If you’ve been on the giving or receiving end of a batch of items from Helping Hand Me Downs, you’ve probably met one of our steadfast volunteers, Kim Forney. Kim first started with us by sorting donated clothing as it came in, and then transitioned into picking up and dropping off donation items in his minivan—which he’s been doing several times per week for the past two years.
We’ve been deeply fortunate to have attracted some incredible volunteers like Kim to our mission. Learn more about what this ex-tech employee, veteran, husband and father has to say about working with Helping Hand Me Downs, and what drove him to support what we do. If you’re looking to volunteer with us, don’t hesitate to reach out! Learn more on our “Take Action” page.
How did you originally get connected to Helping Hand Me Downs?
It’s kind of a roundabout story. I’m not sure how much of this you want to include, but I’ll tell you anyway. My first wife passed away in 2013, and in 2014 I ended up going on a mission trip to Romania through JOY FM Christian Radio. On that trip I met the woman who ended up becoming my second wife. She lived in St. Charles County, and I started attending a church in that area that sent some of its members to volunteer with Helping Hand Me Downs. I became really intrigued with it once I heard the mission. I had been looking for opportunities to be of service, and it ended up being a really good fit.
What has been the most rewarding part of this kind of volunteer work for you?
I’ve gotten to see some amazing things that not everyone gets to see in their lifetime. When you’re picking up items from donors, they’re so excited by the fact that what they’re giving away is going to be used to help someone else. And on the other side, when you’re doing a drop-off and the client is home, you can see how much it means to them. They’re so overwhelmed and grateful that someone cares, and it makes a real difference in their lives.
Just last week I was delivering a crib to a young mom with a new baby—it was freezing outside, and when I answered the door she asked if I was the maintenance man, because they’d lost heat in their building. Thankfully he was right behind me, and as she held this baby in her arms she looked at both of us like we were the answer to her prayers. It was a real reminder that the organization can help people get over a hurdle and keep going when things get tough.
What did you do for work before retiring and volunteering?
I worked as a programmer and analyst for over 40 years. I’d done so much work with computers during my career that when I retired, I knew I wanted to spend my time doing something that directly helped people. When I working full-time and in the Navy with a wife and three young children, I didn’t have time to do this sort of thing. I was always extremely busy. When I finally retired and had the time to give back, I thought, “Ok—here’s my opportunity to help people. But what do I do, exactly?” That’s when Helping Hand Me Downs came along. I’m sure other volunteer opportunities are good in their own ways, but I think St. Louis can obviously use as much positivity as possible.
What do you feel makes Helping Hand Me Downs particularly special?
It clearly makes such a difference to people who really need it—and it’s not just their physical needs. The organization has made connections in the community to help families with counseling, job assistance, housing assistance and more.
The team behind the mission is also an amazing group. Stephanie [Williamson, our founder] is a lot of fun to work with, and very supportive. There’s a lot to get done in a short period of time without a ton of money, but it’s so worth it—especially for people who are retired, or young people who’ve gone down the wrong track. If you can give them the opportunity to do something meaningful and helps others, they can thrive. Funny enough, I feel the same way about being retired. Once you get here, you realize it’s not all it was drummed up to be. You still want to find meaning and purpose.
Volunteer work offers a different kind of reward—nothing like climbing the corporate ladder for money and prestige. Instead, you get to appreciate having a positive impact on someone else.