Editor’s note: This is another in a series of monthly editorials celebrating the unsung heroes in our community.
By highlighting individuals who unselfishly apply their energy and skills to lighten the burden of others, we hope, first, to offer these community heroes the appreciation they deserve; second, to let those who could use the help know of available resources; and third, to inspire others who are able to help in whatever way possible.
If you would like to nominate an unsung hero, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a small space — maybe half the size of a typical model home master bedroom — yet an awful lot of good goes on inside the Los Osos office of People Helping People.
Shoehorned in a couple of corners are walkers, wheelchairs, crutches and commodes — medical equipment that’s loaned to people who can’t afford to rent or buy it.
A back table is loaded with literature about various nonprofit programs, and next to it a bookcase houses a small lending library.
Stacked on other shelves are board games for the seniors who drop by to socialize. Look closely enough and you’ll even spot some aprons, potholders and greeting cards on sale at bargain prices — with the proceeds going toward various People Helping People projects.
Yet the heart and soul of this multifaceted operation isn’t the stuff. It’s the volunteers who sit behind the green metal desk, answering phones; arranging pickups and deliveries of medical equipment; scheduling volunteers for the weekly food giveaways; coaxing one more day of life out of an ancient copy machine.
“They’re the unsung ones, who sit in this office for all these hours,” said Jerri Walsh, president of People Helping People’s board of directors.
On this particular day, it’s Phyllis Allebe’s turn behind the desk.
She’s been there most every Wednesday, ever since she signed on as a volunteer in 1998 after moving to Los Osos from Redondo Beach.
“I needed to get out of the house,” she recalled. “And I saw the Community Center.”
She inquired about volunteering, and was directed to People Helping People, which rents space inside the center. Since then, Phyllis — who’s affectionately known as The Queen — has been part of a core group of volunteers who staff the office Mondays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Elinor Kisner, another office volunteer, succinctly puts it this way, “We keep track of everybody.”
That’s no small job, because there are more than 50 volunteers staffing the organization’s various programs.
Those include running a weekly food distribution for low-income residents of Los Osos; picking up and delivering donated medical equipment; answering an array of questions and providing referrals to other agencies; organizing potlucks and other get-togethers; and maintaining an eclectic assortment of donated items — books, DVDs, eyeglasses, you name it — for seniors who drop by the Community Center.
People Helping People does all this on a shoestring budget of $10,000 per year and of course, the dedication of volunteers like office staffers Jan Kramer, Dorothy Norwood, Elma Martin, Gara Jessup, Elinor Kisner, Nancy Ruhl and “Queen” Allebe; potluck chief Juanita McMurry; and Office Manager Beverly Ford.
“All these people are only one part of the group of volunteers,” Walsh wrote in an e-mail, “but are the oft-overlooked ones.”
Indeed — which is exactly why we’re proud to honor the office volunteers of People Helping People as our unsung heroes for September.
People helping people
People Helping People is raising funds to build an addition to the Los Osos Community Center that will provide storage space for food donations and medical equipment. If you would like to help — or are interested in volunteering or learning more about the organization — visit or write People Helping People at 2180 Palisades Ave., Los Osos, or call 528-2626. The office is staffed between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.