After 14 and 15 years respectively, Dennis Stokhaug and Jim Ardis are leaving their shared position as Operations Managers for the Gathering. Jim will stay on as Dinner Coordinator, and both have offered to train the new person when hired. It’s difficult wrapping one’s brain around the thought of their impending departures.
In 2000, Jim Ardis began working with the Gathering as our full time Operations Manager, responsible for the purchase, storage and transport of food, and oversight of equipment and facility maintenance and repairs at all Gathering Sites. A year later, Dennis Stokhaug took on that role while Jim concentrated on the Dinner Program. And five years after that, they began sharing the Operations Manager duties.
It’s a tough job: early hours, lots of driving, keeping your cool, schmoozing with donors of food and supplies, making sense out of inventory lists, locating the best deal on an item, responding to a multitude of “bosses”, heavy lifting, and stairs, stairs, stairs!
What could possibly keep each of them committed to this work for so many years?
“I enjoyed over the years being with the people tasked with the duties of distributing goods to the people in our society who have the most pressing needs. Their dedication was, in many instances, more than enough inspiration to return for another day. A question was asked me once, ‘Did I know anyone whose life had been changed by coming to the Gathering?’ The first person I thought of was me. End of story.”
Dennis shared this story:
“I worked for thirty five years for a company downtown. I saw many people who called the street their home. I watched them walk the streets aimlessly, saw them sleeping in alleys, searching for food. If by chance you would walk past them the question was always the same, ‘Hey, buddy could you spare a dime?’ I must admit most times I would continue on my way but there were times I would share. I finally retired and made a lot fewer trips downtown, but I never felt the downtown street left me. [When] I came across the ad for the Gathering [Operations Manager], I knew this was what I needed in my life and for the people that I had passed for so many years. Here it is 14 years later, driving the third van, a total of 350,000 miles, 1200 stops to fill the vans, tons of food. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with the Gathering. I don’t know if I made a difference, but I can tell you the Gathering has made a difference with me.”
We will all miss you, Dennis, for your calm demeanor, your thankfulness, your respect for our guests.
And Jim, even though you will still be around with the Dinner Program, we will miss your diehard belief that organizations and programs and the Gathering can always be better.