|Publication:Skagit Valley Herald;
||Date:Apr 29, 2007;
S-W LUNCH WAGON PROCEEDS GO TO NONPROFIT
THAT HELP WORLD’S WOMEN AND
Somehow, the urge is just overwhelming — something she has to
address. Maybe it’s the teachings of her Mormon faith, maybe
her own personal experience. Or maybe, for Terry Gifford, the need
to help other people is in her genes.
After all, helping others is a
family affair handed down through the generations where Gifford’s
family is concerned. Mother Liz Adair taught remedial reading for
years, ran a tutorial business and was involved in numerous local
community groups. And her grandmother —
Well, Grandmother Lucy Shook is
where it really began, Gifford explained, sitting in her kitchen
spooning hot barbecue beef over homemade buns like she does every
week in front of Valley Auto Supply in Sedro-Woolley.
Each Wednesday for the past three
months, Gifford has set up her wellequipped lunch wagon for three
hours along Ferry Street to serve hot dogs, sandwiches, fresh baked
cookies, muffins and bread as part of her efforts to make a
The proceeds from her
lunch sales go to help pay for school and medical supplies,
micro-loans, and reproductive and sanitary assistance for women and
children in several developing countries.
So far, the lunch wagon and
Gifford’s other fundraisers have brought in $7,000.
Much of that money is funneled into
a nonprofit organization, Serving Women Across Nations, that Gifford
set up in 2003. And through SWAN, Gifford has been able to
contribute to another nonprofit organization, Opportunity Fund for
Developing Countries, out of Salt Lake City.
OFDC provides medical and
educational supplies and micro-loans directly to the people of
several developing countries, primarily Kenya, Nepal and Bolivia.
Interestingly enough, it’s Gifford’s
family ties that also helped bind the two charity organizations
together, said Nia Sherar, founder and executive director of OFDC.
And, like Gifford, Sherar said it
all started with the words of one inspiring and indomitable Lucy
Shook. 1960s Afghanistan
Standing quietly in the
dining room of her Sedro-Woolley home, Gifford, 41, gazed at the
souvenirs lined up on her table — small dolls dressed in traditional
clothing from Afghanistan, an antique-looking clay oil lamp, and a
small pile of handwritten and typed pages on which Lucy Shook wrote
to her children and friends about her five-year stay in Afghanistan
between 1965 and 1970, during the country’s “golden age.”
The letters detail the harsh
landscape, the uneducated, friendly people and cultural differences,
the politics and burgeoning growth of the country, as well as her
own homesickness and frustrations.
Lucy and her husband, Jim, were no
strangers to living in isolated, rugged areas. In 1950, the couple
and their two children moved to the cold, small town of Palmer,
Alaska, where Jim Shook worked with the U.S. Department of
Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation helping to drain a lake and build a
power plant. The family lived in a tent without most of life’s more
basic household items.
But Lucy was
an adventurous woman — tent life was a fun challenge, and one she
didn’t mind at all, Gifford’s mother Adair said.
Jim’s career kept the family on the
move. They pulled up stakes from their “tent” home in Alaska and
moved to Arizona, where Jim was assigned to another job. One of her
greatest adventures was when Jim went to work for the U.S. Agency
for International Development on an irrigation project just outside
Lashka Gah, a village about five hours outside of Kabul,
Lucy was hired to run
the staff house, a hotel and restaurant for the Americans who worked
there. It was an odd setup; Lucy became boss to about 15 traditional
“In a world where women
were secluded, she was the boss of all these men,” Gifford said,
laughing, while Adair smiled, reading one of Shook’s hand-written
Sometimes, especially in
the first few months, Lucy’s letters were full of homesickness.
“I am going to try and fix some kind
of holiday for us, but I’m not much in the mood because part of our
lives are separated from us by half the world. But no one told us to
come, did they?”
Lucy Shook wrote during the Christmas
season in 1965.
Afghanistan in 1965
was an isolated country — undeveloped in its rural areas, tribal and
for the most part, friendly to foreigners. People lived life like
they had for the past 5,000 years.
Most work was done by hand;
transportation was by foot or on the back of a donkey. Women lived
for the most part shrouded in their long head and body coverings,
called chadors, and usually stayed in the shelter of their homes.
And children grew up with the idea that they would continue along
the same life paths as their parents.
Shook immediately began making
friends with the locals and familiarizing herself with the local
customs. Everywhere she turned, the devastating poverty of the
people, especially the lack of food and medical care, weighed on
Lucy returned home to Arizona
after her ordeal and continued to be involved with public service,
even cleaning the home of an elderly neighbor when she herself was
in her 60s, Adair said.
experience in Afghanistan stayed with her for the rest of her life.
When the Russian Army invaded the country in 1979, Shook was
“She said, ‘These
Russians don’t know what they’re doing,’” Adair said. “She said,
‘These people will never let them (the Russians) win.’”
She moved to Ferndale in 1976, and
died of Hodgkins disease at age 70.
Taking up the mantle
Years later, Shook’s
granddaughter, Terry, set off from home as a 21-yearold Mormon
missionary to Bolivia. There, she preached her faith and helped out
on several public service projects, including in an orphanage in
The experience connected
her to her grandmother’s letters and left her with a lifelong desire
to help women and children in poorer, developing countries.
“I remember one night, after meeting
one of the children at a get-together, this child couldn’t stay,”
she began quietly. “His little belly was distended, and I remember
carrying that child with his head on my shoulder home …” her voice
trailed off, her eyes filled with tears.
“We so take for granted the things
we have here,” she said, extending her arms toward her large,
comfortable kitchen full of up-to-date appliances, high ceilings and
cupboards stocked with food.
went on to get married and have six children. But all the while, she
dreamed of becoming more involved with helping the poor and
returning to the orphanage.
after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Gifford, her mother and her
sister, Ruth Lavine, began talking about condensing their
grandmother’s letters and putting them together as a book.
“This view of Afghanistan through
the eyes of Lucy Shook needed to be shared,” Gifford said. “In light
of what’s been happening to them, her letters can change
So Adair and Lavine
prepared the letters for print, and Lavine and Gifford published
them in 2003. Gifford put together a multimedia program, including
slides of her mother’s time in Afghanistan and a home movie, to
showcase the book and its message at libraries in Arizona, Idaho,
Washington and Utah.
from one presentation, Gifford had a thought: What if her
grandmother’s letters could be used to inspire others to help the
Immediately, Gifford began
working on establishing her nonprofit organization.
Not long after, she met Nia Sherar
at one of her library cultural presentations in Utah. Sherar was
enthralled by Shook’s story and Gifford, Adair’s and Lavine’s
boundless energy and dedication.
really enjoy Terry’s openness and the book — what she was trying to
do,” Sherar said.
For her part,
Gifford was impressed with Sherar’s efforts to bypass governments
and go-betweens and bring much-needed help directly to the people.
Sherar’s organization receives about
$70,000 a year in donations from individuals. That money is spent
primarily on education for women and microloans. For instance, a
woman can borrow $10 to buy a pig, raise the pig, slaughter it, sell
the meat and then pay back the loan and use the rest of her profit
to help her buy more pigs.
way of helping the people become self-sufficient, Sherar said.
Gifford said that eventually, she’d
like to join Sherar on some of her trips hauling supplies to rural
people. For now, she’s content to try to educate others about the
plight of the world’s poor and raise money one sandwich at a time.
“I’m just hoping that this lunch
stand brings people in to see all the good that’s being done,”
Gifford said. “I hope people will want to get involved.”
Beverly Crichfield can be reached at
360-416-2135 or bcrichfield@skagit valleyherald.com.
Above Photo courtesy of Terry Gifford
Lucy Shook sits on a handmade rug while living in Afghanistan
in the late 1960s. Shook’s daughter and granddaughters of
Sedro-Woolley self-published a book using the letters Shook sent
home from Afghanistan about her experiences. The family is donating
proceeds from the sales of the book to help pay for much-needed
medical supplies and micro-loans for poor women in developing
Frank Varga / Skagit Valley Herald
Terry Gifford of Sedro-Woolley serves up some hot barbecue
beef during a recent Wednesday lunch in front of Valley Auto Supply
in Sedro-Woolley. The proceeds from the sandwiches, bread, muffins
and other items Gifford serves go to her nonprofit foundation,
Serving Women Across Nations, to help poor women and children in
developing countries. Gifford sets up her lunchmobile from 11 a.m.
to 2 p.m. every Wednesday.