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‘It is never too late’ to volunteer W

hen an older person walks into Chicago’s Bethel New Life wish- ing they could minister to those in need—but thinking they may be too old to make a difference, Annie Mae Liddell is there with an answer.

“It is never too late,” said the 85-year-old Liddell. “They can help me make a quilt to be raffled for a fundraiser. And if they can’t do that we’ll find something. They are needed, and they can help.”

And when Liddell speaks, people listen, because she has spent decades assisting oth- ers. A community activist for Bethel New Life, a social ministry organization of the ELCA, she has done a bit of almost every- thing, including help build homes through Habitat for Humanity. “Jimmy Carter even came once, and I got to work with him,” she said. “He was here about two weeks, with Rosalynn and Amy.”

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Although she enjoyed building and rehabbing homes, her biggest joy has come from making a home for youth. After her children were grown, Liddell learned about the foster care system. “I wanted to do something to give back,” she said. “I investigated the foster program. They gave me a three-week trial with two boys. I showed those boys about how to appreciate nice things and how to act. They are grown now and every Christmas I still get a present from each one of them.” She doesn’t know the exact number but believes she has had 50 foster

At age 85, Annie Mae Liddell continues to vol- unteer for Bethel New Life, a social ministry organization in Chicago. She urges older people to help, too, saying “they are needed, and they can help.”

children. When she passed the age limit to be a foster parent, Liddell suc- cessfully petitioned to have the restriction lifted.

“I’ve loved them and they have loved me,” she said. “I’ve been the mother and the father, and it’s been a privilege to have foster kids up until today.”

Looking for other ways to help the church, she began making quilts. A few of them were raffled last year, raising about $2,000. Bethel New Life dedicated an office to Liddell so she could have an official quilting café.

Through it all, Liddell said her faith has helped keep her feeling young. “I had colon cancer and I beat it,” she explained. “When I got sick, the Lord pulled me through. I thought, if the Lord can do so much for me, I want to give back. Now I work with seniors. And I am here to tell them to never give up.”

Jeff Favre Favre is a contributing editor of The Lutheran.

March 2011 43

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