For 30 years, Jim Butts has helped people breath a little bit easier in Herndon, Sterling and Ashburn communities. The active member of LINK Inc., an all-volunteer emergency support organization that serves the area, has been with the organization nearly since the beginning.
"We were put on this earth to serve others," Butts said. "The feeling you get when you help someone out makes you realize that what you’re put on this earth to do."
In the mid-1980s, Butts and his wife, Judy, delivered a food basket to a young couple in Herndon. When they entered the empty house, they noticed three children standing behind the man and woman.
"It was the little girl’s birthday," he said.
On the way home, the Butts’ decided to pick up a cake, some presents and balloons and return to the young couple’s house.
"The reaction we got," Butts said. "That reaction will stay with me for the rest of my life."
LINK INC. held its first meeting 35 years ago, in July 1972, and was made up of volunteers from five churches, including Sterling Park Catholic, Trinity Presbyterian, Galilee United Methodist, Sterling United Methodist and Community Lutheran churches.
Since then, the organization has increased in the number of volunteers, as well as the number of people it serves.
Butts first joined the nonprofit on behalf of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon. Since then, he has served as president four times.
In the late 1970s, he was one of a handful of volunteers who helped deliver about six food baskets to homes per week. Now, LINK makes approximately 20 food-basket deliveries to people in need.
Ed Foy, a Sterling resident and longtime member of LINK Inc., said the holidays are a lot busier around the organization’s headquarters these days.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the organization delivered about 100 holiday food baskets to families around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now, Foy said they deliver between 300 and 400 food baskets to families during the holiday season.
"As much as the mission remains the same, the number of people has gone up, especially around the holiday season."
BETTY EIDEMILLER, a Herndon resident and president of LINK Inc., said the organization’s mission has always been to provide emergency food and financial assistance to people in need in Herndon, Sterling and Ashburn communities.
When LINK Inc. first began in the early 1970s, the organization not only delivered food, but furniture and clothing to people in need.
Butts said it was the only one of its kind. Now, there are nonprofit organizations that provide clothing and furniture to nearby communities.
"Now, other charities concentrate on furniture and clothing. We concentrate on food," he said. "We work with them instead of doing it on our own."
Even though LINK Inc. has quit its furniture and clothing efforts, Eidemiller introduced a bed program to the organization, July 1.
About a year and a half ago, volunteers reported a need for beds and mattresses in the communities. So, Eidemiller developed a contract with a local provider to deliver new mattresses and frames to people who are referred to the organization by social service agencies.
"We expect to deliver two to three beds per month," she said.
EIDEMILLER ATTRIBUTES LINK’S success to the number of dedicated volunteers, like Butts and Foy, who return year after year to pick up donations and deliver food baskets to communities.
"It’s face to face," Foy said. "You meet the people you deliver food to. You become a part of their lives."
"So many times we search for happiness," Butts said. "The source of true happiness is in serving others. That’s what you want to stick with."