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Feeding thousands with a big heart

Jefferson Award-winner Mae Collier
October 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
ABC7 feels it is important to recognize Angelenos who take the time and effort to make their community better. One way we are hoping to pass on that recognition is the Jefferson Awards.The Jefferson Awards come from an organization founded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1972 to encourage and honor volunteers for their contributions through community service. Each month, ABC7 will bring you the stories of Jefferson Award winners. ABC7 is proud to announce our very first Jefferson Awards winner, Mae Collier.

Mae is 70 years old and spends every Monday at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank lifting bags, crates and baskets that weigh as much as 50 pounds. However, even if the grueling work takes a toll on her body, Mae refuses to let it get the best of her.

"There's days I have felt like I can't do it. But I feel like this is my calling. And when I promised to do this, people are depending on me," said Mae.

The food ends up at the Vermont Square Methodist Church, where Mae has been a member for 50 years. She coordinates a handful of volunteers, including 99-year-old Ethel Alderson.

"I have nothing else to do. And why sit at home when I can come and be useful here? I love it," said Ethel.

Mae and Ethel, alongside other volunteers, divide the food into bags. Each bag will go to one of hundreds of families in need. It's an arduous process. But for Mae, it isn't arduous, or even a process at all. Mae's Mondays are spent doing something important.

"We help people in need of food and some of the people that do not make ends meet from one pay day to the other," said Mae, who seemed as though that reality was tough to talk about.

On the third Tuesday of every month, that reality becomes even more apparent as the needy line up and Mae and her volunteers get to work. Last year the food giveaway helped 1,000 families; that's 6,000 people.

"I appreciate her. I really don't know her, but I do appreciate her for doing this and she's been doing this for a while. So, thanks to her," said Edward Warren, a client of the food bank.

"It makes me feel really blessed inside because she has done a lot of things for the community. She helped out a lot," said Sharon Young, another food bank client.

But for Mae, the things she does may not be for the thanks or praise. Mae simply said, "I'd like to think that I made a difference in the community. At the end of that day, I'm tired but it still makes me feel good that I've helped so many people."