First a client, then a volunteer

Richard DuMiller outside of the Lord’s Pantry

Richard DuMiller outside of the Lord’s Pantry

Richard DuMiller may have lost the lower half of his left leg in Vietnam but that does not prevent him from volunteering 52 hours a week at The Lord’s Pantry, a food bank sponsored by Community Health Outreach on Timuquana Road.

DuMiller, an Air Force veteran who lives in a mobile home with his long-haired Chihuahua, Casper, exists on a $1,100 disability check each month. He began his affiliation with The Lord’s Pantry as a hungry client. Tipped off to the nonprofit’s existence through a neighbor, DuMiller said he was instantly sold on the place and its mission after meeting Pastor Young Smith III, a Community Health Outreach staff member in charge of the food give-away program.

“A neighbor lady told me about it. I was impressed with the way I was treated when I first got here and this man, who didn’t leave me hungry,” said DuMiller, gesturing toward Smith. “I got a loaf of bread and some peanut butter, and I was satisfied with what I got. Pastor Young told me to come back that Monday, and we’ve hit it off ever since.”

For the past four years, DuMiller has served at Smith’s side at The Lord’s Pantry doing “everything.” He oversees the vegetables, bags and hands out food, talks to clients, unloads trucks, and completes paperwork.

“I work six days a week, eight hours most days, and 11-and-a-half hours on Fridays when there is an evening shift from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” he said. “I arrive at 7 a.m. every morning, and I give more than 40 hours a week of faithful, consistent service. They don’t have to worry about this one volunteer showing up – I beat Pastor Young here sometimes,” he said.

DuMiller, who does not have a car, either walks to the pantry or gets a ride from Smith or another volunteer. “I was coming here on crutches when I had only one leg. I’m having a hard time getting a wheelchair that works,” he explained. “I have an electric wheelchair, but it doesn’t work because it needs batteries and I can’t afford them because they cost $100 apiece. I’m having a hard time getting another wheelchair because the VA (Veterans Administration) says I’m still able to walk with my one good leg, so they have denied me a chair and I’m entitled to one,” he said.

Community Health Outreach has helped DuMiller with dental work through its free clinic, and he attends Smith’s nondenominational services on Wednesday, which are held on the property adjacent to the pantry before it opens. “They all say prayers down here for me, which is a blessing to me. I love them all,” DuMiller said.

“The benefit of doing this work is sharing my heart with people. I feel blessed for them letting me do it. They enjoy me and I enjoy them and I’ve made a lot of friends here. If I wasn’t doing this, I would be sitting home watching Gunsmoke or Bonanza, going nuts, or playing with my little dog, or trying to figure out something to do. Being here gets me out of the house. I get a chance to get away from the monotony,” he continued.

“Giving back makes me feel 100 percent blessed. I feel like I’ve done something constructive for myself. Working here is my way of giving back to the world. Everybody needs a place of being in life and doing this helps the public. It’s charity. I get paid sometimes in food, but I take very little or nothing at all. I’d rather see somebody who really needs it have it, and I don’t want to see them trade it off for drugs or alcohol. It comes from God.”