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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Volunteer Pours All Into Store
Judith Laborde is not afraid to get her hands dirty helping a charity raise money. She spends 120 hours a month at the Values Reborn Thrift Store.
By Teresa Lantigua Peterson | Special to the Sentinel
September 2, 2004
This is the first in an occasional series on volunteers and others who work behind the scenes to help people in need in Seminole County.
When many people retire, they dream of traveling the world.
Judith Laborde wanted to set sail on a life of service. Her journey has only just begun.
"I always said, after I retired, I would donate my services if I was in good health," said Laborde of Casselberry. She found her niche at the Values
Reborn Thrift Store on North U.S. Highway 17-72 in Longwood, where she spends 120 hours a month as a volunteer, sorting, selling and displaying merchandise.
That's a sizable chunk of time compared with the typical volunteer who spends on average of 16 hours a month at the store.
Mondays through Fridays, and sometimes on Saturdays, she is doing whatever is needed -- even if she has to get her hands dirty.
"She's not above any job. I've seen her mopping the floor, taking out the trash," said Diann Auker, coordinator of volunteers for the Christian Sharing Center. The nonprofit organization helps people who have trouble paying the bills, regardless of religious affiliation.
The thrift store is the charity's main source of funds, Auker said.
"The more appealing our store is, the more merchandise we sell, the more families we are able to help with rent, food, utilities and other expenses during a time of crisis," Auker said.
After Hurricane Charley hit the area, the center was deluged with requests for food and assistance. Part of the activity was attributable to the center's being a site designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency food to storm victims.
Hundreds of volunteers help at the store and at the food pantry next door, which is the largest of its kind in Seminole County. But staff members say Laborde stands out because of the enormous amount of time and energy she devotes.
"She just works her heart out," said Theresa Berrios, assistant store manager. One day, she brought in her own rubber gloves to scrub down the bathroom with bleach, Berrios said.
Before her retirement three years ago, Laborde spent 23 years at Florida Hospital. She was trained as a medical assistant and worked in a variety of positions helping patients.
In retirement, she spent time fixing up her home and helping out in a nursing home. She started volunteering at Values Reborn in November.
"It was pretty bad when I first got here," she said, referring to the general appearance and layout of the store.
Laborde should know. She shopped at the thrift store for three years before signing up to volunteer. Now, she takes the initiative to improve the store any way possible.
The native of Puerto Rico offers other skills, too.
"We rely on her to translate to our Spanish-speaking clients," Auker said.
Laborde said she feels rewarded by her efforts.
"It's gratifying to do this. I like to be here. I really do. I enjoy doing what I do."