My Turn – Helping needs neither praise, nor raise

I haven't met Mary Odegaard in person, but like a lot of other people in eastern New Mexico, I've spoken to her on the telephone and it made my day.

Mary, who lives in Clovis, picks up her phone every weekday morning while most of us are having our first cup of coffee.

For the next several hours, and another chunk of time in the afternoon, she works through a list of dozens of people scattered around our area, simply making sure they're OK. For some of them, her voice is the only one they'll hear all day.

Mary's been making calls like this about 30 years, first at the United Way crisis center, and now for the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico. The small compensation she receives from the Food Bank doesn't begin to cover the hours she actually spends, nor can it adequately reimburse her for summoning life-saving intervention for a woman downed with a broken hip or a man slipping into a diabetic coma.

But Mary isn't looking for praise or a raise. She is looking for more people who need to be helped.

"Do you realize a lot of people have nobody who checks on them?" she asked me. "If you know somebody I need to be calling, let me know."

Betty Williamson believes the world needs all the Marys it can find. You may reach her at

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