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Volunteer Couples

A different kind of date

Andria
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David and Loretta Elledge

HELPING TOGETHER David and Loretta Elledge volunteer together and recently chaired the Christian Community Service Center's Jingle Bell Express. (Photo: John Reynolds)

Dating your spouse doesn’t necessarily look like dinner and a movie. For some couples, it’s more about coming together to give back.

David Elledge says that volunteering with his wife is “not just another thing to do together, it’s a wonderful thing to do together, helping other people.”

David and Loretta, retired accountants married 36 years, recently put their couple power to work for Christian Community Service Center’s Jingle Bell Express, which offers parents a “store” where they choose Christmas gifts like toys and books to give to their children. More than 2,800 children from 900 families benefited, with Loretta and David leading a team of committee volunteers who organized myriad details including donations, registration for children and their families, setting up the shop and more.

“Christmas is my favorite holiday,” Loretta says. “The clients at Jingle Bell Express receive food, toys, books. Gosh, that’s wonderful!”

David says he and Loretta have been volunteering most of their lives, just not together. He became involved with the CCSC when the couple’s church, St. Luke’s Presbyterian, one of 40 or so participating churches, appointed him to CCSC’s board of representatives 20 years ago. Then, Loretta became involved working on committees for CCSC, which met at night. “So I didn’t have to miss work,” she says. 

David chimes in: “Work kind of interferes with volunteering.” 

“When I retired,” Loretta says, “I could work during the day, so I started working in emergency services, where we have a food pantry and hygiene items and we assist people with their rent or utility bills if they’ve lost a job or had car troubles. We help them get through that difficult time.

“Now we go to CCSC every Tuesday morning. David works in the food pantry, and I answer the phones and set up appointments for people to come in for assistance.”

Do they enjoy volunteering together? “First of all, we’re a couple, and we like to do things together,” David says. “We wake up, eat breakfast together and volunteer together.”

Jerry and Sherry Ritcheson

AN INSPIRATION Married 55 years, Jerry and Sherry Ritcheson have spent the past 10 volunteering together at Hospitality Apartments, where they help families staying in town for medical care. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Loretta appreciates that she and David can trade stories from their days. “He tells me about people who came into the pantry, about their gratitude. They’re so appreciative of the help.” 

There’s a date at the end of their shift. “Most every time we have nachos at Jax Grill,” David says.

Aside from the couple time, Loretta says, “Just seeing the clients, and seeing CCSC make a difference in their lives in important ways, that’s what’s so important to me.”

Sherry and Jerry Ritcheson have been married 55 years. For the past 10, the retired preschool teacher and banker have been working as a team at Hospitality Apartments, where patients living more than 50 miles from the Texas Medical Center come to live for up to three months while receiving treatment.

“Jerry was looking for a project for a Sunday school class,” Sherry says, “and we went out [to Hospitality Apartments] and saw another volunteer mowing the grass. We got a tour, and after that one day, we were hooked.

“We’re inspired by everyone who comes in. They’re being treated, waiting on transplants. They’re away from home, battling life-threatening diseases. We’ve made many friends, and we’ve lost many.”

Once a week, Sherry and Jerry answer phones, take reservations and check people in at Hospitality Apartments, which is run entirely by volunteers. “We do anything that needs to be done,” Sherry says, remembering when Jerry’s job was to clean the air conditioners and change the air filters in each apartment every month. 

Sherry Ritcheson, Jerry Ritcheson, Bobby Channell

FRIENDLY FACES Sherry and Jerry Ritcheson have made many friends volunteering at Hospitality Apartments, one being Bobby Channell, a patient from Vernon, TX, who is awaiting a heart transplant. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

“We have a good time together,” Sherry says of her time spent volunteering with her husband. “We always look forward to going over there, and sometimes we’ll stop at Antone’s on the way home to get something to eat after.” She says it’s nice to be able to share their experience: “We can come home and talk about it and talk about what’s going on there.”

Sherry and Jerry also enjoy seeing other couples and families volunteering together. “There’s a Sunday school class that comes for holidays,” Sherry says. “It’s young married couples bringing their children, who knock on all the apartment doors handing out bags of cookies. How could you not smile when you see these darling little children holding out a bag of cookies? It’s inspiring seeing the young couples teaching their children that there’s something more important in life than ‘me.’”

Sherry says volunteering is second-nature to her. “I think it’s what the Lord tells you to do, reach out to those in need. It’s just in my heart.”

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