Love and Hope in Action
Love and Hope in Action

Spotlight on our incredible volunteers

Donna Conti (January 2021)


Where to begin… With this one, I believe the only appropriate way is to jump right in.


Our beautiful Donna is the definition of a staple here at LAHIA, which literally translates to; one that is basic and important in people's everyday lives. For example, “Donna will know” has become somewhat of a mantra. If there is an inquiry and an immediate answer is unattainable, “Donna will know” funnily enough, is a sufficient and acceptable response.


LAHIA is the beyond grateful beneficiary of most of Donna’s free time. Donna’s volunteer hours at LAHIA are the equivalent of a full-time job… and then some. After retiring from 35 years as a court reporter, or as Donna would say, “human tape recorder”, she was looking for a purpose. God undoubtedly had a hand in guiding Donna to LAHIA. As she was opening a new bank account here in Stuart, the bank attendant asked what she was planning to do for retirement. Donna answered that she’d like to find something to do that makes her feel good. The bank attendants reply, just a few simple words, directed Donna straight to us. We will be forever grateful to the bank employee who suggested LAHIA!


In Donna’s limited free time, she likes to dance around the house to music and play board games. She loves early mornings and early evenings on the beach and absolutely loves starting her day with a fresh cup of coffee on her balcony. When Donna was asked to share something that might surprise us, she answered that she completed the 2002 NYC Marathon with her 75-year-old uncle, who had asked her to join him. Together they completed the marathon in 8.5 hours.


In closing, it is important to note how BIG Donna’s heart is. She sees the best in everyone. It is a natural gift that Donna has, to love with zero prejudice. This statement does come with a warning, however... If you cross her, her Bronx will come out. At that point you better run, because you’re in big trouble! If you are good to her though, she will be a dear friend with a fantastic sense of humor. Our lives: client’s, volunteer’s and staff’s, are more enriched and full just by knowing this Italian, animal loving, people loving, girl from the Bronx!!

Cynthia Barbato (November 2020)


We are delighted to introduce one of our beloved volunteers -- please meet Cynthia!


Cynthia gives her time freely at LAHIA on a weekly basis to help in the Clothing Pantry.  She is part of the team that sifts through the amazing amount of clothing and linens donated to LAHIA, selecting and organizing the pieces that will be most useful to our clients.  Cynthia puts so much effort and love into what she is doing in the Clothing Pantry – as if it is her own little boutique!


Cynthia moved to Stuart 5 years ago and has been a volunteer at LAHIA now for 4 years.  Retired and looking after her father when she first arrived, she was looking for something to do to get out of the house.  LAHIA was close by and suggested by her church at the time, Ascent Church.  This isn’t the first Cynthia has given her time as a volunteer.  Cynthia volunteered at the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Pittsburg before being offered a position as an employee.  She was an employee there for over 8 years.


Cynthia considers her life to be pretty simple, but she’s done some pretty amazing things!


Cynthia and her husband lived in Germany for 4 years while he was in the service.  They have been married for 45 years and together they have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.  Cynthia’s husband is a chef, and through this, Cynthia found herself becoming the pastry chef.  In her free time, she enjoys hiking and cross-country skiing as well as spin and palates classes.


We’re so grateful for her time and enjoyable conversations.  She is always willing to help our clients find the perfect outfit, in the perfect size, for whatever the occasion; from cold nights to job interviews.


Cynthia is kind, thoughtful, and genuine.  We hope that she knows what a benefit she is here at LAHIA and how thankful we are for her!!

Noreen Gulotta (August 2020)


Noreen remembers first being involved in LAHIA through a ladies weekly Bible study held in the LAHIA dining room several years ago, with sweet aromas of dinner cooking that would be served to the homeless and hungry a few hours later.


Just two years ago Noreen came back to LAHIA when she was looking for another way to volunteer.  She is now an important part of the feeding ministry side of LAHIA, helping prepare and serve meals to an average of 125 people a day.


Giving of her time and energy comes naturally for Noreen.  She and her husband started cleaning their church, Calvary Chapel Palm City, 20 years ago and even now, after the passing of her husband, she is still part of their cleaning team.  She has taught Sunday School and been a leader in women’s ministry.


Over the years, Noreen has utilized her gift of hospitality and compassion in her housecleaning business and then as a caregiver – praying for and ministering to her clients.


Traveling remains one of Noreen’s favorite hobbies.  She and her husband have been privileged to see many different countries around the world and she still wanders off whenever she gets the chance.  She enjoys watching movies and reading in her down time.


The surprising side of Noreen is that she is a dare-devil!  She LOVES roller-coasters and thrill rides, has bungee- jumped and even skydived when she was 70 years old!!


Noreen – we love your kind, sweet spirit and are incredibly grateful for your heart of service and willingness to step in when needed.  You are another one of our special gifts and we pray you will stay with us for a long time!

Jack Luther (July 2020)


While volunteering with “Can We Help” by feeding the day labor employees at Pacesetters, my wife Ginny and I had begun a steel-toe boot program for those who needed boots in order to work through day labor employers.  We had formed a charity, Bart’s Blue Foundation, to honor our son, Bart, who had been murdered while serving in the US Army.  When we discovered LAHIA, we found that we could find many homeless that needed our boot program and the bond was formed.  That was 700 pairs of boots ago, or nearly 9 years ago.  Ginny and I had also been helping and serving at TC3 for years prior to finding LAHIA.


Since that time, I am following Gods direction and helping where I am needed.  I have a real passion for the poor as I was raised in poverty and foster care, so I can relate to those coming to LAHIA for support.


Before retiring in 2019, I had a home repair business, “Jack Of All Trades” for about 20 years, doing home repairs of all sorts.  I enjoy watching movies with popcorn, occasionally playing golf - with one hole-in-one, 178-yard par three - and playing Words With Friends and Fun Poker online.


A few other interesting tidbits about me… I was a single parent for 7 years with 2 children, have received several miracles in my lifetime, was chairman of the deacon board at Northside Community Church in upstate New York, as well as other leadership roles over the years.  My best friend is my daughter, Lilly Michelle…. my miniature schnauzer.


Jack, all of us at LAHIA are mighty grateful for your willingness to serve where needed.  For many years you have been our main chauffer to any kind of appointment from medical to court to bus station to the DMV and so much more!  You’ve got a real heart for the homeless and hurting and we can’t wait for COVID to wander off so you can come back to us!

Bill Boes (July 2020)


Bill Boes celebrates 6 years of volunteering at LAHIA this month! 


During COVID-19, Bill often arrives before the lights are on nearly every single morning, to assist with breakfast prep and serving 45-60 hungry people.  He often comes back in the evening to serve dinner to an even larger number. 


Bill has a long history of volunteering with many of LAHIA’s community partners:  House of Hope, Treasure Coast Hospice, Mary’s Shelter, Carpenter’s Kitchen, American Cancer Society, God’s Resources (a pregnancy resource center), Alcoholics Anonymous (at Bethesda Manor/Miami) and One Blood – donating 46 gallons so far!!


A world traveler to 17 countries over his lifetime, he continues to enjoy hobbies that keep his mind and body healthy, and has a special interest in human powered vehicles.  In 2015, Bill creatively merged his love for biking and LAHIA in a fundraiser to bring more awareness to the ministry’s services to the homeless in Martin County.  He hand-pedaled 100 miles from The Bike Shop in Stuart to Vero and back to LAHIA!


His creativity didn’t stop there – in June 2015 he created a not-for-profit “Hides for the Homeless” that gives 50% of its profits to charities helping the homeless.


Bill is a humble man, a disciple of Christ and caregiver of people.  He feels he is “blessed beyond measure and eternally grateful” in life.  At LAHIA, we feel the very same about the privilege of serving alongside you Bill!! 

Dorothy Draw - Serving for Jesus (June 2020)


Dorothy Draw is the epitome of volunteering!


Dorothy came to volunteer at LAHIA 5 years ago because “I wanted to be able to give back my thanks and gratitude to my beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for all the blessings that He has blessed me with, and also to bring the love of Jesus Christ into the hearts, souls, and minds of the clients at LAHIA... they are so special!!!!  I truly feel blessed to do this!”


Dorothy has a gift in writing out prayers from her heart and sharing them just before breakfast with the clients, volunteers and staff.  When she enters the room with her journal, there is a reverent hush as she leads in prayer.  She is dearly loved by all.


Dorothy’s deep desire to follow Christ’s example of service is also shown as she helps with dinner for the Celebrate Recovery program at The Grace Place, as well as being a long-time member of the Christ Fellowship Church hospitality team.  Rarely will you not see her greeting members and visitors on a Sunday morning.  She may very well be the most anxious person to finally get back together inside!


Dorothy has hit some impressive milestones.  She was married for almost 50 years to Louis Draw, the love of her life who is celebrating 9 years in his heavenly home.  We were surprised to just learn that Dorothy is 86 and still going strong!!  She assured us that she “will continue to volunteer until the day when my beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ calls me home to be with Him for eternity!”  THEN she will rest.


Thank you Dorothy for spreading your love and sharing your beautiful soul to everyone you come in contact with.  Your reward will be great!

Ed Fay (April 2020)


Ed Fay spent 42 years managing a chemical processing company in New Jersey,  and during the past 16 years he has been coming down to PSL several times a year where he owns a home.  This year he officially became a snow bird.


His volunteering started after 911.  He has been a long term member of CERT and when he became aware of the tremendous need in New York he started volunteering with World Cares Center.  At WCC he was initially doing inspections of flood damaged homes in North Jersey.  Poor folks with problems – that was a very sobering experience.


After Superstorm Sandy, his efforts moved to mucking and gutting houses and later mold remediation which included three side trips to Baton Rouge and NC.


More recently he was training new disaster relief volunteers at Randall's Island Park in NYC and doing the occasional mold job for people without insurance.


He said volunteering became a need and fortunately he found an opportunity at LAHIA!


The kitchen staff in particular feel mighty fortunate that Ed found us!  Ed works quietly and is remarkably humble.  Everything he puts his hand to is done in a consistently thorough way which leaves nothing undone or done half-heartedly.


Ed saw that LAHIA has temporarily lost many good kitchen volunteers while the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course.  He has been in nearly every single day to wash dishes, scrub (and I mean SCRUB!) pots & pans, clean floors, drains, etc. because he sees the need.  Ed certainly isn’t afraid of the grungy tasks and we will truly miss him in May when he heads north for a well-deserved month of R & R.


Everything shines when Ed is done with his volunteer shift.  Be like Ed!!!


Barbara Schwartz (February 2020)


Barbara Schwartz is one of our extraordinary food pantry volunteers! Barbara manages the organization of our food pantry – both the incoming donations and the scheduling of the other pantry volunteers.  Part of these tasks include putting together weekend lunch bags handed out to clients as they leave Saturday afternoon.


Barbara has been volunteering at LAHIA since mid-2014 and we are truly blessed that she has chosen to be part of the LAHIA family.  Barbara heard about LAHIA while volunteering at a thrift book store at Morningside Church from a woman who came into the shop.  She and Barbara got to talking and the woman shared her own homeless story and how LAHIA had helped her.  Barbara was quite moved and stopped into LAHIA to check us out.


Barbara is kind and unwaveringly devoted in all that she does.  Barbara is active in her community as well as her church.  She also loves a bit of fun and joined LAHIA at the Jensen Beach St. Patrick’s Day parade to help spread the word about LAHIA and our mission.  She is always willing to lend a helping hand.


We are so grateful for the hours and hours of time and energy Barbara has given to LAHIA over the years.  Such a gift! 


Maria Bentel - Clothing Pantry Manager (December 2019)


Maria Bentel is one of a kind! Maria has been volunteering at LAHIA since 2014. When she retired from her 30-year career with Martin County, Maria knew she wanted to volunteer and give back to the community.

Maria considered volunteering at the library thinking she wanted to do something intellectual. But she decided to stop in at LAHIA and has been with us ever since. She feels this is where God wants her and finds that her stimulation comes from her heart now, not so much the brain.

Maria was born in Puerto Rico and Spanish is her first language. She has a soft spot for our Hispanic population and often proves invaluable helping to translate. Maria goes the extra mile helping various clients when she can and is trusted by all of our clients.

Maria more than capably fills the busy role as LAHIA’s clothing pantry manager. When asked what her favorite part of working in the clothing pantry is, she responded that she loves to help women find the right outfit for an upcoming job interview. She knows our clients are experiencing tough times in their lives and finds joy in watching them grow and be the people they are meant to be.

When she isn’t volunteering, Maria is working out, sharing her boundless energy, and traveling to visit friends and family.
Maria is a true blessing and her smile lights up even the darkest day. We are incredibly grateful for volunteers like Maria!

Joe Murphy - Volunteer Pro (November 2019)


Joe Murphy started volunteering at LAHIA in 2016 under the recommendation of Volunteers in Medicine.

From the beginning, it was clear that he wanted to cook – now other volunteers are making a special request to work with him in the kitchen!  In addition to great pancakes and the best grits, Joe is known for his burgers.  Everyone loves it when Joe has Burger Night!


Joe grew up in Florida and is an avid fisherman.  Most mornings you might find him in Jensen Beach fishing off the bridge and taking fantastic pictures of our amazing Florida sunrises.


Joe has a deep passion for our clients and being of service to them.  Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA Executive Director says, “Joe is willing to do anything!  In addition to cooking, he is often running around picking up food from our partners and helping with community events.  Joe is humble and feels that LAHIA is blessing him.  But we are pretty certain that HE is the gift!”


Stop by LAHIA on a Monday or Wednesday and say hello to Joe.  Don’t let his quiet demeanor fool you – Joe has such a great sense of humor and a great life story.


With over 100 meals expected to be served each day, our volunteers are indispensable to LAHIA's mission to feed the hungry in our community.  We are so very grateful that Joe is one of them!

Linda Dengler:  Doing God’s Work in the LAHIA Kitchen (2018)

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.

Meet Therese Becker, Volunteer Extraordinaire (2018)


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 (2018)


“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.”