Bente Fongemie, a 24-year volunteer with SBCO, also uses her time and talents to help other organizations in the community.

Bente Fongemie and her husband moved to SaddleBrooke in July 1996 from Fremont, California, which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Within a year of her arrival, she was recruited by Harriett Schultz, one of the founders of SaddleBrooke Community Outreach (then known as SaddleBrooke Women’s Outreach), to help with the group’s program for clothing school children in Oracle.

Tasked with managing clothing inventory, Bente recruited Huguette Baad to serve as her assistant. Back in 1998, the group’s clothing program was a fledgling enterprise compared to today’s Kids’ Closet that annually distributes about 3,000 wardrobes to local students. Twenty-four years ago, all of the merchandise was delivered to a garage in one of the model homes in HOA-2. Since sorting and counting the clothing was a hot job (especially during the summer months), Bente recounts how she and Hugette would take advantage of times when no one was visiting the model. They’d close the garage door, open the door to house, and enjoy moments of cool air wafting into the garage. Ahhh.

Eventually, Bente turned over inventory management to Pat Staufer and took on the job of scheduling school visits to Kids’ Closet as well as volunteering at the Closet helping students select shoes and clothing. Since her husband died in 2015, she has worked as a substitute SBCO office staff volunteer.

While many would think supporting SaddleBrooke Community Outreach for 24-years would be a major achievement—and enough volunteerism to fill anyone’s days—Bente would disagree. She has been a volunteer at the SaddleBrooke One Library for 22 years, worked with Care and Share until it was dissolved, and has been a Senior Village volunteer for the past five-years. She also served as a volunteer with Odyssey Hospice from 2000 to 2010.

As someone who has dedicated the past two decades of her life to helping others, Bente recalls how working with kids has put a smile on her face. Seeing a child jump up and down with joy over a new pair of shoes is a precious moment. Little girls wearing new clothing and giggling at their reflection in the mirror are adorable. She also has valued her time helping elderly and very ill people. Those experiences have made her count her blessings.

Bente would be the first to say, “Volunteer! The smiles of children and a dying person’s tears of gratitude offer huge emotional benefits to those who help. You can make a difference in the lives of others and meet people you otherwise would never have known. When you volunteer your time, you receive far more than you give away. Writing a donation check is good but volunteering is more satisfying. If you can—do both!”

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