Editor's Note: During the HOME Campaign, Public Affairs will run a series of articles about Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees who volunteer for various nonprofit agencies.
It was a poignant and unexpected moment.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) employee Alex Bodan and about 110 other people were attending a fundraising dinner Oct. 3 in Livermore for the Missing Man Ministry, a group that provides assistance to widows and orphans, when the dinner’s script took a surprising turn.
A widow, whose husband had died of a heart attack several years ago, was telling her story about how the M3 organization had assisted her and her two young sons after her husband’s death.
Initially, the group, which offers help in the Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin areas, had a financial adviser provide counsel for her, and the group installed a cement pad and trampoline for the boys.
Later, when she decided she wanted to start a small day care facility so that she could remain at home and earn an income, the Missing Man Ministry group, often just called “Missing Man” or M3, provided additional assistance.
With some men from the Missing Man pool of volunteers using their different remodeling skills, they gutted the garage and converted it into a room, installed lights, heating and air conditioning, put in cabinets and a sink, created a playground in the side yard and had a fence installed.
As the widow was presenting her testimonial, one of her sons tugged on her clothes and wanted to speak himself. He was handed the microphone and offered his own story.
“They helped my mommy,” the boy said, according to Bodan. “These guys are just as nice as my mom says they are. They’re fixing up our garage and they come and play with us."
“The whole place went silent. It was incredible,” Bodan said, recalling that night.
The impetus for the founding of M3 grew out of another young mother’s mountainous challenges in 2009, when she was hit with the news that her husband had terminal cancer.
“She tried to keep a normal life for her three children as she nursed her ailing husband, a self-employed businessman,” Missing Man secretary Ray Parkinson told a local newspaper. “Income stopped coming in. Chores he’d do around the house were neglected. As her husband reached the hospice stage, she was becoming overwhelmed and her children were feeling the effects of the strain.”
The hurdles faced by the young mother led Steve Toyama, the leader of a men’s Bible study group at Cornerstone Fellowship church in Livermore, to challenge his group to put what they were studying into action.
To start, they assisted the woman with her yard, along with repairs around her home, and two years later, M3 was born. While the organization’s roots were in the men’s Bible study group, now it is a nonprofit group and is not affiliated with the church.
“The assistance our men gave to that first family six years ago as a Bible study group gave some of the members of the men’s group the idea that they could use the work they did for her and her boys as a model to help other widows and orphans in our community,” Bodan said.
“The name of the organization stems from the fact that many of the families that we assist have lost a husband and/or a father and are in need of help,” he said. “There’s a real need in our community for this type of support to widows and orphans. They’re often people who have suffered a great loss and they need the help as much as anyone.”
A 14-year LLNL employee, Bodan works as the resource manager for the Lab’s Chief Information Officer Doug East, helping in the planning and managing of the CIO’s budget.
Bodan decided to join M3 about a year ago, becoming a director at-large, after hearing a presentation about the organization at his church from Toyama, who is Missing Man’s president.
“I thought about what they are doing and I felt it was something in which I wanted to become involved.”
As a director at-large, Bodan assists with fundraising work for M 3, provides ideas for upgrading the content of the group’s website and lends a hand in remodeling projects, such as demolition, plumbing, installing doors and windows, or performing dry wall work, among other tasks.
“The work we do to help widows and orphans is rewarding,” Bodan said. “There is a certain satisfaction in assisting someone who needs help and through the people in our organization, we’re able to put together the right skill set to accomplish what needs to be done.”
In addition to its five board members, M3 has a pool of about 50 volunteers who can provide assistance and skills in a wide variety of areas, including financial planning, licensed contractors, a construction company, landscaping, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and painters, to name a few.
To date, the nonprofit group has assisted 24 widows and six orphans, and just this week M3 has been made aware of two orphans whom the group will start assisting, according to Bodan. This is the first year that M3 has been listed as a Helping Others More Effectively (HOME) Campaign charity.
M3 is looking to expand its abilities to offer assistance by securing more volunteers and in-kind services, and through people who will provide monetary donations in support of the ministry.
Although some women who have had needs have contacted M3, most of the time the organization is contacted by friends, acquaintances or family members of the people in need.
The widow, who with her two sons has been helped by M3, appears in a video testimonial for the organization on their website, describing the group’s impact on their lives.
In her testimonial, she said: “Missing Man Ministry has impacted the life of (me) and my boys in a very positive way. From the beginning, they’ve made a huge impact; it was overwhelming the amount of support and love and time. (It’s) not just what they did for us financially, adding things to our house, but their time, their personal time, that they took out of their own lives and away from their own families to spend with (me) and my boys.”