The Statue of Liberty, Viola Campbell, opens up
■ By Kyle Selby / Reporter
Lady Liberty has a name, and it’s Viola Campbell. You’ve seen her dancing and waving on the corner of Florida Avenue and Harvard Street four hours a day, five days a week, but you probably don’t know her story.
Campbell, 70, was born in Indiana in 1947 and remembers vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone with her mother quite fondly. When she was 20 years old, Campbell got married and moved down south to Arkansas where she began to work in marble construction.
Following a divorce and being laid off from her job in 1989, Campbell made her way out toward Yellowstone, where she worked room service for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a private park and resort management company.
She eventually left that job and came to Hemet in 1998 to look at some property that caught her fancy. She planned to move back to Arkansas after she filed for unemployment while she was in California, but then stumbled upon a job opportunity at Starcrest of California, in Perris, an online shopping catalogue. Campbell was hired on the day she applied to load and unload their delivery trucks. “I didn’t go back,” she said. “I stayed.”
In 2006, she was laid off, and moved out to Death Valley where she returned to Xanterra to once again work in room service. But she didn’t stay there very long. While living in Nevada, she heard about Liberty Income Tax.
“Well, when I drove by, I’ve seen people stand out there years ago, and I thought, ‘I think I’ll go in and apply for it,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d get the job.”
Today, She has been working at Hemet’s Liberty Income Tax for five years, three years previously at the Nevada branch.
“I don’t know, I guess I missed it,” Campbell said of Hemet, upon deciding to move back.
Campbell likes the ease of her job, and she likes the opportunity to be able to meet new people passing by.
She’s also learned valuable skills within the company. Campbell recently enrolled in a 10-week program provided by Liberty that certifies her as a tax preparer in the state of California…the only trouble is that Liberty is anything but short-staffed at the moment. However, she remains hopeful that one day she will be conducting business from the inside of the building.
“She’s very enthusiastic, hard working, a real go-getter, and she refuses to let anybody take her shifts, even if it’s pouring down rain,” said Campbell’s manager, Melissa Daniels.
“When people don’t look, I try to do something to get their attention,” Campbell explained. “It’s the easiest job I’ve ever had in my life.”
The most interesting thing that has happened to Campbell during her time at Liberty happened two years ago when she got caught in the middle of a police pursuit. Campbell was working one day when a suspicious man quickly walked by. Suddenly, a barrage of cop cars pulled up to the street corner and nearly ambushed her.
“I didn’t hear what they said because I had my music in, so I raised my hands because I thought I was under arrest,” Campbell recalled. “But it wasn’t me, it was the guy standing behind me!”
The man Campbell saw walking past was standing behind her and was later booked for the possession of drug paraphernalia.
Although she currently collects social security, she admits that it’s not enough to cover her living expenses, nor her rent. So she decided she wanted to continue working.
“I don’t need to be a millionaire, but I’d like to make enough that I can live on,” she explained. But she has another source of income. “When I’m not working, I’m making jewelry.”
Campbell makes homemade necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc., and has them up for sale at the Hemet Farmers Market every Saturday. Lately however, Campbell has noticed a lack of demand for her craft at that venue, and detests setting up and tearing down her booth each time. Instead, she hopes to one day soon open up an online shop for her jewelry, Viola Campbell Jewelry, where she believes she will reach a bigger demographic.
Twice a week, Campbell also volunteers at her church, Hemet Christian Assembly. There, she participates in their Food Ministry, where she collects donations and helps distribute food to the needy. She is also active in the church’s Women’s Ministry.
Campbell encourages everybody passing by to help make her days at work just a little more entertaining while she’s out there in her copper green garb.
“Come in, and get your taxes done!” Campbell said. “When you drive by, blow your horn or wave! Just don’t drive the cops crazy.”