When Need and Generosity Intersect

YSB Guest Author: Peg Ludtke
Valley Outreach Volunteer – Stillwater, MN

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need. — the Rolling Stones

What do you do when it seems there is bad news everywhere? How does a person fight despair when the  heartache and troubles of the world or maybe just your part of it, take hold and won’t let go? It is from this mindset that I started volunteering at the front desk at Valley Outreach last spring.
I answer the phone, process food and clothing donations, occasionally call home-bound clients to remind them a food delivery will be coming to them later in the week. When I am not there, other volunteers do this same front desk gig, and when there isn’t a volunteer, one of the paid staff sits at the desk and does these tasks as well as their other duties. In other words, the front desk is always filled whether I am there or not.

Am I making a difference? It is difficult to argue that I am since the good work Valley Outreach does goes on whether I volunteer or not. I will say that what I’ve witnessed in the process of  volunteering is the epitome of grace; I am reminded every time that here the meanness of the world gets diffused with compassion and goodwill.

From the front desk, I watch need and generosity intersect. Anyone who walks in and says they need food, will be given an emergency bag of groceries no questions asked, no proof of necessity or citizenship required. Perhaps because of the name Outreach, or simply the reputation it has, people come in asking for help finding housing or paying their bills too. Most of us would acknowledge that it is difficult to ask for help, but here the asking is always met with respect, and help or directed to another service.

Then there is the other side of the graceful equation: generosity. During my two hour shift, a fairly constant stream of people, back up their cars to unload garden produce, can goods, non perishables and clothing. Yesterday, I helped a woman navigate through the door with several bags of clothing. After placing them in the bins, she explained that her husband had recently passed away and she was hoping his good clothes could be of use to someone else. I told her I was sorry for her loss and did my best to assure her that her effort would help someone in need, and how kind it was of her to even think of us.

Even in grief, a person may shine with generosity.

So when the heartache of the world weighs heavy, my recommendation is to find a place like Valley Outreach, donate some time or whatever you have to spare so you can witness a place that harbors human benevolence; hope for the world and perhaps a touch of  grace will be your reward.


Here are some helpful websites for volunteering in the area:

Washington Co. Food Shelves

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