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.”