By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Jan. 28 — Lois Shaffer always wanted to be a nurse. Life did not lead her into that field, but in 1984 she volunteered to help a neighbor and that lead to a lifetime of helping others.
“I said ‘this place is a wreck'” Shaffer remembers of her first visit to Page One. “She said ‘well you can help out.'”
Her kids were off at college, her husband was an airline pilot, and she didn’t need to work…but her neighbor Barbara Kibler asked if she could help out at the shop. So, Lois left her 22 flower beds behind and quickly got pulled more and more into the small thrift store on East Main where Nest and Hive now sits.
“I went in and introduced myself…and they had four shelves of stuff on the wall…that was it,” Lois remembers.
After that day, Lois Shaffer spent the next 38 years serving Page One, the first 12 years as a volunteer. On Saturday, around 100 of her “Page One family” and others from throughout the community met in the main dining room of the Mimslyn Inn to celebrate her retirement as executive director of the non-profit organization.
“I want to thank Lois for this calling…people who are willing to put a foot forward,” said Clerk of the Circuit Court Grayson Markowitz, who served as master of ceremonies.
“Lois is the type of person who is a hardworking person…time was never a factor in getting things done. She is so dedicated to the work of Page One…whatever it has taken, she has always done,” Markowitz continued. “If she calls you on the phone, ‘Can you do this?’…No one can turn Lois Shaffer down because of her dedication to the job. She was always first to arrive and last to leave…I’m inspired by her…I would hope in my life to be as good a person as she is.”
A slide show was presented in which people who had been directly impacted by Lois shared their gratitude. Newspaper articles filled tables reporting various accomplishments of Page One under Shaffer’s direction. Two large cakes served the dozens in attendance, and photos were taken, one after another, after another.
“Lois has helped so many people…she’s provided opportunities for so many of them…helped them find a place to live…when people had a fire take everything, she has helped them get started again,” said Nancy Gordon, one of “original volunteers” who has been with Page One for 42 years. “It’s going to take two people to replace her…people call her at her house…she’s just one of those people who is going to be hard to replace.”
Larry Hakel, treasurer of Page One’s board of directors, coordinated the retirement celebration held on Saturday, where supporters came to honor a woman who had dedicated nearly four decades to helping the less fortunate of the Page Valley.
“Lois has the compassion and faith that is outstanding…at meetings, she is always asking us to pray for others,” Hakel said. “She knows where to go to get through to people….the biggest problem was trying to replace her…everyone said we’d need three or four people, but we have a good replacement.”
John Horn served for 16 years as the store manager for the Salvation Army in Front Royal. He grew up in Page County from the time he was age 7 and graduated from Luray High School in 1991.
“I was looking for something closer to home…looking for something different after 16 years with the Salvation Army,” Horn said of applying for the Page One position. “My brother told me about the opening.”
His first day on the job in Luray was Monday, Jan. 23.
“I would like to expand store operations and modernize the stores, such as taking credit card payments,” Horn said of changes he may make in his first few months on the job. “I want to utilize some of the experience I gained at the Front Royal store for 16 years.”
On Saturday, the widely mixed crowd all attended for different reasons related to the same person. Pastor Don Thomas credits the beginnings of his outreach ministry at Bethlehem Independent Church to Lois Shaffer. He now feeds about 66 families on a regular basis by providing food that they prepare themselves.
“Lois picked me up at one of the lowest points in my ministry and gave me hope to keep going,” Pastor Thomas said at Saturday’s celebration. “She was just amazing at how she could get through to people…she made me feel better about what I could do, rather than what I was doing.”
As various attendees spoke of the event’s honoree, trends begin to emerge.
“Everything Lois does is from her heart… because there is so much to that job,” said Carol Gray, past volunteer.
“She was the glue that held the place together and she is just a Page County legacy,” local investments and insurance agent Starr Johnson said.
“She cares about the people…her hours are 7 to 7 a lot of days…and she is a person…I don’t know how to describe her…she can multi-task better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” said Judy Aleshire, a Page One volunteer for the last 12 years.
“She’s a very professional lady…in the workplace and out of the workplace. If you ran into her downtown next week, she’d be the same…all the time,” said Marjorie Marston, who has been volunteering for about a decade. “She is a high-energy lady and worked hard for the needy people in this county.… She just loves people.”
While praise was plentiful on Saturday, Shaffer has heard more than her share of sad stories over the decades. Families with multitudes of problems, barely getting by, and each time she simply sought a way to provide hope.
“I never had a feeling of wanting to walk away…my brain would go to ‘what can I do, where can I go to help these people,” Shaffer told Page Valley News toward the end of Saturday’s event.
As she answers the question, a family Shaffer’s known for more than 20 years comes by to pay their respects. Lois says a few moments later that she helped the family fill out forms for various programs and aid for two decades. Their gratitude was evident in their smiles.
“My heart is with our seniors, veterans and disabled,” Shaffer said. “I see how great the need is…”
That’s why her retirement may not be that quiet…the flower beds may get neglected once again, as Shaffer plans to help seniors, veterans and the disabled in our community through grant writing and other means. She says it could potentially grow into a “retirement” business. It would seem the fire to help others hasn’t diminished in Shaffer after four decadeas.
“I loved it, and I knew how great the need was in our county for the services,” Lois said.
Just as she finishes the thought, 42-year volunteer Nancy Gordon tells her…”If you don’t have anything to do on Monday, come on down.”
They share a laugh as things begin to wind down at the Mimslyn.
“I think we’ve made great progress at Page One. We’re able to help more people with more needs, and we’ve opened the door for a lot of opportunity…and we’ve made new alliances with a number of agencies in the community,” Shaffer says of her time with the non-profit. “I hope people realize that we are here to help…I know it’s a lot of work…but I wish more of our youth would get involved.”
Fore more information about Page One’s services,
Farm Ministry donates 200 pounds of beef to PACA and Page One
Page One needs help keeping the lights on
Farm Ministry partners with Page Co-Op, Burner’s Beef to provide Page One donation
Page One, Free Clinic receive funds from Operation Round Up
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