Move over Santa: Reed City woman provide gifts, holiday cheer to those in need

From left-to-right, RuthAnn LaDuke and her friend Louise Devendorf smile as they prepare to pass out Christmas gifts on Thursday night at the Church of the Nazarene in Reed City.

From left-to-right, RuthAnn LaDuke and her friend Louise Devendorf smile as they prepare to pass out Christmas gifts on Thursday night at the Church of the Nazarene in Reed City.

Pioneer photo/Joe Judd

REED CITY — Louise Devendorf believes that gift-giving, volunteering and helping those in need is not something that should be relegated to during the holiday season.

For her, it’s a year-round, annual process — one that she has kept up for the last 20 years.

Every year just before Christmas, Devendorf can be seen at Reed City’s Church of the Nazarene, giving away a stockpile of Christmas presents drive-thru style to people who are less fortunate.

Devendorf, a resident of Reed City, accrues the gifts via donation or purchase, and wraps them throughout the course of the year.

“I wrap stuff all summer,” Devendorf said. “I buy stuff and people give me things; a lot of it is brand new sometimes.”

For this Christmas, Devendorf said she has wrapped in excess of 160 presents, all of which were once part of her growing pile accumulated throughout the year.

The extent of Devendorf’s goodwill and Christmas cheer doesn’t stop at passing out presents to happy and thankful Reed City residents.

As soon as the final gift has been handed out, Devendorf makes the 70-mile drive south to Grand Rapids, where she spends her time helping the homeless on the street.

From her time spent providing a bright spot to those who are most in need, it’s the many one-on-one encounters in which she said will always hold close to her heart.

“I like to get out on the street and talk to the people, and mingle with them,” Devendorf said. “Sometimes, I just about cry.”

With a truck bed full of gifts, Devendorf and her friend, RuthAnn LaDuke, braced the freezing cold Thursday evening and passed out package after package. On top of this, the church was without electricity due to a wind storm that passed through the area and affected portions of Mecosta and Osceola counties.

Despite the unforeseen darkness, and falling temperatures, Devendorf and LaDuke were unphased, and promptly began their journey to Grand Rapids once the last gift was claimed.
 
“Some people don’t have anything; they don’t have clothes or food, and they’re out in the cold,” Devendorf said. “Sometimes, they just want somebody to talk to. It’s just kindness.”