A 20-plus-year volunteer at Wayside, Marion Nielsen finds that her hard work cooking gives her “a much better outlook on life.” A talented cook, Nielsen recently donated a badly needed Hobart mixer to the kitchen. We talk with her about her Wayside Experience.

What work do you do for Wayside?

I usually bake desserts for the Thursday meals. Before we had our new kitchen I used to bake them the day before at home. This usually involved anywhere from four to seven hours of work depending on what I was making. Now that we have the kitchen I usually do the baking on Thursday. I come in at 8 a.m. before the other volunteers and start. My friend, Nancy Gage comes in between 8:30 and 9 and helps me. When this is finished, we work on whatever needs to be done to prepare the food for the evening meals.

How long have you been involved?

At least 22 years. I started when they were at Immanuel Baptist, and I remember using surplus food from Desert Storm, which happened in 1991. That is how I can calculate my time.

I became involved when a member of our church approached the church fellowship to become a sponsor, and, eventually, I was on the old board of directors when each organization involved had two members on the board. I was a coordinator on the evenings our church served, which was the fourth Friday of each month. I also cooked the desserts at home.

What do you think Wayside is achieving?

Wayside has a great outreach in our area and is providing healthy meals for people who otherwise might not get one. We reach beyond Portland into surrounding towns. The Food Rescue Program has been a great addition.

Why did you get involved?

Because I care that people have enough to eat, and because the rewards of being able to help far outweigh the work. I feel that God has given me the health, time, resources and ability to do this, and because I have been retired for half of the time I have volunteered for Wayside it has been much better for me to be out doing something rather than sitting at home doing nothing! It gives me a much better outlook on life.

What is your favorite dish to make?

I don’t have a favorite dish. But since we moved into our new kitchen we have been attempting more challenging and complicated dishes, which the volunteers are doing great with. It gives us a good feeling when the staff gives us the menu for the day and the volunteers pretty much accomplish what needs to be done on their own. This frees up the staff to do other things that need to be done.

What would you say to anyone thinking about volunteering?

I would tell them to give it a try. I have gotten others to come, and they have stayed. I also volunteer for another organization one day a week and have gotten others to go there as well. Some people say they do not have the time or skills or personality to deal with volunteering, but you don’t know unless you try. The rewards are amazing when you give of yourself to others.

What do you think volunteers take away from their time at Wayside?

The fellowship you have with others as you volunteer.