2020 Community Heroes - The Sandy Post
Hometown: Union, Washington
Why she is a hero: Machel saw a need for a more general resource for help in her community and created a nonprofit group to fit that need. Whenever someone needs help, she is one of the few people in Sandy who's just a phone call away and willing to provide aid to any and everybody.
PROUDLY SPONSORED BY:
COMPASSION & CARE ONLY A CALL AWAY
If you ask Machel Heldstab why she’s constantly giving back to her community, she’ll likely tell you that her volunteerism is hereditary. As a child, Heldstab often saw her parents go out of their way to help people in need, and now Heldstab, 55, strives to do the same in her community of Sandy.
“Both of my parents did charity at home,” Heldstab said. “My mom always had an open-door policy. If you needed help, you came to our house for a meal or if you needed a place to go.”
Similarly, Heldstab’s father was a deputy sheriff and fire chief and was always on-call as the “go-to guy” in their neighborhood in Union, Washington.
“There always has to be a go-to person,” Heldstab explained. “I think I’m really just kind of following in those footsteps, whether I knew it initially or not. That’s just kind of how we did things. If our neighbors needed help, we were there.”
For years, Heldstab has volunteered with numerous local causes, including the Sandy Community Action Center, Meals on Wheels, Portland Rescue, the Sandy Senior Center and more.
But Heldstab asserted her intention to follow in her parents’ caring footsteps when she started the nonprofit organization Sandy’s Helping Hands nearly seven years ago.
“I’ve volunteered with a lot of different organizations,” Heldstab said. “With most nonprofits, there’s usually a singular focus, but for me, the interest of volunteering involves lots of different things. I felt there was a need for a place that you could call in the middle of the night for help.
There are all those small needs that are day-to-day needs that other nonprofits don’t focus on. Life’s needs don’t just happen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’re your neighbor to call at any time with people ready to help.”
Besides being a more generalized resource for aid, Heldstab said Sandy’s Helping Hands was also created for people who cannot volunteer on a set schedule, such as working parents like herself.
Though many in Sandy may see Heldstab’s primary career as caring for others, for many years, she has juggled her volunteer work with her job as the accounting and payroll specialist for her family’s heating company and as a mother and grandmother.
Heldstab has lived and volunteered in Sandy for about 15 years now, and initially moved from Portland to Sandy to get back to her small-town roots. While her parents have since passed, Heldstab now treats the community of Sandy as her extended family.
“I think I’ve always felt the need to help other people,” Heldstab explained. “I think there’s no greater feeling of gratitude than from helping others. I just want to make a difference in the town I live in and the world I live in.”
Through Sandy’s Helping Hands, Heldstab has helped many people over the years with incidents ranging from getting gas when their car has broken down to providing an entire family with food and gifts for Christmas.
Heldstab was recently involved in running the relief center for those forced to evacuate their homes because of the Clackamas County wildfires.
When her own home entered a Level 2 evacuation status, meaning she might have to leave, Heldstab was more worried about how she would help others than saving her belongings.
“I had my moment, but I know if I’m having that moment, everybody’s having that moment, so I wanted to be there for the calls,” Heldstab explained. “I packed my children’s memories, a few important pieces of my mom’s memories for the whole family, and my Sandy Mountain Festival crown. My family, my kids and my charity — were the things that were important to me.”
Fortunately, Heldstab was never forced to fully evacuate her home, and was able to spend several days helping people in her community get the supplies they needed alongside other volunteers and trusted friends.
“My mom would always just find out what you liked and what you needed, and she just wanted to give you love,” Heldstab said. “Someday, I hope I can be like that (for people, and) not just in their time of need.”