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Volunteers of the Week: Mary Lou and Alban "Bro" Byer
Name: Mary Lou and Alban "Bro" Byer
Age: She is 85, he is 86.
Family: Children, Nancy Perkins, Toni Carl, Becky Hampy and the late Bradley Byer; three grandchildren; two great-granddaughters.
Residence: Yuba City.
Occupation: Both are retired — she ran the senior programs at the Yuba City Senior Center for a number of years and he worked with Operating Engineers. They have a small almond orchard.
How long have you lived in the Yuba-Sutter area? He is a lifelong Yuba-Sutter resident; she moved here when they married 61 years ago.
Hobbies, interests: She used to paint, sculpt and quilt, but got involved in the Yuba-Sutter Gleaners. He used to hunt pheasants, ducks, geese and quail.
For what group do you volunteer? They started the Yuba-Sutter Gleaners Food Bank almost 30 years ago.
It all began at the senior center, Mary Lou said, when she made contacts in Sacramento about getting the cheese and butter offered through the US Department of Agriculture available to local seniors. She and "Bro" borrowed a heavy-duty pickup truck to pick up the goods for several months.
The program quickly expanded and the Gleaners was created.
They now try to limit their work at the Gleaners to three days a week, but are there more often, Mary Lou admitted. She runs the Sutter County Brown Bag program and he works in the warehouse.
Volunteering gives you a real sense of pride to know you are helping so many people, Mary Lou said.
How do you fit volunteering into your schedule? Mary Lou said, "When you get to be our age and the kids are all busy ... it gets kind of boring and ... lonely. We've made a lot of good friends there and it isn't work."
Bro said, "It's a very interesting life. When you get that concerned about the place, it's hard to get it out of your life."
How did you start volunteering? Mary Lou, the 15th of 17 children, said her mother would have her and other siblings stand in the bread line to get food and pass it along to neighbors who needed it. And though her mother spoke broken English — Mary Lou's parents moved to the US from Italy — she made it her life's mission to get people to learn English and vote.
Bro was a member of 4-H in grammar school, and later an adult 4-H leader, and with the Future Farmers of America in high school. His mother was a community leader, he said — she worked for voting and registering as well as working and raising a family.
Words of advice: If people would be willing to give a few hours a month they would become so interested, Mary Lou said.
There's always something new that comes up with so many people working in the warehouse, Bro said.
Quote: "Some people can't see the need out there, but we sure see it," Mary Lou said.