This afternoon held one of those lovely, rare treats that we all cherish and hold close to our hearts. Sherri Ramos, from our Development department, and I were privileged to have lunch in the home of a most remarkable woman, Frances Swartsfager. Until her health began failing late last year, Frances was an active Star of Hope volunteer. But at age 96, she has certainly not retired!
Sharing a little of her history, Frances began volunteering as a certified Red Cross nurse aid during World War II. She described walking to work each day in the required uniform, white nylons and polished white shoes. She reminisced about her work with expectant moms as their labor progressed.
As she and her beloved husband, Clarence, became parents to a beautiful baby boy, her role shifted to that of a homemaker. There she found unlimited opportunities for service – right in her own neighborhood. She became the scout den mother, the carpool driver and after-school snack provider. Her door was always open.
When Clarence retired, he and Frances began a new ministry. Every morning, six days a week, for 20 years, the Swartsfagers zoomed out the door, each driving a station wagon, to arrive at the grocery store bakery by 7 AM. There they would load up all of the day-old bread and pastries to bring to Star of Hope and the Emergency Aid Coalition.
In the early 1980’s, when women and children began seeking shelter at Star of Hope, Frances led a volunteer team from Church Women United in cooking and serving meals. She fondly spoke of that first shelter where sheets of plywood were used to give each family a little privacy. She didn’t care what brought a woman to Star of Hope – whether it was bad choices or unexpected circumstances – she was there with a loving, compassionate heart to help. Along with her team, Frances said there were many volunteers from Southwestern Bell who worked to make life a little more comfortable for those struggling families.
As Star of Hope grew, Frances sought relevant new ways for her group to bless our mission. They served meals at banquets and during the holidays, addressed and sorted bulk mailings, and wrapped Christmas gifts at our Christmas Workshop. Not only was Frances busy at Star of Hope, she faithfully served her church and other community ministries. Every Thursday, Frances could be found at the Emergency Aid Coalition making hundreds of sandwiches for those in need. Although it’s now more difficult to venture away from home, Frances still organizes volunteer projects for Church Women United and ministers to everyone who crosses her path – even her own caregivers.
Her favorite part of volunteering at Star of Hope was having the opportunity to hear client testimonies. She loved hearing the unique story of each woman – what her life had been and how, through God’s grace, her life was forever changed. Of course, Frances didn’t let Sherri and I leave without praying – not only for us, but also for all of the lost and hurting men, women and children who come through the doors at Star of Hope. As I hugged and kissed Frances goodbye, it was hard to leave. I was inspired to do more, to reach out to others with the love of Jesus – just as Frances has faithfully done for so many years.
Discover volunteer opportunities of interest to you at Volunteer Opportunities Houston