Service to others is something both Mary Sue and Fred Staudt learned early and continue to practice every day. Faith is what drives them, but helping others is as natural as breathing. So it was no surprise when they heard about the Neighborhood Center of South Lake (TNCSL) through their Church (FUMC of Clermont) they knew they wanted to help. “I remember visiting the Center on a tour and when we got to the produce department, there was one lady working and there were many clients. She was working very hard and enjoyed talking with the clients. I signed up to help immediately and chose to work in produce for those reason and have been there now for 7 years,” Mary Sue remembers. Fred adds, “I learned about the Center in Sunday School Class from a good friend of the Church and the Center, Larry Rescoe. He really loved the Neighborhood Center and it very easy to see why.” Fred likes to do whatever needs to be done and helps greatly behind the scenes in the warehouse and pantry. “Some work may be more humbling, but that is what I like to do,” he affirms.
When the Staudt’s aren’t helping in produce or behind the scenes they also love to assist with the School Break Feeding Program (SBFP). With the enthusiastic assistance from members of the FUMC Life Group, they prepare hundreds of pre-packaged groceries to give to our school-aged children during school breaks (year-round). The program provides the meals (free breakfasts and lunches) these children need and do not have access to while on break. The Staudt’s also started the free Book Program at the Center when Mary Sue noticed that many parents and grandparents could use some help, diversions, for their children while waiting for their food. Empathizing with the struggles to keep children from getting bored (and being a strong proponent for education and literacy), she asked members of the Church to help remedy this by donating books for the Center. Members of the congregation responded immediately and generously with many boxes of children’s books. The program now partners with Read to Sydney and also offers free adult books and magazines – it has been a great program for our families.
Because of the relationships our volunteers develop with so many clients, they also have many wonderful stories from their experiences. One of Mary Sue’s most memorable days occurred when a homeless man came into the pantry with the soles of his shoes taped and tied with strings to his feet. She greeted him with the beautiful, kind smile she greets everyone although her heart was aching knowing this man was in dire straits. After asking him how he was doing, he responded ‘okay’ and then lifted one of his feet up and jokingly shared ‘I might need some new shoes soon.’ Mary Sue asked him what size he wore (the Center sometimes has other items including shoes to provide to some of our clients who need a little more help). He replied, ‘size 10’ and before Mary Sue could even reply, one of the other volunteers from the Elders Missionaries Group took off his brand new sneakers, handed them to the client and said ‘please take mine, they are a size 10.’ Everyone in produce witnessed this selfless and generous kindness and there were many tears. The client graciously accepted the shoes, thanked the young man, put them on and smiled from ear to ear. The Elder worked the rest of the day in his socks, but he, too, never stopped smiling.
The Neighborhood Center of South Lake is so fortunate to have volunteers like Mary Sue and Fred Staudt. We are proud to celebrate them and all our volunteers during National Volunteer Month, a month dedicated to honoring the volunteers in our communities. If you would like to volunteer or want more information, please click here. If you would like to celebrate a special volunteer in your life and help provide food security to our neighbors in need, please click here.
Happy National Volunteer Month!