Towne Salute: Linda Swenson
May 01, 2018 12:00PM
Selflessness (n): Concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.
Meet Linda Swenson, a seven-year volunteer at HOPE For All that’s continuously displaying the definition of selflessness.
Located in a two-story warehouse in Glen Burnie, HOPE For All is a Christian-based nonprofit organization in Anne Arundel County, parts of Baltimore City, and the Appalachian region whose mission is to provide basic human necessities (i.e. furniture, housewares, clothing, and personal items) to families and individuals without sufficient economic resources.
Swenson, who used to work as a Spanish teacher at North County High School, later retired and went to work for Towson University as a supervisor for language interns. After running into Leo Zerhusen, founder and executive director of the nonprofit, Swenson learned about HOPE
For All and decided to get involved.
“Leo had mentioned they could use volunteers at HOPE For All, and I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Swenson admits. “When you’re working, your life is totally different. You’re not involved in the outside world, you have your own. So, I went over and worked two hours, one day a week.”
Years later, Swenson dedicates any free time she has to the organization, volunteering Monday through Wednesday, sometimes Fridays. While juggling four grandkids, church, and other tasks, she spends anywhere from 12 to 15 hours per week with the nonprofit.
“If I need to come in, I come in,” Swenson says. “If certain things are behind in an area, I’ll come in just to make sure things are working and that goods are ready to go out.”
When families transition from homelessness to housing, they are often presented with empty rooms. Through HOPE For All’s Turning Houses Into Homes program, hundreds of families are gifted with donations of furniture, kitchen supplies, and household goods, helping to alleviate the struggle and start them off on the right path.
“Sometimes I go out on intakes because I was a Spanish teacher in the county and sometimes they’ll get someone they can’t relate to,” Swenson says. “I’ve only gone out on six intakes, but the kids are always so thrilled and that’s our mission, we want what’s best for the kids. I’m just amazed at how many kids in our county sleep on the floor. Leo’s primary goal is to make sure each kid has a brand-new bed.”
Through its Head to Toe initiative, HOPE For All provides thousands of Anne Arundel County (AACPS) public school children with shoes and essential clothing.
“We want to provide kids with clothing they can use so they don’t have to be embarrassed to go to school,” Swenson says.
Due to the generosity of donors, HOPE For All has racks filled with an winter coats to supply to the children of AACPS. The Pupil Personal Worker (PPW) will come into HOPE For All and place orders for the schools to get winter coats for the kids.
“As long as it comes through PPW and they’re saying the kids are coming in without things, we just don’t want that to happen,” Swenson admits. “That is our mission, to make sure people have
what they need.”
The nonprofit also holds an indoor yard sale once a month containing donations of all non-essential household items, which helps to raise funds to support their work. Anything that doesn’t sell or any items they can’t use in the warehouse is given away to other organizations that can use it. They never throw donations out.
“I’m still amazed at how many people still don’t know we exist,” Swenson says. “Everybody here is so hopeful to each other. If you need something, you ask, and everyone is receptive. We just wear different hats at different times.”
Since December 2014, Swenson has also dedicated her time to being a member of the Board of Directors, meeting once a month to discuss everything from finances and improvements to expansions and grants.
“My best reasoning for being on the Board of Directors is because I can represent people that are here during the day,” Swenson says. “I know the operations, so I bring that experience to the board. We have board people on the board of education who bring different experience levels. Each of us comes there and looks at something different.”
In the first half of the year, from July to December, HOPE For All assisted 198 families, which is a third more than the year before. Forty percent of the nonprofit’s work is through schools or referrals through the department of social services. According to Swenson, the need has increased.
“We generously want to connect with families to help them,” Swenson says. “Our mission is to help others and I what I want other people to know is that we are there for others and take advantage of what we can offer. Anyone can volunteer with us and become part of the family here.”
For more information on HOPE For All visit Hopeforall.us.