Retired Couple Named Community Heroes

Fred and Mary Lou Haskell were sitting in the audience of a community awards banquet when Mary Lou realized something: “Fred, they are talking about us!”

Earlier this summer, the Haskells, who are in their mid-80s, were two of four White River Community Champion Award honorees for 2019.

The additional honorees included Rose Clark, a retired teacher with 30-plus years of extensive community service, and Sandra Smith, who rallied community generations to create an annual holiday community building event called Merry on Main in Buckley, Wash., each December.

The White River Communities Families First Coalition — with about 200 community service representatives — started the award in 2011 to recognize people, businesses, organizations and churches that start something and see it through on behalf of the community.

For the Haskells, they are part of a long-running church outreach in Bonney Lake, Wash., that has been serving local families for more than 30 years and currently helps nearly 90 families a month with clothing, hygiene items and household commodities. They started leading their community service project six years ago.

“When you serve God, you help in any way you can,” says Fred. “We build rapport. They become our friends. One client is now drug-free, making life changes and recently asked me for a suit.”

Bonney Lake Church has traditionally opened their ministry on two Mondays a month to serve clients. Recently, the Prairie Ridge Community Coalition challenged the church to open on two Sunday nights as well as Monday mornings. The response keeps growing, and the effort wasn’t much more.

Volunteers met a segment of their community that is employed but barely covering the essentials of life and in need of a little extra assistance for household cleaning supplies.

“We discovered that just because you are working a job, it still may not be enough,” says Mary Lou. “People can pick up 10 commodities once a month. We find that people don’t take more than they need because they want to help others too.”

In the award profile, the Haskells and Bonney Lake Church are noted for serving the greater community including the homeless, wayward teens, those who are isolated and lonely, and whoever comes through their door. The church is respected for being inclusive, nonjudgmental and cheerful in embracing their community.

“One of their volunteer jobs is to ‘make friends,’ and they open their doors and warmly welcome people and generously provide these basic life essentials,” the award profile reads. “It is their mission to serve in Jesus’ name, and you can see their faith played out through this project.”

“Being a church, you reach out to people in different ways,” Fred says. “We ask people if they need a prayer. Prayers are cheap. Sometimes we give Bibles or literature if requested.”

“We love what we do,” adds Mary Lou. “You cannot simply sit in a pew and expect to serve the community. You must get out of the pew. We’re here to take care of the community and love them. We’ll continue as long as we can, and we have our daughter to back us up.”