- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - Betty Riebe has amassed countless warm memories after feeding thousands of less-fortunate souls at the All Saints Community Dinner for 35 years.

But two stand out in particular. The first left her grateful. The second left her humble.

“There was one young woman who came in with two sons, 2 and 4 years old,” Riebe said recently while reflecting on her decades at the dinner, which she has run for 30 years. “I can picture it like it was yesterday.”

Riebe got to know the little family as they came back to the dinner year after year. The boys’ father had left. And in those days, the Community Dinner handed out gifts to the children who attended.

“And those were the only gifts they were getting,” Riebe said.

She came to anticipate their annual reunion at the dinner, where they could catch up on the year gone by. But one December, they were nowhere to be seen, and Riebe began to worry what happened to the woman and her boys.

Another year passed before she got an answer. No misfortune had befallen her friends. In fact, the opposite was true.

“She came back and wanted to help,” Riebe said of the seed of gratitude the dinner had planted in the young woman’s heart. “She had got her nursing degree, and they moved to southern Idaho. But she came back to give back. Those kinds of things just really touch you, to know you helped somebody all those years, and then they come back to help you.

“It’s wonderful. It really is.”

Her second story is equally touching, but in a different way. One year, a little girl appeared at the dinner dressed in shoes too big for her tiny feet and a dress so wrinkled that it took Riebe aback.

“It looked like somebody had just pulled it out of a sack and put it on her,” she said, recalling the time she would always take to make her five daughters look their best. “I kept looking at it and thinking, ‘Oh, if I could just take that dress home and iron it for her.’ “

But Riebe had a revelation, and pity turned to pride.

“I wanted to kick myself afterward,” she said. “She was so proud of that little dress, all wrinkled and everything, and shoes that were too big. She just kept dancing around me, and I just kept saying ‘You look so pretty.’ It’s things like that make me feel good.”

Riebe, in collaboration with all the others at her church and partners Christmas Connection, Toys for Tots and St. Vincent de Paul, have been making others feel good for years. Personally, Riebe said her spirit of giving partly comes from her own time spent below the poverty line.

“I’ve been there,” she said. “I’ve been without a penny, and I just know what it is to be able to give to people.”

Riebe, 73, also gives by managing the Clarkston St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. Before that, she volunteered as the director of social services for St. Vincent and spent 10 years as the secretary for the St. Stanislaus Catholic parish in Lewiston.

She lives in Lewiston with her husband of 54 years, Gary, who thinks she might be a little bit crazy for all her generosity. But Riebe said she wouldn’t have it any other way, especially the long hours spent in the basement of the All Saints School with her fellow volunteers, whipping up a fancy ham dinner for 2,800 souls.

“Giving of my time is probably not anything to a lot of people,” Riebe said. “But to me, it is just worth it when I see these people, and the smiles on their faces when you greet them at the door. It gives you such a warm feeling to know that you’ve done something that made somebody happy.”


Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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