Unsung heroes help the less fortunate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 26, 2002

Pat Wright, Lori Espe and all the other staff at The Salvation Army Austin Corps thought they were done.

Then along came Christmas Eve and they started all over again.

After filling 455 food boxes for hungry families and collecting presents for 900 children in one of the most demanding holiday seasons ever, they started all over again Tuesday morning.

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"They were here at 8:15 a.m." observed Wright, social services supervisor. "They need everything. They asked for food, toys for the kids. Everything."

In the first hour, Wright processed 11 applications for assistance.

Through Monday, when food boxes and presents were delivered to needy families, a total of 1,479 people were helped this Christmas.

Espe reflects

Espe is volunteer coordinator for The Salvation Army Austin Corps.

Majors Doug and Linda Yeck are more public figures, because of their roles as officers in charge of the Austin corps.

But the Yecks would be among the first to praise the soldiers in the poverty trenches -- Christian soldiers in the case of The Salvation Army -- who get the job done.

Jim Middleton, Ted Peterson and other paid staff, plus the volunteers.

But Wright and Espe both work hard as well.

The former takes applications from the poor. She hears the stories firsthand of life's mistakes and bad luck and emergencies inflicted.

Wright must verify the tales, sort fact from fiction and then decide how to help.

Espe does some of those things, too, but she also brings people together to help others in time of need.

This past week was a prime example, when The Salvation Army started filling food boxes and wrapping presents to be distributed throughout Mower County.

"We had 48 people working Sunday," she said. "There were two advisory board members, our church teens, Girl Scouts, our regulars from before and some new faces. This year, I had to organize a new toy crew and Bruce Richardson really did a great job with Ron Whalen and the rest."

"There were people from other agencies that we worth with like Dawn Rausch of SEMCAC," she continued. "Pam was there from the Thrift Store, doing food baskets. Weyerhaeuser provided the boxes complete with The Salvation Army logo on them and we got 84 turkeys and 101 turkey roasts from Jennie-O. They always come through."

After a short pause, Espe remembers something else. "Plus, hams from the Lions Club. I almost forgot!" she exclaimed.

Not once in the conversation has Espe used the word "I."

Also, she makes a statement for those in need, who others might say are undeserving of such largess at Christmas.

"The greatest satisfaction is seeing the 'regulars' or those people we help," Espe said. "They helped us because we helped them."

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at