Don McGowan began volunteering six years ago at the People's Resource Center in Wheaton to try to help others.
But, it turns out, the experience has helped him, too.
The Lisle man is one of about 1,100 volunteers at the center. He works in the food pantry at 201 S. Naperville Road three times a week sorting food, stocking shelves and helping the roughly 3,600 families that come through each month.
“I don't know whether I get more out of it or the clients,” McGowan says. “I think I do. It's a great feeling to come and do things like this.”
He says he empathizes with the center's clients and knows they aren't there by choice.
He recalls helping a woman who recently lost her job after 22 years and has two teenagers to support. She was crying softly as she made her way through the food line.
“You try and make her day a little bit better,” McGowan says. “Your head goes on the pillow a lot better at night knowing you've helped someone.”
That could be the unofficial theme of the People's Resource Center, which began operations in 1975. In addition to the food pantry, it helps people from all over with computer needs, literacy, clothing and job assistance.
McGowan became active as a volunteer in 2004, shortly after his wife died.
He was there to help others, but his own life changed when he met and eventually married Mary Leah Prazak, who volunteers two days a week at the center.
They started by occasionally going to lunch together and the relationship blossomed into a romance.
They've been married since November.
“Now I have a new life and feel born again.” McGowan says. “I think she feels the same way. For us, it's great. Who knows how long we'll have but I'll tell you this, we'll enjoy every day of it.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.