Customer Spotlight: Doreen McCain

Doreen (Kurlander) McCain was born on March 21, 1940, in London, England—right in the middle of the Second World War. As a toddler, she’d scurry under the stairs with her three brothers, while her parents rushed outside to watch the bombs drop. “After the air raids, we would go out and collect shrapnel and trade it,” Doreen says, likening the hobby to swapping baseball cards. “It was a different time, obviously.”

New to America

Several years later, Doreen met Bob at the Liverpool Street Station when she was 16 years old. Bob was in the American Air Force on his way to England, while Doreen was traveling with a friend. “I’d never met an American before,” Doreen says. The three strangers sat together on the train, and Bob decided then that he would return for Doreen. The couple married in the summer of 1958, one month after Doreen moved to America.

On top of adapting to a different culture and country, Doreen also began attending church for the first time. Though she quickly accepted the Lord, she struggled with her newfound faith. “I had a lot of fear about whether I was going to go to heaven or hell,” she says. In the following years, the McCains gradually drifted from God, distracted by new experiences and responsibilities. Doreen had two baby girls—Laurie and Stacey—while Bob balanced three jobs to care for his family. “It was kind of a frugal time for us,” says Doreen, “but we made it work.” Finally, Bob found work with Sinclair Oil, where he stayed for 33 years.

Sweet, Salty, and God-Given

Though financial struggles subsided, the couple encountered new challenges when 13-year-old Laurie began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. “It was a very rough time. In fact, she was once gone for three and a half weeks,” says Doreen. “I don’t know how to describe it other than your guts literally churn when you don’t know where your child is.” Yet in the midst of this trial, God was at work. “I knew it was either lose my mind or come back to the Lord,” Doreen says. “Just prior, I had a friend, Faye, who was loving me back to the Lord with a beautiful, quiet-type witness. She told me Jesus was the answer in so many ways.” Before long, Laurie found her way home, and both Doreen and Bob returned to the Lord.

While Bob opted for a single career, Doreen worked in a variety of roles and never for too long. But with each new job, one ambition persisted. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she says. Shortly before the McCains had planned to retire, Doreen spotted the solution to her goal at an apple festival in Missouri—kettle corn. Within a few years, the McCains were traveling everywhere—fairs, festivals, picnics, weddings, etc.—to sell their old-fashioned kettle corn. They even brought their grandchildren along—Jessi, Andrew, and Caleb. While Bob cooked in a large copper pot, Doreen and the kids would serve the sweet snack to lines of 40-50 people. “People used to say, ‘You look like you’re having a great time.’ And we absolutely did,” she says. “I think it was God when I saw those packages of kettle corn and said we could do this.”

From Burdens to Blessings

Added to entrepreneurial excursions, Bob and Doreen moved from St. Louis to Albany, Oregon—to be closer to their grandsons—and began spending their winters at a retirement community in Arizona—or, as a friend called it, “summer camp for seniors.” They did crafts, played pickleball and golf, and even sold kettle corn by the pool. “We would get up every day and say this is so much fun!” Doreen says. But after almost 55 years of marriage, the McCain’s fun ended abruptly on a Tuesday afternoon in 2013. While biking home from the movie store, Bob was hit by a car, and later that night he passed away. “I didn’t know what to do. I just wandered around crying,” says Doreen. “Three hours before, we were playing shuffleboard, and here I am.” Doreen held two celebration ceremonies for Bob, and the McCain’s oldest grandchild, Jessi, presented the eulogy at both. “It was beautiful,” says Doreen. “God put the whole thing together.” As an added blessing, Jessi became pregnant with her third child shortly after Bob’s passing. She had a little boy, who they named Isaac Robert in memory of his great-grandpa.

Following the tragedy, Doreen sought out solace and support in numerous ways. She began attending a grief group and met a friend named Dixie, who introduced her to Church Extension Plan. “When I came on board with CEP, I was still very much in grief, and people were so kind and so caring,” she says. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.” She also took a course on transition, which opened the door for Doreen to become a small business advisor. “I love it! When people are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, they need someone to talk to them. It’s exciting,” says Doreen. Finally, Doreen has found great comfort in sharing her story. “This wasn’t exactly the ministry I wanted, but I’ve been able to use it to help people during their time of grief,” she says. “I truly believe that God can turn every burden into a blessing. He has really been good to me.”