Volunteers come through again

By Ruth Ferris If I were granted a New Year's wish, I would wish that those making the decisions about jobs, education and food in our country would spend some time in a community center like Eatonville's at Christmas and really see the people who qualify to get toys and food for their Christmas-Hanukkah-Winter holiday. The Eatonville community rallies around families with children so that every child receives gifts, and parents get to shop at the "storeGÇ¥ that is created in the Eatonville Community Center. Boxes of holiday food include turkeys and holiday treats, even extra food for the dogs and cats. Of course, the stereotype of the lazy moocher exists, and those wishing to do so could have their ideas confirmed and go on their way, not having their thinking about hunger, poverty or joblessness challenged. However, those of us who stay to work for several days go home with hearts uplifted for the opportunity to make a small difference in the lives of many who have poignant stories, and we are reminded that need can strike any of us without warning. Many in the Eatonville region participate in the holiday work at Eatonville Family Agency (EFA). Our town's doctor, Peter Karlin, joined us as a volunteer one morning. One volunteer, touched by the needs of those coming for gifts, returned with boxes of laundry detergent, deodorant and shampoo to add to shoppers' carts. Many stories stay in our minds and hearts. One mother had just gotten a job and her new salary put her into a new category, and that meant she no longer received benefits for which she had qualified when she had been jobless. Even though she was working, her tree was going to have only one small piece of clothing for each of her two children. Patty Daly, who has a heart filled with compassion, filled a box with gifts and prepared a generous food box. At the sight of the overflowing boxes, the mother was overcome with tears, and we all just stood there hugging her, touched by how hard she was trying to make her life and the lives of her children good ones. Another mother quietly said that in the past, she had been the one who was giving to charity, but that a back operation meant that she had been out of work. For her children to have toys this Christmas, she needed help. She assured me that she would be on the giving end when her life was better. Her dignity and gratefulness for the gifts and food she was receiving made me feel sure that she and her family will be contributing to a better, more compassionate world in the future. One of our shoppers was a grandfather who was getting toys for his little grandchild. He had not only had health issues that had cut short his earning years, but a son had lost a job and had come home with a little child. He confided that his first response had been to feel overwhelmed, but he quickly added that the child had brought joy to his life and now felt like a wonderful gift. He was one more person whose life had been changed by events beyond his control. He was grateful for the help of the EFA so that his grandchild could have presents and a festive dinner at Christmas. I would like to feature two volunteers as a conclusion to our EFA Christmas story. Mike Lovett turned up at the "Christmas StoreGÇ¥ every day and worked happily, loading boxes and making sure the hand truck was keeping up with the needs of those loading food boxes. The third day, he came to work with Johnny Frost. He and Johnny had been at a meeting together when Johnny asked Mike what he had been doing. Mike said he was volunteering at the center and that he loved doing it because by focusing on helping others, it helped him to put his own troubles in the background. Johnny, who is retired, replied that he had been thinking about volunteering, and Mike quickly recruited him. That in itself would be a great story, but it gets better. The EFA routine food runs to Fred Meyer and Safeway to get extra food for our food bank require a volunteer driver who is willing to commit time to make food runs every week. Just as Mike and Johnny were checking in as volunteers, the volunteer driver was explaining that she would no longer be able to drive the van for the food runs. Johnny was standing nearby and quickly responded, "I could do that.GÇ¥ What a joyful coincidence. EFA is able to continue its important food runs, and Johnny found a place to volunteer where he was really needed and where his skills would contribute to those who needed food.
Ruth Ferris is a member of Eatonville Family Agency's board.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment