Volunteer Spotlight: Dianne Van Goor

You could say that Dianne Van Goor got started on the path toward becoming a Mano a Mano volunteer 72 years ago, when she met Mano co-founder Joan Velasquez at the age of three. “We’ve been close all through our lives,” she says now. “It’s been a friendship with a capital F.”

She actually began working with Mano a Mano in 1994, picking up medical supplies with her two daughters near their Sioux Falls home. The work was a way of realizing an otherwise unfulfilled ambition. Dianne had wanted to be a missionary, but ended up as a secretary and then as an employee at the crafts store, Michaels. “This was my way of saying, ‘God, I’m answering your request.’ I feel this is my way of giving back.”

“I feel this is my way of giving back.” – Dianne Van Goor

Dianne’s work for Mano evolved into a specialized niche. She is the organization’s queen of baby layettes, putting together 400 to 500 packages a year for new mothers to take home with their infants. The layette set includes a blanket, bath towel, wash cloth, onesie, socks, a cap, a pair of safety pins to hold the pieces together, a small toy, and an illustrated card that says, “Congratulations, God Bless You.” The set is packed inside a 2.5 gallon zip-lock bag, which in itself is useful to struggling mothers.

Dianne and a helper-gang of older women in the Sioux Falls area scour local garage sales to find the baby gear that they add to the kits. Then they wash and mend the individual pieces before assembling them into color-matched sets.

Van Goor family sorting and packing layettes.

Carol, Dianne, Missy, Pam, Alyssa – Van Goor family sorting and packing layettes.

Bolivian members of Mano a Mano’s team have offered her evidence of how needed the layette sets can be. “Blanca Velasquez (Joan’s sister-in-law) told me that she arrived at a hospital to deliver 90 layettes that we had made. And as she got there the nurses were searching for a curtain they could pull down to make a little blanket for a baby that had just been born.”

A happy mother receiving a layette in Bolivia.

A happy mother receiving a layette in Bolivia.

Lately she’s found other ways to support Mano a Mano’s mission as well. She’s collected hundreds of seed packs from suppliers like Burpee’s that have been sent on to Bolivian farmers. She’s convinced school teachers to save and donate leftover supplies such as pencils and crayons. And she’s collected tons of clothing and hard goods that she’s delivered to the second-hand store, Savers. The operation pays 20 cents per pound for clothing and five cents per pound for hard goods, such as cookware or sporting equipment, when the proceeds benefit a non-profit. The last collection Dianne directed filled two trailers, five vans and two pickup trucks, for a total take of $695 that will help fund Mano a Mano’s work in Bolivia.

Collecting supplies to sell in support of Mano a Mano, Summer 2016

The Van Goor family collecting supplies to sell in support of Mano a Mano, Summer 2016

The pay-off from her efforts is obvious for Bolivians. But it’s also clear to Dianne herself. She says, “I enjoy this work beyond words.”

This interview and article were written by Mano a Mano volunteer Anthony Schmitz.