Lee and Mary Sedlacek serve as volunteers to our community’s homeless population of adult men and women who literally have nowhere else to go. They have served with us for several years, and this year, at the WPS Volunteer Awards held on April 18, they received the Runner-Up Award for the Small Group category. We are so honored to call Lee and Mary our own.
Lee and Mary are always willing to help where needed, but they have each found a niche here at St John’s. Lee primarily serves as a “locker room attendant.” He checks guest bins in and out to guests, and always takes the opportunity to share a greeting or encouragement or have a quick conversation. He knows our guests’ names and takes interest in them on a personal level.
Mary primarily serves as a “request filler.” She selects clothing and hygiene items our guests have requested and always takes the opportunity to get to know the individual guest and what they may like versus what would simply be functional for them. Our guests know that Mary cares and wants to connect with them.
Not only do the Sedlaceks help WHERE needed, but also WHEN needed. In a two-week span, we had three or four “snow days” at Shelter, where we stayed open to guests all day and needed extra volunteers. Lee and Mary readily showed up to serve each and every time, in addition to the two or three evenings they serve with us weekly. Their commitment is evidenced by their faithful presence.
Lee and Mary began serving at St John’s a couple of years ago with their church, who sends volunteers weekly on Sundays. They quickly realized both that we have great need of volunteers on all evenings, and that they enjoy giving of their time and talents. Since then, they have been serving many nights each and every week. When I walk into Shelter and see Lee and Mary serving, I know our guests are blessed by their care.
Lee and Mary make a difference, because they are so genuine. People experiencing homelessness are often labeled and judged. Lee and Mary are warm, accepting and validating to all. Lee is quick to smile and engage in conversation—this is a gateway to building rapport with our guests. Mary takes the time to select items for guests that bring both joy AND function. Her actions exude care. Guests are changed because of the Sedlaceks.
The Sedlaceks’ commitment to others so closely aligns with our organization’s vision: Through a spirit of familiarity, rapport, and trust, each person will leave better than they came. Because of the Sedlaceks’ care in the (often mundane) tasks of checking in and out bins and selecting clothing and hygiene items for our guests, guests leave better than they came. Because of the Sedlaceks’ positivity and encouragement, guests leave better than they came. Because the Sedlaceks’ answer the Gospel call to love others, guests leave better than they came.
Lee and Mary each have a spirit that shows in their actions. They give so much of themselves here at St. John’s – several evenings a week of time and so much heart and care. They don’t seek recognition or notoriety, and they don’t require supervision or direction. They simply do what they feel needs to be done—and more. They are selfless and sincere. Further, they don’t allow disappointment to cloud their call to serve. There was a time this season where a guest was dissatisfied with something unrelated to Lee but was verbally shouting. Lee was so calm and gracious in “talking this guest down” while our staff resolved the issue. Lee didn’t allow this episode to form a stereotype, or rethink his service, or anything. He chose to continue to love and to continue to give, because he believes in a bigger picture where we all have inherent value.
Lee and Mary Sedlacek, simply put, are wonderful people with wonderful values. Their commitment to serve clearly demonstrates that they value people, relationships and community. So many of our guests have been beaten down when people in their lives DON’T step up and DON’T show up. The fact that the Sedlaceks continually DO step up and DO show up is inspiring to guests, staff and other volunteers.
And just as exciting—we have countless volunteers here at St. John’s, each with a story, a passion, a heart to love and to serve. Volunteers who continue to give of their time, talents and treasures to love our homeless brothers and sisters. For each and every one of you, we are thankful.