Volunteer Spotlight: Community Volunteers


Two-hundred and eighty five volunteers call Tel Hai Retirement Community their home. Naturally these individuals like to volunteer on campus and help make their home the best place to be.

But quite a few of our volunteers don’t stop there and they have expanded their volunteering to the local Honey Brook and Twin Valley area to help others in need. Some of these volunteer opportunities include the Twin Valley Food Pantry, Honey Brook Food Pantry, Honey Brook Community Library and Steeple to People thrift shop. This month we spotlight these wonderful individuals who give their time to those surrounding Tel Hai and we thank our Community Volunteers.

The Twin Valley Food Pantry

I had the pleasure of joining our hard working volunteers at the November food pantry distribution and was brought into another world. A world where shelving, organizing, bending, picking up, bagging, carrying boxes, handing out food, and smiling (especially smiling) make all the difference to more than 160 families in the Twin Valley area.

I joined Ernie Owens, Jane Kerr, Joanne Belson, and Bob and Joyce Witters on this particular Tuesday evening and was blown away by the dedication and honest hard work these volunteers put in. This was nothing out of the ordinary for this crew of volunteers as this is where you can find them for more than 3 hours, on their feet, on the 4th Tuesday of every month. Some have been doing this for as long as they can remember and are faithful to the food pantry each month, while others come as often as they can. Either way, the impact is felt by those they are serving and by those who are coordinating this large event each and every month.

Twin Valley Food Pantry Volunteers: Ernie Owens & Jane Kerr

Bob and Joyce Witters have been volunteering at the Food Pantry for a little over 4 years. Each a different task; Bob helping with bagging the items and Joyce helping with stacking and stocking the shelves. Now they are both stationed at the bagging station that acts as the caboose of the distribution line. Both really enjoy bagging as they act as the final courtesy to the patrons. Following the bagging process, other volunteers take the bags out to the patron’s cars. Bob states that the patrons sometimes want to chip in and help, but that a lot of the volunteers have been helping for many years and they are a well oiled machine and have such a great system! Plus, they just really enjoy helping the patrons!

After experiencing the joy of helping those in need, I asked the other volunteers what they most enjoy about helping the community. Their answers resounded in unison that the feelings they get when leaving there are to be humble, have faith and above everything else-be grateful. One volunteer added that there isn’t a day he leaves that church when he isn’t grateful for what God has given him and that he is even more grateful to be able to help those less fortunate get the food their families need and deserve.

The Twin Valley Food Pantry is now in its sixth year of operations hosted by Conestoga Mennonite Church.  The Food Pantry serves on average 125 families (425 individuals) each month by distributing over 12,500 pounds of food and personal hygiene items during the monthly distribution. Tel Hai Retirement Community has walked along side of the Food Pantry since operation begun with passionate and committed volunteers. Volunteers assist the Food Pantry by stocking, distributing food products, bagging, registration, processing, and working in the kitchen.  During the year, Tel Hai has provided and served a meal to all clients and volunteers during our distribution evening. Many thanks to Tel Hai Volunteers for their commitment to this important community mission.

— Howard & Carol Moss, Directors, Twin Valley Food Pantry

The Honey Brook Food Pantry

The Honey Brook Food Pantry began serving local residents in January, 2014. The initial “monthly mobile food distribution” was supported by the Chester County Food Bank and a local team from the Lord’s Pantry of Downingtown.

Today the HBFP operates as a free standing organization and welcomes donor and volunteers from the Honey Brook area and surrounding communities. The Honey Brook Food Pantry provides a 3-4 day supply of various food items on a monthly basis to neighbors in need within the Honey Brook community. Their mission is to serve their neighbors with respect while empowering them toward food security and independence.

One Tel Hai resident, who also volunteers at the Twin Valley Food Pantry, has found helping at the Honey Brook Food Pantry equally rewarding.

“Jane Kerr is a delight to work with.  Since signing up in November 2014, she has consistently given her time twice a month to the Honey Brook Food Pantry.  Jane helps pack the boxes for the clients and when that task is finished, she looks for other ways to help.  We rely on her help each month,” commented Becky, the Honey Brook Food Pantry Volunteer Coordinator.

Another Tel Hai volunteer very decidedly doesn’t want to do the heavy lifting, but is busy at work behind the scenes. Tom Tracy can be found mastering the website and sitting on the board since its inception only a little more than a year ago. He also likes to help with fundraising efforts by educating local non-profits through power point presentations about the Food Pantry. He finds this is also a great way to spread the word that the food pantry is officially up and running and has a permanent home now.

The Honey Brook Community Library

“Many of the volunteers that we get from Tel Hai are new to the Honey Brook area, and we are lucky to have such a variety of people want to come and volunteer at our library. We truly appreciate all of the support that we receive from the Tel Hai residents,” commented Jennifer Spade, Library Director, Honey Brook Community Library.

Some of the things that volunteers from Tel Hai do at the Honey Brook Community Library include shelving returned books, writing patron and business appeals, processing new books by stamping them with the Honey Brook Library stamp, writing the newsletter, becoming Board members, gathering books with holds on them that go out to other libraries in the Chester County Library System, straightening bookshelves, taking care of the flower beds and potted outdoor plants, assisting Miss Jennifer with getting Story Time crafts ready, addressing thank you letters and assisting with other assorted library tasks.

Honey Brook Library Volunteers: Mollie Van Zanten, Fran Atkins, Mary Jo Tracy, Elaine Fling
Honey Brook Library Volunteers: Mollie Van Zanten, Fran Atkins, Mary Jo Tracy, Elaine Fling

Both Elaine Fling and Mollie Van Zanten have been volunteering at the Honey Brook Library for about 2 years. They each have a love of reading and a love of books; so much that they both volunteer at the libraries on Tel Hai soil as well. Both help shelve books, look for books community members have requested through the Chester County library system, help with projects and more! Mollie has been running a mystery book group for 2 years where the growing group of more than 15 members brings insightful discussion about many different types of mystery books. She really enjoys hearing the stories and insightful information others gain from reading and states their conversation typically sparks others to want to read the same book.

Both admit that helping at the library and chatting with the librarians gives them access to all the Honey Brook news and events they need! But the best part about helping at the library? The people! “You meet the people, they are delightful people.” Mollie stated. They both agree that starting great conversation with those coming to look for a great book makes their time there memorable. Mollie continues by saying, “You meet the community; you learn how the community works; you learn what’s going on in the community. For example, many wouldn’t know that the library has a garden that grows food for the food pantry – you would never know unless you volunteer there.”

Another avenue of volunteering with the library is through ‘Friends of Honey Brook Library’ – the group that spearheads the fundraising efforts for the library; and Mary Jo Tracy has been their treasurer since 2007. She is vital in helping with their book sale, which occurs twice a year, as well as the garden tour happening in 2016.

Mary Jo and her ‘Friends’ colleagues have helped raise funds for the library to pay off their mortgage and remain open as the state continues to cut vital funds each year. Mary Jo donates approximately 5-6 hours a month helping the library but “rarely keeps track of the hours because it just becomes part of your daily life. It’s not a hassle to sit at the table for an hour to balance the check book or run to the bank. It’s just what you do to help a good cause.”

Each of the Volunteers who help at the library has been a mentor guiding the Honey Brook Library Board of Trustees to uphold the trust of our community.

David Paton leveraged a lifetime of accounting experience to develop many of the guidelines and tools which have helped the Board and Staff decipher our budgeting process and manage our monthly due diligence process. David’s tools and guidance are sure to guide the Honey Brook Library into a future of prosperity and growth.

Fran Atkins leverages her power of words, compassion and insight. Fran’s words have given the Library a voice that has been heard across our community. Our residents have learned what services our Library has to share and Fran has created an excitement unparalleled in many years.  Amongst many of Fran’s contributions she served on the Director Nominating committee and I’m happy to say her contributions brought Honey Brook a very talented exciting Director.

Veanna Baxter’s experience in Library Sciences has given the board insight into the library system and challenges faced by many libraries and librarians.  Her knowledge and guidance has proven key to our hunt for a new Library Director, who we are pleased to have hired. Veanna’s insights have resulted in key contributions to our Strategic Plan and many of our policies. Veanna has been a key contributor promoting the library on Harmony Day and throughout the community every day.

I have spent the last three years working with each of these wonderful Tel Hai volunteers. In the past few years Dave, Veanna, and Fran, have contributed their time and invaluable experience to the Honey Brook Library serving as members of the Board of Trustees and making our community a better place for our neighbors, friends, and children.

— Michael Greene, President, The Honey Brook Library Board

Steeple to People

Steeple to People Ministries began in 1982 out of a growing concern for the Church to better serve the community. From the beginning, S.T.P. was founded as a “faith ministry”, meaning they look to God in faith to provide for all the provisions (finances, materials, people…) to support the ministry. Their goal is to bring the Church to People by utilizing the skills, talents, and resources of Christians to meet the needs in our community.

Many faithful volunteers come to sort and price clothes. They would like to provide a place for people to buy reasonable priced clothes and other needed household items. It is also very important to them that their business is run in a Christ-like way and each person is treated kindly and offered a listening ear.

Steeple To People Volunteers: Josie Haines & Catherine Williamson
Steeple To People Volunteers: Josie Haines & Catherine Williamson

Two of those faithful volunteers come from Tel Hai and are Catherine Williamson and Josie Haines. Catherine has been a long time volunteer at S.T.P. for 13 years. Like so many other volunteers, Catherine was asked to help and so she said ‘ok!’ as she had just moved to Honey Brook and was looking for things to do in the area. You can find Catherine at S.T.P. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8-3pm and some Saturday mornings. Spending anywhere from 15-20 hours a week volunteering her time sorting items, pricing items, creating and changing the display in the window and general helpful activities.

One of the reasons she loves going back is interacting with the customers; some who find a reason to come in every day if not to buy anything, but just for some friendly conversation. Another reason is the great owners, Ivan and Anna Stoltzfus who Catherine credits as extremely hard working and very good Christian people. And the other volunteers who work so well together, “we’re like family after a while”, Catherine adds.

Josie has been volunteering for a little over a year and initially went there because she was really bored. For 17 years she managed a Christian book store and since she had retail experience, she thought S.T.P. would be a great place to use her skills. And does she ever; going twice a week, she helps sort and stock the books that are donated into categories and sort for quality. Some people don’t mind sorting through the clothing, while Josie prefers to be in with the books or behind the cash register.

Ivan and Anna Stoltzfus really run the show at S.T.P. and do so with such a kind and caring nature. The thrift shop sells everything from books to clothing to larger furniture found in the basement. Large furniture can consume the basement area and the Stoltzfus family is kind enough to put all the excess furniture in their barn until there is room at the store. Proceeds from the thrift shop go to the youth center, located right next to Steeple to People.

What makes Community Volunteering different?

Many of these busy volunteers also donate their time on Tel Hai campus as well as in the local community. When asked what made them interested in volunteering in the community, the responses were all similar in nature.

A few said they’ve always volunteered at a local food pantry and almost immediately found the Twin Valley Food Pantry after becoming a resident because helping those in need in your community is something that sticks with you and the need to continue to do that doesn’t go away with a change of scenery. Another said she wanted something to do off-campus which included being around younger people to keep her spirits up but also to meet other people than her neighbors. Another volunteer stated that when it comes to handing out items to those in need, he feels a real connection and ‘pull’ to help those individuals. He’s helped with toy drives and food drives in the past and just found it natural to help at the food pantry. Another volunteer just feels good about volunteering and helping others. “I just feel like I’m contributing and at my age that I can make a contribution makes me feel great.”

Many volunteers calling their experience helping others in the community similar to a religious experience and stating that it’s hard to put into words the feeling you get when you help someone who truly needs your assistance. He continues by saying, “Not everyone says thank you, but the individuals who do mean it from the bottom of their hearts and THAT’S what keeps us coming back week after week and month after month.”

A theme our community volunteers mentioned quite often is that more Tel Hai residents should find some time to get involved in the surrounding community; it not only helps spread the good word about Tel Hai, but it allows the Tel Hai residents to learn about Honey Brook and who could use a helping hand. “We need to be nice to our neighbors and contribute to helping them as much as we can.” And boy does this group of volunteers contribute.

Together these individuals, and other resident and non-resident volunteers, have donated more than 10,000 hours in 2015 to help the surrounding community. This number far exceeds the 2014 volunteer hours which came in around 4,500 for the year. This speaks largely to our ever active Tel Hai Residents wanting to get out in the community to help others. And there aren’t enough ‘Thank You!’ cards in a Hallmark store to express the many thanks we have for our community volunteers; especially to the countless people they serve each and every day.

Other community volunteering opportunities include: local church involvement, Longwood Gardens, meals on wheels, Knights of Columbus, local board involvement and MORE! Some volunteers find their community involvement is more like a full-time job than a casual volunteer opportunity. “I easily give 40 hours a week”, stated Tom Tracy. “It’s nice to be involved and it doesn’t take a lot of energy to give back to those around us. It’s so important that when you move to Tel Hai you don’t forget about the community we live in.” And these volunteers do just that and MORE!

In this spotlight, we are highlighting and thanking those individuals who volunteer off Tel Hai soil and those who spend countless hours giving back to the surrounding community. These individuals make a world of difference to the community and many individuals. Some individuals volunteer 10 hours a month while others seem to volunteer more than 20 hours a week! Regardless of the hourly commitment, one thing is for certain that these volunteers all have a big heart and thoroughly enjoy the work they do. For this and all they do for the community, we thank our Community Volunteers and highlight all of them in our Volunteer Spotlight.



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7 Replies to “Volunteer Spotlight: Community Volunteers”

  1. Tel Hai is truly blessed to have these wonderful residents living here. The volunteer work they do is so important to the community and Tel Hai. It is also very rigorous at times. Their active lifestyles are quite admirable.

  2. Thank you to all the volunteers and for all you do on and off the Tel Hai Campus. Without your dedication a lot of jobs would not get done. We are so thankful for all each of you!

  3. Thank you for you kind words, Michael. It is always my pleasure to work with other librarians to promote the love of reading. For those who are unable to do more physical kinds of sports for entertainment, we can read. When our eyes fail us, we can listen to books on tape and other technical devises. How blessed we are to live in America where we freely read books of our choice. Continuing education is the motto of many business and organizations. Reading and libraries are a vital part of healthy, happy lives. Visit your favorite library today!

  4. This article was so interesting. I was always aware of how wonderful and hard working the Tel Hai community volunteers have been for so many years but I was not surprised to see their dedication to the larger community. Thank you for all you do.

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