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Karen Reed, right, now volunteers four days a week to help LifeStyles serve those in need.

Karen Reed had not been retired long on the day she sat in New Life Wesleyan Church in La Plata and saw Sandy Washington stand up before the congregation and begin to speak.

Karen listened closer as she listened to the LifeStyles of Maryland Executive Director describe the organization, its mission and the people it serves every day. With each passing minute, she became more interested and excited.

“Oh, let me try that,” she thought.

Soon, she was inside the LifeStyles offices, meeting Volunteer Coordinator Tammy Gausman. Before she knew it, she was packing toiletry kits — collections of essential hygiene items — for the homeless and others in need.

Volunteering, Karen soon learned, was addicting.

She started volunteering one day a week. Then it became two. Now Karen volunteers four hours a day, four days a week, even though it’s a 22-mile one-way trip from her home in Clinton to the LifeStyles offices in La Plata.

Over the last two-plus years, she has become a vital and reliable member of the LifeStyles team, opening her heart to provide help, hope and transformation in our community.

“There is no job too large or too small,” Sandy Washington said. “Karen has done everything from grocery shopping and preparing bags to painting and assuring our offices are presentable for clients. She never has to be asked. She sees it and she does it.”

It’s true that Karen is often seen walking through the offices with a screwdriver at the ready, just in case a loose screw needs to be tightened on some piece of furniture or equipment.

“You can call me Jack,” she said, and she is indeed a Jack of all trades.

Once at a local gas station, she encountered a person begging for change. Rather than drop a dollar and go on about her day, she took a moment to tell them about LifeStyles and the resources that were available to help. It was an even better feeling when she arrived at the LifeStyles office a few days later and saw that person standing by the door, taking the first step in changing their life.

As she volunteers her time to serve others, Karen knows that she is being rewarded, too. From the sense of teamwork among the staff and volunteers to the heartfelt gratitude so often expressed by clients, Karen knows that her time is well spent.

“When we have distribution events, the people that come to get the food from the trucks or the milk, they just say, ‘Bless you’ and ‘Thank you,’” Karen said. “Just those words. I don’t like gifts and presents. I don’t like being on TV. I just like to hear the thank you’s.”

If anyone out there is looking for a place to volunteer or contribute to the community, Karen doesn’t hesitate to recommend that they come meet the team at LifeStyles and give it a try.

“There are so many diverse opportunities to get involved with,” she said. “It feels good to give back. I like people so much. I’ve met so many nice, Christian, enthusiastic people that it just keeps me going and going.”

Are you interested in learning more about volunteering with LifeStyles? We’d love to meet you. Fill out the form on our Volunteering page or contact Tammy Gausman at 301-609-9900 or TGausman@LifeStylesOfMD.org.