St. Helens woman provides helping hands across the city
There almost isn’t a place in St. Helens where Patty St. John can’t be found volunteering.
St. John volunteers more than 25 hours weekly at local schools, the Columbia County Courthouse and the Columbia Pacific Food Bank. Helping out is ingrained in St. John’s nature, starting in her childhood and continuing into motherhood and late adulthood.
When St. John’s children were growing up, her home was always a safe space for their friends or family.
“The kids would come in and just throw their blankets and pillows on the floor, and they knew they had a safe place to sleep,” St. John said. “Our motto is if we got one more, just throw another potato in the pot.”
St. John began volunteering because she says she is one to try and fix a problem instead of complaining about it.
“It started when my kids first started going to school, and I saw that there was a need for help in the classroom. So I just started there, and it’s now it’s progressed on to different areas,” St. John said.
St. John has now become a volunteer leader since her earlier volunteer days of running copies for teachers. She currently coordinates all volunteers’ schedules at the food bank and runs point for many of the food bank’s programs, such as bringing in products and helping to convert the bank into a shopping-style food pantry.
The food bank is also where St. John has had some of her most rewarding volunteer experiences. She recalls the impact she felt when helping out three children and their mother, whom her husband had left.
“I gave her information on all the services we had available to her,” St. John said. “And then, when we fixed her a box and brought it out to her. This lady cried, put her arms around me, hugged me and thanked me because she didn’t know if she was even going to have food to feed her children that day.”
St. John doesn’t worry about spreading herself too thin despite her many volunteer hours. She enjoys her time at each organization she volunteers for and says she wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
“It doesn’t really matter how many hours in the day I spend doing it because I guess it is just something that has always been instilled in me,” St. John said. “Instead of sitting around and complaining about your community and how things are not working, you need to get out and ensure it is working yourself.”
St. John’s passion for volunteer work has also landed her on the My Fair Lady court in the Columbia County pageant — held annually to recognize seniors for their outstanding community service efforts.
Her desire to help her neighbors has long been longstanding, even to a fault in her youth.
“Helping out just came to me,” St. John said. “I always got in trouble when I was a kid because if somebody needed help, I would just go help them, and my teachers were always telling me, ‘Please go sit down.’ I guess it’s just something that I have always done.”
St. John loves her St. Helens community and has said she will continue to give back because it makes her feel good to help her neighbors.
She hopes others will see the personal benefits of volunteer work and join in.
“I just want to say that if people have the time and the passion, they should go out and volunteer. Because not only will you be doing something for your community, but you will make yourself feel good. Volunteering is a feel-good thing,” St. John said. “We have so many people here in need, and it just makes me feel good to be able to help my friends and neighbors out when they are in need.”