By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
Each year, Stepping Stone Shelter offers the community a place to eat a holiday meal when they otherwise would have nowhere to go. Who prepares those meals? Who cleans up after such a large holiday feast? The answer – Stepping Stone staff members and, hopefully, volunteers.
Without volunteers throughout the community willing to step up and give of their time, it would be very difficult for director Pat Allsbury to give her staff members time off during Christmas.
Ham with all the trimmings will be served on Christmas Day at 1 p.m., Allsbury said. She is hoping volunteers will be calling to pledge their time so it will be possible for her to give her staff members as much of Christmas Day off as possible.
“So far I have had, I think, two volunteers for serving and some people have called to see what it is that we need,” she said. “And that is really kind of up in the air because I just never know what we are going to get. People donate this time of year, and I never know what we will get. I have suggested some standard stuff like potatoes, onions, eggs, things that you know we are going to use. Even if we don’t use it that day, we will use it. So far, that is about it.
“Before Thanksgiving, we had a couple, three volunteers that came in on the day before,” she explained. “They chopped onions, celery and we had some fresh pineapple donated, they chopped those. They got some casseroles ready to go into the oven and that kind of thing. That helped so much, it was stuff we didn’t have to do the next day. So, that and maybe some people to help prep on Christmas morning, and I understand that is a time for people with kids especially – but those kinds of things. Also, there will be some who help clean up. Maybe not as many because we have people serving that stick around, but clean up gets to be an issue, too.”
Allsbury tries hard to allow her staff time off to spend with their families during the Christmas season. However, the time she can allow her staff fully depends on the volunteers that give of their time on Christmas Day.
“I try to give everybody a little time off that morning or Christmas evening, just whenever they do their family thing,” she said. “Especially the ones that have little kids, they need to be off. I have had some calls. A lady called today, she said she does her Christmas on Christmas evening so she will be here on Christmas morning and afternoon to help.
“The mayor will be here because his wife is working that day,” she added. “Sometimes even volunteering, there is no need for people to stay at home by themselves, they can come help – just come be around people.”
Many may take for granted what the Stepping Stone Shelter staff actually accomplishes in a day. According to Allsbury, it is a very busy place.
“I have a staff 24-hours a day,” she said. “On a normal day, starting in the morning, they wake everybody up at 6:30. They have to have breakfast ready for those people to eat. Then they have to get all of the cleaning supplies so that people can do their chores. Then they have some computer work they have to do, like a shift report so the next shift knows what is going on. Then they start usually prepping for lunch and they get lunch ready and serve it. Then after lunch there is clean up and more chores and making desserts and whatever needs to be done for dinner.
“The 3 o’clock shift comes in and does dinner and more chores,” she continued. “All the time they still have shelter laundry to do. They have people asking non-stop for this or that. There are a lot of interruptions. We keep everyone’s personal medications locked up so they dispense that. They are not responsible for reminding them to take it, but they do keep it locked up so when they ask, they have to get that out.
“On night shift, the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift gets stuck with a lot of the cleaning that we just don’t have time on day shift to do,” she added. “They also are responsible for waking people up who have early shifts, and letting people in that are coming in from late shifts. It is non-stop, it is a busy place.”
On Christmas Day, a volunteer could quite possibly take the place of a staff member, allowing the particular staff member to spend time at home with their families for Christmas. But, Allsbury said, on a regular day of the year, a volunteer could be of added assistance to a staff member that could make his or her day go much smoother.
“Volunteers could possibly help a staff member take a day off or even just assist that staff member so things aren’t quite so hectic,” Allsbury said. “I would like to have two or three days so I can kind of schedule people. That way I can make sure everything is covered.
“Of course, my biggest responsibility as my title says is ‘director,’ so I am really good at telling people what to do and when,” she said. “But, there is an awful lot of stress with that, just making sure that we have enough help. On Christmas, I would love to let a staff member off. The rest of the time, I would like them just to come in and shadow a staff member or just help, that would be great.”
As far as the giving spirit Liberal and the surrounding communities have displayed, Allsbury is always amazed at how generous people tend to be – especially at Christmas.
“Look around,” Allsbury said with a laugh when asked if she has received many donations this year. “Many, many, many items are donated – tons of food.
“Cleaning stuff, the Lions collected tons of stuff,” she continued. “The Aurora Club collected tons of stuff. The two things that I have been pointing out is that, yes, a lot of people donate a lot of items, they don’t always remember that if they are donating all of this food, it has to be cleaned up after. So, saran wrap, trash bags, paper towels and toilet paper help a lot.
“And the other thing is, we have to send thank you cards for all that stuff,” she added. “So, postage is helpful. One of the Lions Club members donated a roll of stamps. Even with the little notecards, you have to have postage. Postage, office items, copy paper – all those things are helpful, too. I don’t think people think about those things.”
Certain things throughout the year are set aside for Christmas. According to Allsbury, there is a special closet that is emptied around this time of year that supplies gifts and Christmas items that make the shelter a home for those that will be spending their holidays there.
“As things come in throughout the year, things that are still in the packaging and many things that still have tags on them – we have a special closet that we put that stuff up in,” she said. “So, all of the things in the office are what has been drug out – what we have collected over the year for Christmas.
“Amber Ansari has really stepped up,” she added. “Amber called and they got lotion, chapstick, socks for everybody. So, she really helped out.”
Allsbury has been amazed at how the City of Liberal has stepped up this year, as well as in previous years. She would love to hear from anyone wanting to donate items. But the greatest gift of all, she said, is time.