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Hastings Family Service honors its volunteers

A special Clothes Closet and More volunteer, Barb Thompson, and a Hastings business, Quality One Woodwork, received special recognition when Hastings Family Service held its annual celebration/volunteer banquet April 23 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Shortly after Pamela Loiacano became the Clothes Closet and More manager in 2006, her mother, Thompson, started volunteering in the store.

Hastings Family Service Executive Director Chris Koop noted the agency started in the basement of a neighborhood house; Thompson opened her first resale business in the basement of her home in Chetek, Wis. Eventually, she moved it to the front of her husband's butcher shop.

Thompson volunteers Thursdays through Saturday, at least eight hours a day, and sorts, prices and prepares stock to go out on the floor. Some months, she has volunteered as many as 130 hours.

"She is often seen coming in the morning, with her husband, Jim, in tow, carrying large bags of freshly laundered winter coats or baby clothes," Koop said. "For those who know how limited our storage space is, Barb has helped us with that problem by storing winter coats or other out-of-season merchandise."

Last summer, Koop received a call from Heidi Albarado about her company. The company was interested in doing some fundraisers, put on by their employees, to raise awareness and money for the agency. A year later, the enthusiasm shown by Albarado and the company is still there, and growing.

Quality One's first event was a car wash in which food was collected for the food shelf. From there, Albarado and her husband, Al, started volunteering Friday afternoons, right after work.

The Albarados come in at 4 p.m. and don't waste any time getting to work, according to Koop.

"Al is our dream-come-true resident handyman, and he has replaced fluorescent light fixtures, repaired a broken step, changed light bulbs 40 feet up in the air, and repaired anything on the 'honey-do list' we leave for him.

"Heidi waits on customers, tidies up the store - which it usually needs on Fridays - takes care of end-of-the day closing duties, and tends to anything else we send her way," Koop said.

The Albarados are members of the wellness, volunteer, and fundraising committee at Quality One. The company has been supportive of everything the committee has planned for Hastings Family Service.

It held a silent auction, where employees bid on items and the proceeds helped adopt families for the holiday assistance program. The company bought tickets for employees to attend the Hastings Tastings and donated a beautiful handcrafted toy box for the silent auction.

During Minnesota FoodShare month, Quality One also hosted another silent auction and made a cash contribution to the food shelf. Most recently, Koop said HFS has seen the direct result of the skills and craftsmanship of the company. Employees designed and installed new cabinets in the kitchen area and behind the front desk.

"In these challenging economic times, when companies are buckling down and focusing on what they can do to keep their doors open, Quality One has supported their staff to see what they can do to support others in the community," Koop said. "Hastings Family Service has been blessed to be at the receiving end of their work."

Koop noted that for 2008, 3,144 people were served in at least one of Hastings Family Service's program, largely due to the number of volunteers. Volunteers provided 17,481 hours, which is the equivalent of 8.4 additional staff people.

According to the 2008 Independent Sector's study, the estimated dollar value of volunteers is $20.25 an hour. Together, the volunteers have contributed $353,990 in volunteer hours.