentley had done for her. "I wanted to be what Mrs. Bentley was," she said.

"When an application came across my desk at LIFE Beaver County a year or so ago for Mrs. Bentley, I couldn't believe it!" Timpano said.

"Oh, I recognized Marie right away!" Mrs. Bentley said. "She looks so much like her mother did all those years ago."

Since reuniting, Timpano and Bentley have had many opportunities to discuss their lives in Pulaski, good times and bad. They both recall families that struggled to maintain their dignity while receiving public assistance.

"I am a people person," Mrs. Bentley said. "I understood these folks and what they needed. People thought that because you lived in the projects, you were nothing," she said. "I needed to get out among the people, talk to them and hear what they had to say."

Timpano feels certain that God put Mrs. Bentley back into her life now so that she could return the love and support that Mrs. Bentley showed her family and many others. "It is a true blessing to have her at LIFE Beaver County now. She comes to the Center several days a week and loves to socialize with the other participants. Everyone loves Mrs. Bentley!"

"I have been blessed by coming here," Mrs. Bentley said. "It's been wonderful spending time with Marie again and seeing how good she turned out!"

Pictured at right: Marie Timpano and Lucretia Bentley, reunited at LIFE Beaver County. Timpano wears a handcrafted necklace every day, made of a piece of the brick from the original Pulaski housing development as a reminder of her childhood.

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