By RENEE FITE
Ben Stevens said his wife, Karrel, first signed him up to volunteer, but he continues as a way to share the love of God.
“I volunteer because I see it as a way to give back, to share your own good fortune with others, to be part of the local and world community. In short, it is sharing God’s love,” Stevens said. “God provides the love, but we humans can provide the action to spread it.”
For three years, he’s been volunteering with Feed My Sheep, the ecumenical weekly meal, and Help-In-Crisis, doing shelter minor maintenance and the Walk-A-Mile fundraiser. He also serves on various church committees, and participates in activities to support church programs, such as youth, missions and maintenance, at First United Methodist.
Stevens is retired from Cherokee Elder Care as program director, and he and his wife returned to his hometown 13 years ago.
“My wife, Karrel, served on the board at HIC a few years ago. Osmosis happened. After I retired, our church mission team started organizing the idea of Feed My Sheep with other local churches. It seemed like great way to meet a hunger need in the community and work with other churches,” he said.
As the dining room supervisor, Stevens does some setup and bread pickup the day before the meal.
“[I’m] kind of like a maitre’d, I just execute the superb planning and scheduling that is done by others, and adjust as plans go awry,” he said. “The hard work is done by the 40-plus volunteers who do the cooking, serving, hosting, bussing, dish washing, and cleanup.”
Besides abating hunger, the other purpose of Feed My Sheep is developing community, he said. The restaurant-style service provided has developed new communities between guests, volunteers, and with one another.
“This is great to see and be part of. We have all gained new understandings, new friendships, and met both physical and social needs,” Stevens said. “What a wonderful way to meet people as people, not as some preconceived stereotype. To me, the reward is being part of something that is working for the common good – no hidden agendas, no politics, no ulterior motives, just be a good person among other good people.”
He does what he can for the Help-In-Crisis shelter.
“But unfortunately, their shelter is heavily used, and like any busy facility, maintenance issues arise. Sometimes my limited skills can help,” he said.
Help-In-Crisis can always use food and money donations, he said. A regular and dedicated maintenance group would also help.
Retirement brought time for Stevens to dedicate to volunteering projects.
“When I was working full-time, it was hard to have the time and energy to volunteer when needed. My wife and retired friends were doing lots of volunteer work, so I was familiar with some of the community needs,” Stevens said. “After retiring, it was just a matter of choosing what need I felt best able to make a sustainable contribution.”
Family examples of volunteering were his grandmother, Ida Clark, in Tahlequah and stepmother, Nancy Steveson, who does a lot of volunteer work in Fort Gibson.
“And, of course, my wife volunteers a lot. So whether by osmosis, guilt, or example, volunteering is just part of what you do in life. Everyone needs help at some time,” he said. “Also, Earl and Susie Williams, who continue to volunteer in Tahlequah.”
The value to the community of volunteers is vast.
“How can you be part of a community without helping out when needed? That is what community means: We are in this together, and we all can use some help at times,” he said.