For more than a decade, along with food and clothing, they handed out hope.
Now, Joyce Pound and Berenice Lane, sisters who turned Joshua’s Storehouse into one of Casper’s charitable mainstays, have both retired.
Joyce, 74, who served as Joshua’s president, left on Friday. Berenice, 71, the group’s executive director, closed this chapter of her life a week earlier.
They talked a lot about faith; they talked a lot about love. Like all Joshua’s staff, they served as volunteers.
“When you’re down and out, that gentle touch or that kind word means a lot to people,” Berenice said. “We’ve all been there.”
Joyce came to Joshua’s Storehouse in need of food. In those days, Joshua’s was located on First Street, behind what is now the NAPA auto parts store.
Joyce and Berenice volunteered in 1998.
Building Joshua’s required patience, persistence and lots of community support.
In 1998, Joshua’s faced severe financial problems. There was even talk of closing. Berenice and Joyce asked for the chance to save it.
Later, Joshua’s moved to its present location at 334 S. Wolcott. In 2005, the owner decided to sell the building. A hurried fundraiser collected $250,000 to purchase the property.
Joshua’s Storehouse distributes what someone down on his luck might need. A pairs of shoes. A loaf of bread. Maybe a toothbrush or shampoo.
Berenice remembers a little girl who asked if she and her mother would finally receive food, and her delight at a box of cereal.
A man once pulled a gun on Joyce and demanded she turn over the protein.
Peter Jones of Casper received food when his cupboard was bare.
“They really stepped up,” he said. “I think they’re very caring people. It will be sad to see them retire.”
Sometimes, a person will turn up who was formerly down on his luck, with toys or a truckload of groceries, or maybe an offer of help.
Last year, Joshua’s experienced a 62 percent increase in people seeking assistance.
“It’s been up and down,” Berenice said. “You have rewarding times, you have frustrating times. You have times wondering, ‘What’s going on in the United States of America? Why do we have so many hungry families? Why do we have children coming in needing clothes?’”
Because Joshua’s receives no United Way or government support, Joyce said it can react quickly to fill a need for food or clothing.
Mary Ann Budenske, who for years directed Poverty Resistance in Casper, said the departure of people like Joyce and Berenice represents a sea change in how nonprofits operate.
In the past, she said, upper middle class women often started and ran such organizations with volunteers.
Today, most women must work, she said, adding that about one-third of Wyoming families are headed by single mothers.
“Now what we’re looking at is, there are no people to be volunteers,” she said. “They’re all working. Or dead.”
And what were small, community groups run by volunteers now have paid staffs, turning the nonprofit sector into a bureaucracy, Budenske said
So people like Joyce and Berenice are like the last of a breed.
Joyce and Berenice say they will continue relying on faith to illuminate their lives. For now, they will reorganize their house in Bar Nunn, and then perhaps see more of Wyoming than dedication to Joshua’s mission allowed in the past.
Jay Martin, who has helped with fundraising at Joshua’s Storehouse, takes over as executive director.