Single mother is Md. Worker of the Year

Daughter nominates painting contractor who began with $100

Williamson-Dickie award

Honoring a woman `who has struggled so long to succeed'

September 04, 2001|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

A thousand people from Maryland applied to become the Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. Worker of the Year, but it was a single mother who scraped her business together with $100 who beat out the competition.

Each Labor Day weekend, the Texas-based company honors a person from every state who represents "the spirit of the American worker."

A national winner is then chosen from the state nominees.

Jinny Piddington, the owner of Professional Painting & Wallpapering in Hunt Valley, won in Maryland, thanks to a nominating letter from her daughter, Erika.

Piddington was divorced and looking for a way to support Erika when she decided to start her own painting business.

She had just enough money to buy some brushes, sandpaper, a pan and a roller. She couldn't afford paint, so her customers provided it themselves.

"It was a form of survival, but luckily I ended up liking it," Piddington said.

Now, 18 years later, Erika is all grown up and has a young son of her own. Mom's painting business helped pay for college and all the cool toys she wanted growing up.

Kasie Bell, who sat on the Dickie's nominating committee, said Piddington's classic "pulled herself up by her bootstraps" story stood out from all the others.

"It was nice to see a daughter who was very proud of her mother," said Bell, a media specialist with Dickie's.

"And it was impressive to be able to honor someone who has struggled so long to succeed."

In a 100-word essay, Erika Piddington wrote to Dickie's officials about a mom who worked endless hours while raising a child alone. "She's dedicated her life to working and being the very best," the essay said.

Erika Piddington, now 26, often accompanied her mother on jobs as a child. She said she'd do "piddly jobs," like covering the sockets with tape to protect them from paint splatters, while her mother would paint numerous rooms in a house by herself.

"I was too young to appreciate all the stuff she did back then," Erika Piddington said. "I'm older now, and I can see the true sacrifices she made for me. She still works hard, sometimes too hard."

Jinny Piddington had worked as a bookkeeper and secretary before joining a paint company in 1980. After three years, she became frustrated at working in a field that she thought didn't take women seriously.

Looking for independence, she branched off on her own in 1983. Her first customer was an apartment complex that was a client at her old job.

Piddington has cut back in recent years, now that she has only herself to support.

Every now and then, Erika Piddington, a homemaker, still helps out.

While helping mom shop for paint earlier this year, Erika Piddington saw a Dickie's nomination form in the store and casually suggested sending it in.

Jinny Piddington never knew her daughter actually did until she got a phone call while driving home last week.

"At first I thought it was Dick's Sporting Goods, and I wanted to know how they got my cell phone number," she said.

Piddington won $250 in cash, a $200 Dickie's gift certificate, a watch and a jacket.

"I was surprised at first, but it felt good to win something and know that my daughter cares so much," she said.

William Collier, a Tennessee landscaper, won the national award.

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