Volunteers: The Backbone of HHTN- by Connie Johnson


As I sit here in the quiet at HHTN, I think of the many volunteers who have come through our doors. I think of all the lives that God has sent here to make an impact on others. God has provided an amazing group of people for His ministry. Some volunteers walked through the doors as clients, some as lookers, some volunteered because they needed to fill community service hours, while others joined us because they felt a call to help. We have had people who only came for one day, and some have been here for over five years. God always sends who He wants to be here, for the amount of time He thinks they need to be here.

I am thinking of a few individuals who have made a difference in my life, and I am sure, in those they touched. So many people have touched some part of this ministry in one way or another that I could not possibly name them all, nor could I tell you all the stories without writing a book. I am going to tell you about a few of them and leave out last names for privacy.

Paul was an elderly gentleman who came through our doors as a client. He always had a smile on his face and a loving word for everyone he met. I remember one morning when I came through the sitting area, and I could hear him talking to the other clients around him. It was warm inside, and while most were complaining about the wait, he only had good things to say. Most of his words were uplifting, and the rest were joyful. I truly needed joy that morning, and his cheerful hello and kind words just caused the black clouds to go away. I remember thinking that we need this man to volunteer here, even if for no other reason than to sit and talk to the clients. I happened to pull his folder for counseling and took the opportunity to ask him if he would be interested in volunteering. Paul did not think he had anything to offer, but I can tell you that he always brought joy and God’s love with him on the days he came to work. He worked in the food pantry and brought buggies out to the cars for the clients. He was here for less than a year when God called him home.

Viv came in our early years, and she was a Godsend for the clothing closet. She always told me what she thought and did not care to tell the truth. She never let me get a “big head” and always gave great advice. I love her for that reason. While others were timid about telling me something I needed to hear, she would always approach me. She was an absolute whiz at organizing and figuring out how to make things work. I can remember when she started, there was a huge mound of clothing donations to sort through, but once she caught it up, we never had a problem with a buildup again. She was always thinking about those around her, especially people she knew who had needs, and tried to fulfill them. If a client came in that could not find a size or color that they needed, she would keep an eye out for it and call them when she found it. She was such a blessing.

Larry is another of God’s unknown angels. He worked in the food pantry and did great things in there. He and Janie helped set up the method that we use today for food distribution. I remember his heart for children. Larry played Santa Clause at a few of our Christmas parties for the kids. He was reserved and did not say a lot, but he was quick to talk to children, and if given permission, would give them a treat of some sort. Larry was one of our key pick-up drivers for the fresh produce we got in for a very long time. He always ran a tight, clean ship in the food pantry, and you could count on him to keep things running smoothly. Larry still visits occasionally, and his talents are missed, but sometimes God calls people to do other things.

Darleen was our front-end lady and usually the first person anyone saw when they came in our doors. She would help clients fill out their applications, pull their files, and get them ready to go through the rest of the process. Darleen would answer the same questions patiently, repeatedly, and always with a smile on her face. She is so easy to talk to that sometimes the clients would corner her and make it hard for her to do her job. “God love ‘em” is the phrase she uses a lot – never with a mean spirit, and always with love. I still have clients asking when she will be back on the front desk. I tell them that God put her in the clothing area for now because that is where He needs her to be.

Tim is our organizer, builder, and fixer. He drives for a living, and sometimes he just has a couple of weeks off work, but he always comes in to do whatever we need. Tim created the shelving units we use to store items in the food pantry, and between him and one of the George’s, the majority of anything built came from them. They have made walls, doors, shelves, racks, counters, and so much more. They also use their skills to turn empty rooms into functioning offices for our growing organization. I can honestly say that these men have saved us on more than one occasion. The ideas they come up with are astounding, and they continue to find ways to recycle pallets, crates, and more for us to use. They are worth more to us than their weight in gold. God sure does give each of us a talent he wants us to use for his glory, and these men do.

Araceliz sent me a message one day wanting to know if we could use someone who could speak very little English but wanted to learn more. She has been such a large part of HHTN since she came. She has been able to create and fix some of the computer programs that we use. I had no idea how much talent she had when she started. She had recently relocated to TN with her new husband and needed to practice speaking English so that she could get her visa updated.  She did not tell me she was a Civil Engineer with a degree who had worked on skyscrapers. What an amazing talent she has. While she helped us, she worked on getting her permanent visa, and she talked about working on her Citizenship papers.  Communication could be a challenge, but God always makes it work for his glory. She has been a ray of sunshine to this ministry.

We have more volunteers at HHTN, and it would take me all day to tell you about them. A shortlist includes: Karla and her family, Lou, George (we have 3 of them), Pat, Liz, Heather, Nancy, Erica, Lindsey, Janey, Debra, John, Sheila, Kim, Betty, Vera, Amanda, Faye, Cathy, Frank, Nell, Kathleen, Ileene, Matt, Amy, Sherry, Tammy, Stephane, Meagan, and so many others that I cannot name them all.

I am trying to say that volunteers are the backbone of HHTN, and the number one reason we can do what we do every day. God knows who is needed and when. If He has ever put it in your heart to volunteer somewhere, but you feel like you do not have anything to offer, know this: Everyone has a talent; everyone has a purpose, and even though you may not see what yours is – God does. Can you type, draw, organize, or cook? You are needed. Are you retired, disabled, how about a homemaker? You are needed. If you only have a few hours a week or maybe only one day a month, you are needed. Can you sweep, stock, organize, hang, fold, pack, or just follow directions? All of these things are skills that non-profits need to help them do what needs to be done. The possibilities are endless when it comes to volunteering your time and your talents.

Have a great day and God Bless,

Connie Johnson

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

One thought on “Volunteers: The Backbone of HHTN- by Connie Johnson”

  1. Y’all all rock from the first person ya see when you get there all the way to the last person who pushes the food out in the buggy. Especially the curly headed wears glasses..she first started doing the USDA check ins. Love her she’s like a mom to me now. Never once calls me by number but by hey George come on back. But seriously y’all treat everybody like a somebody not just a number begging for food. Thank you to every last person that has had a part in helping me anytime I been there.

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