Bonnie Mahan provides living testimony that a volunteer can have immeasurable impact on the lives of the guests that Lazarus House serves.
She was volunteering in the Lazarus House Soup Kitchen ten years ago when a chance conversation changed her life and then the lives of over one hundred others.
“I was conversing with three guests who showed an interest in learning to sew,” said Mahan, who had taught sewing first as a teenager in 4-H clubs and then privately as an adult.
“Their eyes lit up and I wondered if I could teach them. I was inspired and asked permission to start a sewing class program.”
Using sewing machines and supplies donated by her church, she began with four students, which quickly became eight, and has now grown to 40 students in five classes each week.
Others may have sought to turn this heavy work load into a paying job, but Mahan believes in “everyday caring” and remains a volunteer.
One class is for special needs students, and everyone who graduates earns a sewing machine and supplies that have been donated to Lazarus House.
“These students have learned many sewing techniques and have successfully been making a financial income for their hard work, despite the great challenges due to their rather severe individual disabilities,” said Mahan.
In learning to sew, students say they have also gained confidence, patience and perhaps most importantly learned that they can do anything they put their minds to.
“Nobody can ever take away what I have learned here,” said one student, who with the others puts that skill to work altering prom dresses for Lazarus House teens in need.
“I sew independently at home now making dresses, bags and skirts, as well as altering and repairing for an income,” said another student.
Relatively few people can so demonstrably show how they have changed the course of another’s life; Mahan’s deep faith allows her to see the fragility of circumstance.
“Some guests who come are like you and me in so many ways, but have suddenly found themselves without a job, or homeless, or without any of what they once had,” she said.
“I am so humbled and blessed to be involved with these beautiful people who come looking for inspiration, and in turn inspire me.”