‘I see you’

For Mission volunteers, a conversation can change a life

Taffey and Scott Graham chat with a Rockford Rescue Mission guest at mealtime.


“Hey, how are you today?”

The guy in the Wednesday lunch line looks up. Scott Graham is not only filling a tray for him, he’s also making a personal connection.

“You look like you’re hungry,” Scott says. “Let me get you a little extra.”

Scott and his wife, Taffey, volunteer at the Mission every Wednesday to serve or prepare food—wherever they’re most needed. One of their favorite things is to look someone in the eye, remember their name and ask how they’re doing. It sounds simple, but it can change a life.

“They feel like they’re invisible, that nobody cares, that they’re in this by themselves,” Taffey says. “I saw a guy today hugging his dirty, filthy coat to himself and he wasn’t with anybody or talking with anybody. And I wanted to look at him and say, ‘I see you.’”

The Grahams also help with evening Chapel services once a month as part of a team from their church, First Free Rockford.  The two have been married 40 years and are retired – him from the former Singer Mental Health Center, her from DCFS.

“I figure it this way,” Scott says. “God has blessed us a lot. If I can’t give a couple hours to people who are less fortunate than me, then I’m not a good person, a good Christian or a good role model.”

Taffey’s family connection with the Mission goes back to the early days. One night when her dad picked up a hitchhiker who needed care, he called Mission co-founder Gerald O. Pitney and asked, “Do you have a place for this guy?” The Mission was full that night, but Pitney said bring him anyway — that he always kept an extra space on the couch in his office.

Later, Taffey’s parents regularly volunteered in the Mission’s kitchen and stock room. When her mom died 10 years ago, instead of flowers she asked people to give to the Mission.

“So it’s like we’ve always had this connection,” Taffey says. “If you’re in my family then you’re connected to the Rescue Mission.”

Almost always, the Grahams both go home from their volunteer shifts with a sense of joy.

“For Scott and me, serving here is so fulfilling,” Taffey says. “You feel like you’ve just stepped in and been the hands and feet of Jesus.”