Altruism is defined as the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. Personally, I think Sue Balentine’s name should be added to the definition. Her selfless and equally unyielding volunteer work for the past twenty years make Sue a Valpo Life in the Spotlight.
About twenty years ago, Sue found herself working at Spiritual Matters, a Christian bookstore located here in Valparaiso. To her dismay, it closed and she was left wondering where her life would take her next. Little did she know, Spiritual Matters’ doors closing would open doors to a whole new opportunity.
Joanne Maynard, the previous executive director, came to her seeking help with First Contact which had been started around three years prior. As a non-profit organization, First Contact aids people all over Porter County in need. Whether they cannot afford their electric bill or rent or they are in need of clothes or food, First Contact is there. On top of necessary financial help, counselors will also offer to pray with their clients.
“A lot of the time, prayer is what these people are seeking for most,” said Sue.
Though faith is not forced on any client, First Contact firmly believes prayer offers an exceptional form of encouragement for discouraged clients.
Funded by churches in the area, as well as grants, First Contact is able to help people from all walks of life. Starting out as a receptionist, Sue was able to get an idea of all things that went into making First Contact the success that it was. She would greet people and help with intakes and various things, learning the little details of everything that went on in the office. When Joanne approached her with the proposal of a counselor, Sue was nothing short of intimidated. After a pep talk from Joanne, confidence was instilled in Sue and she took on the challenge. This challenge turned out to be the most rewarding decision of her life.
Sue personally helped a man who was struggling, just three months from receiving his social security. Her temporary help was more than just financial assistance. The man returned a few months after his initial visit to tell Sue and all the other wonderful volunteers at First Contact that their help had saved his life. He explained that his future had seemed so dark that he was not sure what he would have done.
Sue said, “You really feel like you are giving someone encouragement. When Joanne has thanked us in the past, we feel as though our work does more for us. We’re there because it helps us keep a good perspective on our lives.”
The relationships Sue has formed over the years are those one could only dream of. One girl who was fairly young of age and suffering from strokes came to Sue, with the simple statement: “I am so lonely. I just want someone to talk to.”
Without a second thought, Sue took her name and number. From that day on, she would call the girl every day when she went into the office. One of her calls led to the discovery that the girl was in a panic over her water being shut off. Sue immediately told her that First Contact could help her out, giving her peace of mind.
Sue explains, “It doesn’t happen with everybody, you couldn’t ever possibly do that. But there are certain people that you can relate to and you feel like you are truly a help to them.”
Being raised Catholic and having been part of Grace New Testament Church for over forty years, altruistic values have been instilled in Sue her entire life.
She frankly states, “It feels like there’s something missing if I’m not involved in helping someone with their life.”
With an attitude like that, there is no question as to why Sue Balentine is the Valpo Life in the Spotlight.