Sandy Bishops' Storehouse volunteers serve despite health challenges, disabilities


Wayne Andrus has been volunteering at the Sandy Bishops’ Storehouse three days a week for nearly 18 years despite experiencing a degenerative eye disease that prevents him from seeing.

“Even though I’m blind, my hands are my eyes, and so if you show me how to do something and bring the stuff to me you want me to do, I can do it,” Andrus said.

Many who give service at the Sandy Bishops’ Storehouse face health challenges and disabilities, yet they dedicate their time to volunteering there, knowing “as we serve, we are blessed,” Andrus said.

“It gives us something to do and it’s for the Good Lord, so how can you argue with that?” he asked.

The Sandy Bishops’ Storehouse and Home Storage Center is run by 90 regular volunteers and 115 missionaries who range in age from 18 to 91, according to Larry Ruesch, storehouse manager.

A bishops’ storehouse is a place where those in need can obtain food and other supplies provided by fast offerings and other donations at the recommendation of their bishop, according to the Church’s Provident Living website.

Trent Knight, a field operations manager for the Church’s storehouses in the U.S. and Canada, said that every time he visits a storehouse, he feels grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows His children and their needs.

“I love seeing those who may come with their hands and heads hung low but leave with their heads held high knowing that they are loved by our Savior, a Heavenly Father, and brothers and sisters who are there to help,” Knight said.

Peggy Hyer, who began volunteering at the Sandy Bishops’ Storehouse in 2009 with her husband, Max, continues to serve there weekly even after being diagnosed a year ago with stage 4 lung cancer.

“Sometimes I might not feel good, but when I get there, I’m fine for the whole time,” she said. “When I get home, I start coughing again, so it’s … just kind of a blessing that I feel like I’ve been given to serve.”

She said the reason she keeps volunteering there is because she loves the good feeling at the storehouse.

“We work with some really wonderful people, and you just feel like a family,” Hyer said.

Garne Healey, who has been volunteering at the storehouse for four years, also continues to serve there despite battling thyroid cancer. The 20-year Navy veteran said serving at the storehouse helps him to get his mind off the worries and difficulties of his illness.

“I find it’s a relief to get away from it — the thoughts about what I’m going through and what I might be going through in the future,” Healey said.

As he looks back on his service at the storehouse, an experience that stands out in his mind is when a patron he helped explained to him through tears that she was not a member of the Church, but after her neighbor found out she was living on bread and water, the bishop there helped her fill out an order to get some groceries.

“That makes it all worthwhile,” Healey said. “That was really an eye opener about what this place does for people.”

Pat McGowan, who joined the Church in her 70s, has been serving as a missionary at the storehouse for 16 years. McGowan recently celebrated her 90th birthday with a lunch at the storehouse for volunteers and patrons.

“You walk through the doors, maybe you don’t feel very good and you forget about yourself completely because you’re so wrapped up with the people and helping them,” McGowan said. “It’s amazing what service does.”

There is also a group of special needs missionaries and volunteers who serve at the storehouse, including Ginger Crawford, who said she likes working at the storehouse, stocking up the bread and helping with other tasks there.

“She comes every day,” storehouse missionary Shirley Conder said of Crawford. “What a sweetheart. If she’s not here, we miss her.”

Conder has enjoyed getting to know and making friends with the other volunteers during her service at the Sandy Bishops’ Storehouse.

“I can’t believe the quality of the people who work here in any capacity,” Conder said. “They’re just quality people who have sweet hearts.”

Many of those who volunteer at the storehouse began serving there for callings, but chose to remain there after their time was up.

“My husband and I came on a year mission about six years ago, and we never left because we loved it so much,” said Heidi Williams, supervisor of the volunteers at the storehouse.

Her husband, Kim, said it has been a fun opportunity for them to volunteer four hours of their time each week at the storehouse.

“It hasn’t taken away from life at all and it’s been a good way to help out, and that’s what it’s all about,” Kim Williams said. “Where much is given, much is expected.”

Service missionary Mary Callister has been volunteering at the storehouse for 19 years and continues to serve there every day. “I love being here,” she said. “I hate to say I’m not coming anymore.”

Volunteer Linda Schow said she feels blessed to be able to serve many people at the storehouse who become tearful with gratitude for the food they receive there.

“We look forward — my husband and I — to Thursdays, so we can come and feel the spirit that we feel here — the love,” Schow said.

Barbara Christensen, a storehouse volunteer, said she is especially moved to see young mothers visit the storehouse and only ask for the items they need for their babies, not seeking anything for themselves.

“With the Church and our unique program of service and charity, when we see these people come in that are in need, it literally touches my heart to realize how Heavenly Father has set this gospel up — how He’s set up the way to assist people to live a better life,” Christensen said.

Volunteer Carrie Nielsen said her favorite part about working at the Sandy Bishops’ Storehouse is helping the patrons and raising their spirits.

“That’s our whole purpose is to help people get through the hard times, so that they can hopefully get a leg up on life and take a step forward,” Nielsen said. “I know that once I walk in, whether I’m serving other employees or just keeping the back warehouse clean and mopped, … I’m doing the Lord’s work.

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