Gene (February 2022)
Eugenio, known here at LAHIA as Gene, is a special volunteer! Initially Gene heard about LAHIA from others in the community that were in need and being helped by LAHIA, so he just had to come here! Thank goodness for word of mouth or Gene may never have found his way to us. That was eight years ago!
When Gene isn’t providing a helpful hand at LAHIA, he enjoys fishing, snorkeling, camping, hunting, painting, and cleaning. Previously he had a unique career as the operator of a tugboat and fishing boat!
Gene is such a huge part of the daily operation here at LAHIA. We see him almost every day. In fact, it’s odd if Gene is not here. He pitches in wherever and whenever he can. He unloads vehicles when donations come in, washes dishes, pots and pans during breakfast and dinner, landscapes around the entire property, cleans inside and out, lovingly attends to our chickens… and even interprets for our Spanish speaking guests! Simply put, Gene helps with just about anything and everything that is needed at any given moment.
Gene -- we are so grateful for you and the time that you give to LAHIA! Thank you for being such a positive, consistent, helpful part of our days here!!
Maureen (January 2022)
If there has ever been any wonder as to how LAHIA is able to produce such creative, delicious, homemade meals for our clients on a daily basis… this lady might be onsite – meet Maureen!
Maureen spends much of her free time in the kitchen here at LAHIA prepping and cooking food for the evening meal. When she isn’t here, it may surprise you to know… Maureen is quite the thrill-seeker / daredevil! She’s been both parasailing and hang-gliding! She also has a sailboat with her husband, and together they enjoy short and long trips to places like the Florida Keys. Maureen is also a member of both the choir and the bell choir at her church.
One of her dreams was to open her own restaurant which she achieved when she created her Panera-like café, Boca Buns! She also began to teach her culinary skills which she loved so much that she ended up teaching for 15 years! After Maureen retired from her dream job, she was searching for a place that could benefit from her talents. As she called around, everyone she spoke to told her to call LAHIA! And that was that! Maureen is now part of the LAHIA family!!
Technically, Maureen is a huge asset to LAHIA as she is a culinary chef by trade. The true benefit of having her as part of our team here, however, is the friendship she so willingly gives to all. Maureen is readily available when called upon to help. She has been aptly referred to as our “Ace-in-the-hole” and she truly deserves the title!
Thank you Maureen for the time and the talents you freely give to LAHIA and our clients. What a gift you are to all of us!!
Henry (December 2021)
Henry first came to us at the end of July 2021 after he saw a list of volunteering opportunities through his church, Coastal Life. Thank goodness LAHIA stood out to Henry! He came in to fill out an application and the rest is history ~ Henry is now part of the LAHIA family! Henry is a physical therapist and shares the story of a patient who had been injured a decade prior and experiencing pain ever since. In one session with this patient, Henry was able to ease his pain! When Henry isn’t working or volunteering, he enjoys fishing, yard work, and bike riding. He and his wife have been married for 20 years, and in his younger years he was a very good baseball player! Henry has become an important part of the LAHIA team during the busy morning hours! He sure isn’t afraid to multitask! When the time calls for it, Henry deftly handles answering phones, sorting mail and signing our clients in for breakfast with an engaging smile and a “how are you today?” If Henry has extra time after the breakfast rush passes, he helps organize hygiene products and other donations. Henry is without a doubt a huge help, but one of the greatest benefits is to be in the presence of his positive, uplifting spirit and pure heart. We are extremely fortunate and grateful to be able to call him a friend!! Henry reminded us of I Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor mind has thought of the things the Lord has prepared for those who love him.” Thank you Henry for letting your light shine so brightly!
Mike (November 2021)
We feel it’s about time a shout-out was given to our friend and volunteer, Mike! Mike first became aware of LAHIA through a news feed on his phone. He has been spending much of his free time here at LAHIA, either in the kitchen prepping for dinner, or managing the hygiene cottage, where our clients can shower and have their laundry washed. His other volunteer interests include: Big Brothers, St. Vincent de Paul, serving on the board of his Neighborhood Association & church food bank. Mike spent 35 years of his life as a mid-level corporate executive in Health Care and 4 years as an Army Officer. Something you might find surprising is that Mike graduated from Army Rangers School and also was a skydiver in his younger years. Today Mike enjoys lifting weights. We are so grateful to you Mike, for the time you have so freely given and for the genuine comradery you provide to our clients. When a LAHIA client was asked to describe you Mike, the following was given without hesitation, “Mike has a heart of pure gold, and he isn’t afraid to show it.”
Mia & Juanita (August 2021)
This volunteer highlight is double special as it is a twofer! We at LAHIA feel it is time to shine a spotlight on two very special ladies who have spent much of their time volunteering in our hygiene cottage. For those who are not aware, the hygiene cottage houses two sets of showers and a laundry facility for the homeless individuals in our community. So without further ado, please meet Juanita and Mia!
Both Juanita and Mia go above and beyond to help our clients. These ladies keep the facility organized, clean and ensure that anyone wishing to take a shower has the opportunity to do so. They stay past their scheduled time to make sure everything is left tidy and our clients have clean, dry clothing, especially after a rainy, stormy night.
Both of these ladies found their way to LAHIA during a time of need in their own lives and both are currently living homelessly here in Martin County. Unfortunately, each of these beautiful ladies have lived through some type of trauma. Luckily for LAHIA and our clients, however, they found their way to us and are willing to help provide services with much kindness. Both have previous volunteer experience: Juanita created a 5K walk in Boston and helped feed the homeless individuals living in Ft. Lauderdale using leftovers from the cruise lines. Mia used to coach youth baseball & softball and also volunteered time at Habitat for Humanity.
When asked if they enjoy volunteering at LAHIA, both answered with a resounding YES! They find joy in interacting with the clients. “Providing a service and seeing how kindness effects change. Giving dignity to those who deserve it. Giving dignity to those who didn’t even know they could get it”. Thank you ladies for being reliable, for following through on the commitments you have made, and for taking such great care in the responsibilities given to you. We are so grateful to be a part of your lives, for however long you will allow us!
Elizabeth Curet (April 2021)
We’d like to shine a well-deserved spotlight on a sweet volunteer who has become a crucial part of our client’s wellness. Elizabeth has been following God’s calling to offer free counseling here at LAHIA since December of 2017, after noticing an ad in her Church’s bulletin. As Elizabeth recollected the moment, she said the advertisement seemed to sparkle as she looked at it. What a gift, to be able to slow a moment long enough to notice, to be present enough to receive the message and then recollect it years later. Fortunately, Elizabeth received and accepted the message! LAHIA and our clients have been the happy beneficiaries ever since.
When asked to describe a highlight as a Mental Health Counselor, Elizabeth answered that it is cooperating with the Holy Spirit to bring healing to the traumatized, emotionally wounded souls with whom the Lord brings her way. Another high point of Elizabeth’s life is being blessed with the birth of five children and home educating them for 14.5 years!
When Elizabeth has free time, her hobbies include connecting with her five adult children and eight grandsons, physical exercise - sometimes with her husband - and cooking nutritious meals which she very much enjoys. Something pretty remarkable that deserves mention is that many years ago Elizabeth worked hard to teach her children Latin!
LAHIA is so very grateful for the time that Elizabeth willingly gives for the betterment of our clients. Using wellness tools such as “The Change Triangle” to restore calm, clarity, and peace of mind is such a helpful advantage. When asked to describe Elizabeth, clients and staff used adjectives such as compassionate, caring, passionate and having a huge heart. Elizabeth has a true gift for reaching people and we are incredibly thankful that she was pointed in our direction.
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.
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.
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
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.”