Martha King, 78, proudly shows off the warehouse at Infant Crisis Services.
She points to diapers organized by size, and rows of baby bottles.
Caring for Oklahoma's youngest residents has become a priority in her life.
“I've learned a lot about what it's like to be a little child. Every one of them is a miracle,” she said of the babies who come through the doors where she volunteers every Thursday.
Two years ago, when King was looking for a way to volunteer, she found the nonprofit agency three blocks from her Oklahoma City home.
Since then, the retired teacher, former nun and volunteer advocate has moved her way up from counting diapers to performing “check outs” where she helps clients check out of the center by ensuring the babies have the proper formula and right size diapers.
King then uses the computer database to record the items taken by each client so administrators can report the data to their donors.
“She is so gracious and just wonderful,” said Beth Lykins, the agency's director of volunteer programs.
In February, Lykins nominated King for Home Instead Senior Care's Salute to Senior Service Award, which recognizes seniors whose volunteer efforts go above and beyond the norm.
Home Instead Senior Care offers nonmedical home care and elder companionship services to help seniors live independently. Sue Loftis is franchise owner in central Oklahoma.
“We received some really inspiring stories,” Loftis said. “This year, there were 26 nominees from the state of Oklahoma. Martha won by popular vote.”
King won $500 to give to the nonprofit of her choice, which she donated to Infant Crisis Services.
“She has a true servant's heart,” Lykins said.
‘All ... have a story'
King was raised on a dairy farm near Tulsa, where hard work and generosity were values instilled in her from an early age.
She earned two degrees in education and taught English at Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City.
She also joined a convent where she was known as “Sister Pauline.” She later worked for the nonprofit organization Neighbor For Neighbor, where volunteers assist low-income residents with food, medical needs and educational tools.
In 1972, she married. Her husband, Bill, was a pastor and later an electrician for the state. They live in Oklahoma City.
King, who never had children of her own, said she has learned valuable lessons from the babies and their families.
“Some of them are apologetic when they come in, some are hesitant to ask for help, but all of them have a story,” she said of the mothers.
King said the colorful walls and bright smiles at the center help boost the morale of those seeking help.
“When people are down and out, it's uplifting to be in a place that looks nice where people don't judge you,” she said. “They get their diapers and formula but also their spirits are lifted just by the way they are treated here.”
Lykins said about 1,000 babies a month are helped at Infant Crisis Services. More than half of the volunteers are seniors.
“As long as I'm physically able to continue volunteering here, that's what I'll do,” King said.