Linda Dengler: Doing God’s Work in the LAHIA Kitchen
Linda Dengler has spent most of her professional life in kitchens. From cooking at the local hospital and schools, to working as a deli manager at Winn Dixie, Linda is most comfortable when preparing and serving meals.
Now in her retirement, Linda continues to cook as a LAHIA volunteer. For nearly three years, she has been LAHIA’s kitchen manager, helping to plan and prepare
meals, while also scheduling volunteers to cook, serve and clean up.
“I work three days a week, but that can change if we’re short-handed,” Linda said.
Being on her feet in the kitchen can be tiring, but Linda said she finds it easier these days than when she was employed full-time.
“I think that’s because this is God’s work,” Linda said. “He’s given me many gifts and now is my time to give back.”
Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA Executive Director, said Linda is a treasure.
“For years Linda has been quietly giving to LAHIA in ways most of us aren't even aware of -- she is a gem!” Brenda said. “We love her energy and heart for the
ministry and all those involved.”
With 60 – 75 individuals expected for dinner each night, volunteers are essential to LAHIA’s ability to feed the hungry in our community.
“Doing this work gives me a reason to get up and get out in the morning,” Linda said.
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
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.”