Editor’s Note: Today we kick off our Distinguished Dozen! Thank you very much to all who nominated the many heroes among us. We loved reading all about health care workers, kind neighbors, advocates for those experiencing homelessness and many others who give so much of themselves to make Charlottesville a wonderful place to live. Over the next 12 days, we will introduce you to a new neighbor chosen for our Distinguished Dozen. We start with Carolyn Hill, a longtime resident of Charlottesville, who looks for ways to bring joy into every interaction she has.
Carolyn Hill’s job title is parking lot attendant, but she really should be called an ambassador, to hear her fans tell it. She aims to build goodwill among all she meets, making it a point to know not only people’s names but also their family members’ names, their jobs, their joys, their burdens — and to help people every day as they make their way out of the maze that is any parking garage.
“Just helping people makes my day,” said Hill, 55. She’s been working in the Market Street parking deck for nearly 15 years, and she finds enjoyment and purpose in her job every day.
For her unshakable good spirit and cheer, Hill was nominated as one of the Distinguished Dozen for 2021. The Daily Progress chose her in part because of the enthusiastic endorsement of not only her nominator but others who echoed her endorsement.
“There are so many people she sees over the course of the day, and she keeps track of all of us and all of our families,” said Janine Dozier, who nominated Hill.
Everyone who has parked in parking garages knows that they can all be confusing—one way this way, one way that. Then there are cars parked over the line that prevent you from parking in the coveted spot you thought you’d snagged. And parking garages are often dark.
That’s where the light of Carolyn Hill comes in, say those who know her.
Dozier, who is executive director of the Discovery Museum in downtown Charlottesville, said that Hill’s kindness meant a great deal to her especially during the early stage of the pandemic.
“We were closed for eighteen months,” said Dozier. “When I came back in January 2020, we didn’t even know if the museum would be able to open back up.”
Hill, who knew that Dozier was head of the museum, understood that Dozier was concerned about the museum, the children, families and employees — in other words, the museum’s future.
“Carolyn gave me this wonderful talk, asking was there anything she could do,” Dozier recalled.
“It was very meaningful to know that I wasn’t alone. She understood the nature of what we do and that we had no idea about the deadline and when we’d be able to open back up.”
Dozier said she knows that Hill displays concern and compassion for nearly all who come through the garage doors.
“There are so many people she sees over the course of the day, and she keeps track of them all, all of their families,” Dozier said. “She has tremendous facility with names and remembers everybody.”
The way Hill sees it, she’s in the garage on Market Street to serve others, not just to help them find parking spaces and to pay for that.
“Even if I’m not having a good day myself, I just pray to God to lift it from me, and to always greet everyone with a smile on my face,” Hill said.
Now, that said, sometimes it is more challenging than others to keep that good cheer flowing. Sometimes, Hill said “people curse me out.”
When that happens, Hill says a prayer and still offers encouragement.
“I’ll say, ‘it’ll get better,’ or ‘have a blessed day.’” But sometimes, that “just sets them off” even more.
“But I just do what I can to make their day a little better,” Hill said. “I just do my best and let God do the rest.”
Hill is single and has no children, but she has a large extended family — including a mother who is a minister — whom she is looking forward to gathering with at Christmas in Fluvanna County, where she is originally from.
Spending time with a family of friends also nourishes her spirit, she said.
“I just enjoy being with my friends and family and just doing nothing but being together,” she said.
Name: Carolyn Hill
Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia
Residence: Charlottesville, Virginia
Occupation: Parking garage attendant
Pastimes: Spending time with family and friends