By Jason Wesseldyk
That’s how long Dorothy Irving’s friend asked her to commit to volunteering at Christian Neighbors Food Pantry. That was in 1999.
“My neighbor Patsy was in charge of the pantry—which was located in a small garage-sized building—at the time, and she cornered me in the Harding’s parking lot one day,” Irving said. “She asked me for one hour. And that one hour turned into five, and the rest is history.”
Now, twenty-three years after that initial one-hour commitment, Irving is retiring from the role of food pantry director that she has held since Christian Neighbors moved into its current location in 2008.
As a way to celebrate Irving’s two-plus decades of dedicated service, Christian Neighbors is hosting an open house on Thursday, June 16, from 12 to 2 p.m. at 282 12th St. in Plainwell.
Irving said she’s grateful for the many memories she’s made during her time with Christian Neighbors, particularly those associated with the organization’s clients.
“Over the 23 years of being at Christian Neighbors, most of my fondest memories that stick out is how the clients appreciated what they were given and how much they enjoyed being able to come to us to have their needs met,” she said.
“I will also always think of and remember the people who volunteered for me: our drivers who picked up food for us were always happy to help; the volunteers who worked in the pantry were the greatest. And I will always remember moving from the little pantry in Otsego to our new building and the wonderful pantry we are in now.”
Although she knows the time is right for her retirement, Irving said she will miss seeing the many volunteers who donate their time to Christian Neighbors.
“While working at Christian Neighbors, I have met a lot of great people,” she said. “They are not just volunteers, but in most cases they have become good friends, almost like family.
“Another part that I will miss the most is the look of clients’ faces when they receive whatever we can give them. They are just so appreciative.”
During her time at Christian Neighbors, Irving has tried to lead by example and believes her co-workers would describe her as organized, hard-working and caring.
“Since we have moved into our food pantry, my volunteers and I have worked very hard at becoming very organized and known to be the lead food pantry in the county,” she said. “I think my co-workers would say that I have worked hard at making sure all of our food that went out was safe and most often healthy. My co-workers would also say that I’ve cared very much about my job and have built many solid relationships that will remain and benefit our pantry.”
And while her time as food pantry director is coming to an end, Irving remains as committed as ever to helping spread the word about the importance of Christian Neighbors to the community.
“Christian Neighbors is needed,” she said. “The food pantry is an integral part of our organization, and is a component of our New Housing Stabilization program involving, food, financial assistance and education.”
In retirement, Irving plans to slow down and relax.
“I just plan on taking life easy,” she said.