On Thanksgiving Day 2015, Therese Becker and her husband stopped at LAHIA to drop off a donation and were invited to stay and help with serving the holiday meal. They stayed, and for Therese this kind gesture led to a full-time volunteer job that has been life changing.
“I saw how hard Brenda (LAHIA’s Director) was working and asked if she could use an assistant,” Therese said. “Now I work 40 hours a week helping out in any way I can.”
Therese answers the phone, picks up donations, transports clients to appointments, helps recruit and manage volunteers, logs and manages all collected data, and anything else that needs getting done to help serve LAHIA clients.
Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA Director, said Therese came at just the right time. “As the ministry needs grow, so does the need for additional staff. Therese steps in wherever needed without question. Her efficiency and life experience has been a phenomenal help and every day we are grateful she chose us!”
“God has blessed me and I want to give back,” Therese said. She is grateful to her loving and understanding husband of 40 years, who understands she wants and needs to do this work right now.
“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” Therese said. “Some days I leave here with a smile and some days I leave with tears. It’s hard knowing that I’m going to a comfortable home and the folks we work with are going to be sleeping in the woods.”
In addition to helping in the LAHIA office, Therese serves on the LAHIA Board of Directors as secretary.
“Volunteering works both ways,” she said. “It keeps me active in the community helping those who don’t have a lot. Every day is different here and I’m never bored!”
“Big Mike” Thomas Gives Back to LAHIA
“Big Mike,” as he is affectionately called, has become a fixture at Love and Hope in Action (LAHIA). He first arrived at LAHIA almost four years ago, when he was homeless. Once he got
back on his feet and found work, he moved on. Today, he’s back as a full-time volunteer, and LAHIA is grateful to have him!
Mike Thomas now lives on the LAHIA campus, helping to provide 24/7 security. During the day, he is a permanent fixture at the front desk—a familiar and friendly face who greets clients and
volunteers. He manages the kitchen, making sure the daily volunteers have what they need to prepare meals, and helping to cook when needed. He also provides transportation – picking
up food donations from restaurants and churches, helping campers move their belongings out of the woods when they find housing, and helping clients get to doctor appointments.
A native Floridian, Mike is happy to be able to give back and help others who are now in similar circumstances as he once was.
“LAHIA was a big help to me a few years ago,” Mike said. “I slept in my truck for a while and lived in a tent. It was a difficult time.”
Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA's Executive Director, said Mike's contributions are a blessing to the nonprofit organization.
"The day Big Mike came back to LAHIA as a volunteer was a good day!," she said. "We are blessed to have such a reliable man taking on the responsibilities of looking out for this ministry in so many tangible ways."
Mike’s presence is a win-win on both sides.
“It gives you a good feeling inside to help other people,” he said. “I know I’m doing God’s work.”
Joe Pokalsey is Changing Lives
After retiring from his third career at the age of 75, Joe Pokalsey looked for something new to do. He found it at Love and Hope in Action (LAHIA).
Six years later, Joe is still volunteering at LAHIA. His work is primarily focused on providing assistance and support to the individuals LAHIA serves. Approximately 75 people come through LAHIA’s doors each day. They might receive a meal, a shower and/or clean clothes.
Since most LAHIA clients are homeless and have no mailing address, LAHIA offers them a mailbox. One of Joe’s jobs is to maintain the mail folders of about 300 individuals and keep safe any important identification papers they have, such as birth certificates or social security cards.
Joe also drives clients to doctor appointments, and as an ordained deacon he assists with group discussions, bible studies and church services held on Saturdays at LAHIA. He works closely with Chris Taylor-Cronin, LAHIA’s Director of Client Services and an ordained pastor.
“There is both a physical and a spiritual side of our work,” Joe said. “Our services are low-key, casual and friendly.”
Both Chris and Joe get to know almost every client who walks through the doors at LAHIA. They help connect them with social services, medical or mental health care, and other resources in the community. They also assist clients with obtaining state identification, housing, food stamps and jobs.
“Each day is a whole new set of circumstances or emergencies we have to deal with,” Joe said.
“Joe's unwavering dedication to the mission of LAHIA is nothing short of admirable,” said Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA’s Director. “We are deeply grateful to him for all he does.”
For Joe, the rewards are simple. “We are helping to change a lot of lives here,” he said.