Jeanne Allender is certain. God not only talks to her, he also teaches, listens, responds, guides, provides and has big expectations. He is very clear about her mission in life: feed the hungry, clothe the needy, love the downtrodden and hug everyone, even if they are a bit smelly.
“A homeless man came in regularly,” Jeanne said. “I said ‘OK, girls! Everybody hug him!’ He said, ‘Oh no, you can’t, I smell.’ And I said ‘Yes we can! Everybody gets hugged here!’”
“Here” is the Washington Christian Outreach, Inc. providing free clothing, furniture, food and hot meals at 119 Highland Ave. Jeanne is its founder and volunteer director. Thirty‐seven years ago, a friend gave her a bag of clothing and asked, “Do you know someone who needs these?” By giving it away, Jeanne began her life’s mission. For five years, she worked out of her car, collecting and distributing clothing and food.
A local church donated space, but they outgrew it. She spotted an abandoned building and
prayed for two years, telling her husband that that building will someday house the Outreach. When the building’s owners saw the work she did, they slashed the price in half. Jeanne raised money, but still needed another $40,000.
“I was so naïve. I went to First Federal for a loan and they asked what assets we had. I said ‘a desk and a microwave.’ They took a chance, loaned $40,000 and we paid it off in seven years.” The entire operation is run by volunteers. “We are the ultimate non‐profit, “ Jeanne says, “We don’t sell anything and no one gets paid.”
Feeding people comes naturally to Jeanne. Her Italian grandmother cooked for everyone: family, friends, neighbors. One day, when young Jeanne complained she was tired of feeding people, her grandmother told her, ”You gonna do more than me.” The seed was planted. “I always had something within me that I wanted to feed and help people,” she said.
But cooking isn’t her biggest talent. Her true gift is seeing past outer appearances and looking at people through her heart. That’s how she saw an alcoholic named Donnie, who came in every day, drunk. The women put him in the center of their circle and prayed over him. In his words, “one day it took.” He stopped drinking, started working, and lived a clean life. “I bring Love and salvation to God’s people. I love them all; they are all mine. I never had any brothers or sisters but I have a big family now.”
WCCF Chairman of the Board, Richard White, calls Jeanne “A woman of great compassion.
Through her leadership, this organization has met pressing community needs.” Last year’s recipient of the Waller award supports Jeanne’s nomination. According to Janet Abernathy, “Jeanne is known throughout the area for doing one thing and doing it well ‐ helping her fellow humans with food, clothing and encouragement at the time that they need help.”
Receiving the Louis E. Waller Humanitarian Award is special to Jeanne, because she considered Lou Waller her mentor. “He has always been and will always be a big part of this ministry.”