Trying to keep up with Laurie Matthews as she helps her neighbors in Westfield is a challenge. For her, volunteering with The Salvation Army Service Unit occupies her full time. Throughout the year, Laurie contributes 30 hours a week, but she admits that it jumps during the holidays.

For the last 16 years, Laurie and her husband Rob have been committed to helping others Service Units, like the one in Westfield serve communities in which The Salvation Army does not have a corps community center. Through this volunteer network, people living in every zip code of the Commonwealth receive the help they need.

Their drive to help others originates in the fact that they were once on the other side.  After Rob went through some serious health concerns, Laurie was impacted more by a call she received than the groceries and other assistance Salvation Army personnel provided.

“Luz called me to tell me she was praying for Rob. Her message was so sincere and thoughtful,” Laurie shares. “I realized that all of the people I wanted to talk to at that time were at The Salvation Army.”

That same month Laurie started to volunteer. When she looked in the food pantry bag she was handing out and realized she couldn’t make a meal from the contents, she came up with a program called “Meal in a Bag” which included strategically chosen items and recipe cards.

When Rob and Laurie took in her niece, they were once again overwhelmed. “Overnight, we had a 10-year old in the house. I needed clothes. I needed everything.”

Once again, The Salvation Army was there and sealed Laurie’s commitment to do whatever needed to be done to help others.

“When we were struggling, The Salvation Army made it so ok and comfortable that we needed help. It wasn’t shameful,” Laurie says. The same is true today. “Every person that needs help is reassured that we were just like them.”

The holiday season represents Laurie’s favorite months of the year. “We have people we help throughout the year. Other parents never expected to need help,” Laurie relates. “They’re worried. I look them in the eye and tell them, ‘Your kids will have Christmas.’”