Looking Back: Spotlight on Pandemic-relief Volunteers Jim and Patty Coyle

Mar 10, 2021

One year ago, communities across The Salvation Army Western Division -- which serves Nebraska, South Dakota and western Iowa -- began to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at our Omaha headquarters, we immediately initiated a pandemic-relief response to help those communities fight back. Twelve months later, as we continue our COVID-relief efforts, we are looking back to salute The Salvation Army volunteers who so readily and generously answered the initial call to serve. Each week we’ll bring you an inspiring story of a metro-area individual, couple or family who made a big difference in this ongoing battle. Today we continue this series with volunteers Jim and Patty Coyle’s story.

Last March, when Jim and Patty Coyle signed up to help distribute food to families in need, they never expected the experience would lead to several more volunteer opportunities with The Salvation Army. But after distributing meals every week from mid-March through early August for the Mobile BackPack Program at Jefferson Elementary School, they were hooked. The Coyles signed up to sort school supplies for The Salvation Army’s Back to School distribution in August. On Thanksgiving morning, they delivered meals to seniors for TurkeyFest, and in December they handed out toys at the drive-thru Toyland distribution at Citadel Corps. “Oh, and we rang bells too,” said Patty.

The Coyles, who are both retired – Patty from a 42-year career with the IRS and Jim from the Department of Education – also volunteer several days a week at the Juan Diego Center Food Pantry, operated by Catholic Charities. They donate platelets once a month with the Red Cross, and in non-pandemic times, Patty volunteers at the Orpheum Theater and the Holland Performing Arts Center, in addition to working part-time for CHI Health Center.

When they signed up to help with the Mobile BackPack food distribution last March, the Coyles assumed the project would last about a month. “One month led to another month and then another month until it was all through the summer,” said Patty. “We went from freezing in the snow and the rain to sweltering in the heat.”

Despite having to contend with the often-challenging weather, the Coyles valued the experience. “We got to meet some really nice people, and the camaraderie that developed among the regular volunteers was great,” said Jim. The couple also enjoyed getting to know The Salvation Army officers who oversaw the food distribution at Jefferson Elementary. “It was clear they are committed both to the community and to their faith, and that was nice to see,” Jim added.

The Coyles don’t plan on slowing their rigorous volunteer schedule any time soon. In fact, they are looking for more opportunities to give their time and energy to The Salvation Army and other non-profits. “We are healthy and secure, and we really want to help other people feel secure too,” said Jim.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with The Salvation Army, please visit our volunteer webpage or contact our volunteer coordinator at 402-898-6000 or WSTvolunteers@usc.salvationarmy.org.

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