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Time out with T.O. - The power of giving

Image with caption: Teresa and Matt Clark

Teresa and Matt Clark

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."
― Winston Churchhill

It's been said the most generous people are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward.

A UNMC couple -- Teresa and Matt Clark -- fits that description to a T.

For more than 25 years, the Clarks have quietly been huge supporters of the Heart Ministry Center, which is affiliated with their longtime church -- Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Each Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Clarks go out and buy hundreds of items that are included as side dishes for holiday dinners that the Heart Ministry Center provides to needy families.

It's a labor of love.

"We're not rich by any means. We're just normal people," said Teresa Clark, longtime administrative associate for Rod Markin, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for business development and director of UNeTech.

"We save all year to do this," said Matt Clark, a zone facility technician for facilities management and planning. "Buying food for other people's holidays is how we like to spend our money. It has become our holiday tradition. It is how we celebrate."

The Clarks have been married for 23 years and have known each other for more than 35 years. They long ago stopped buying each other birthday or Christmas gifts. They would much rather save their money and use it to buy food for needy families.

Their generosity comes back to them many times over in the appreciation that the families show when they receive the food baskets.

One of Teresa's favorite memories occurred several years ago. "My sister (Diana Schneider in the UNMC College of Nursing) and I delivered a basket to a family, and the little girl exclaimed, 'Oh boy! We get to eat all week long.'"

Turns out one of the benefits of charitable giving is that it's contagious.

"It's inspired other people in our family to donate," Teresa said. "Matt's mom wanted to buy stuff. Our son, Kyle, gave to the fund for victims of Hurricane Katrina. My sister runs the Adopt-a-Family program for the College of Nursing.

"Honestly, we would much rather not be highlighted in this story. The only reason we agreed to do it was that we hoped it would encourage others to get behind their own cause."

Perhaps Eric Crawford, CEO of Heart Ministry Center, captured the spirit of the Clarks best. "They are selfless and caring. The world could use more people like them."

Can't say it much better than that.

Holiday shopping

Buying food for needy families has become a holiday tradition for Teresa and Matt Clark.

It's quite a process.

This year's Thanksgiving grocery list for the Heart Ministry Center included:

  • 912 cans of corn;
  • 912 cans of green beans;
  • 750 cans of cranberries; and
  • 300 pies.

Before they begin their shopping spree, the Clarks check the grocery ads in the newspaper and look for the lowest prices. Then, they negotiate with the store manager to get the best possible price.

"The stores are great," Matt Clark said. "They appreciate that we are helping needy people. They give us a super low price. They don't make any money on the merchandise, that's for sure."

The Clarks are happy to step up when Heart Ministry Center beckons.

Although they normally buy food for the holidays, one year the center asked them to buy underwear and socks for needy children.

"We filled up two or three carts at Walmart," Teresa Clark said. "We got all different sizes and for both sexes. It was fun, but a little different."

The Clarks used to not only buy the food, but they also delivered it. When they would wrap up their deliveries, they would cap it off with their own holiday tradition -- stopping for dinner at The Summer Kitchen Cafe, one of their favorite restaurants.

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