by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Twenty five years ago, Deanna Waltens fled an abusive and threatening situation.
Life had put her in such a horrible situation that the prospect of leaving with nothing in hand was better than certain misery that waited for her at home.
“I was like Forrest Gump and I kept running and running and running,” Waltens laughed, looking back on her past heartaches.
“Maybe I could have done things better. Maybe I could have thought things out. Sometimes you don’t get that chance. So if you’re in that situation you just do what you have to do.”
Along the way she found people waiting to help.
She stayed at an emergency shelter.
“I saw all the hurt and all the need through all the little children that were there with their moms,” she said. “That really started opening my eyes a lot.”
Realizing she was homeless and chronically hungry she came back to Oklahoma.
Staying with her mom in Choctaw, she put her paralegal degree to work with a local attorney.
After more than a year she realized she needed something more permanent.
An application process through the federal government landed her a job with the immigration department.
After 15 years with the immigration department she retired.
Now she spends her days helping those in need at the Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area command food pantry.
“I came here because actually I saw something in Oklahoma’s Senior News and Living about them needing summer volunteers,” she said. “I realized what it is to be hungry, cold and scared and all the things that go with the situation.”
She stopped by and hasn’t left since.
“It’s a lovely place,” Waltens said. “The people are so great. All the other volunteers are so sweet I really love it here. I decided this was for me.”
Waltens volunteers now, largely because it was volunteers who helped her journey.
Liz Banks, volunteer director at the Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command, says that’s one of the beauties of the service. Lawyers, police officers, seniors, millennials – people from all walks and professions – come together with a common goal to help their fellow human being.
It truly is an army of people coming together to help those in need.
And the need is always great. That’s why Banks loves it when she gets a call for someone inquiring how they can help.
Right now, Banks is in immediate need of spanish translators. Help is ready but sometimes communication barriers make it difficult.
If you can help in any way with time or talent call 405-246-1107.
“I went to churches and they were good and helpful but nothing like this,” Waltens said. “To me this is the ultimate in food pantries. This is just really, really good.”
Waltens knows the need is there because it was once her.
Someday it could be you.
“I think maybe they understand some but unless you’ve been there you don’t understand the real impact of getting up and wondering if you’re going to have anything to eat today,” she said. “People don’t realize, I guess they think it’s third world countries that face it but you face it here.”
She likes the fact people can come and get short-term help while others can utilize services longer term.
“Makes me feel really good,” Waltens smiled. “I realize that the Salvation Army is just that, it’s salvation for a lot of people – not only temporarily but spiritually, too. So much good goes on here. I see the Red Shield Diner help people every day.”
“I know the shelter. I know it’s a great place to be. It’s just a helping situation.”
Waltens comes from a generation that takes great pride on self reliance. Hard times are just opportunities to pull up your bootstraps.
But sometimes life leaves you shoeless.
“Don’t worry about coming here if you need help because anyone of us is 24 hours away from something like that. Not only does it give them that experience and help but it gives us the opportunity to serve.”
“Everytime I help someone through there I think I’m getting a blessing.
“I get more out of it.”