Burt Collette is this year’s nominee for the Diocese of San Diego Servant Ministry Award for St. Margaret’s.
Burt is no stranger to anyone who has ever attended the 10 a.m. Sunday service, as they’ve most likely been greeted by his warm smile and handshake. He’s there nearly every Sunday. Once his greeter duty has finished, he moves inside to serve as an usher.
Burt was born and grew up in New Orleans. His parents taught him to respect and care for others, and “they corrected us when we needed it,” as he says. While in high school, Burt was elected Senior Class President and received the American Legion Award for “being a good kid.”
Following high school, Burt worked in the steel industry for a year before joining the United States Air Force. After basic training and electronics school, he was assigned to work as a radar technician in France for three years. While in Europe, he traveled to nine countries, something he said he never imagined doing when he was growing up during the Depression in Louisiana. He said, “I saw how other people lived and what they needed in their lives.” It is perhaps that lesson in life that led Burt years later to volunteer at Neighbors 4 Neighbors.
Burt became an Episcopalian after marrying his wife Carolyn. They had a weekend home in Palm Springs and began attending St. Paul’s. Once they bought a house closer to Palm Desert, they began to attend St. Margaret’s. That was about fourteen years ago.
After seeing an announcement from Jim Hatfield in the bulletin, Burt gave him a call to volunteer for food distribution. Each week, they picked up the food, bagged it and distributed it at the park. Once the park operation closed down, he began to work with Chet at Neighbors 4 Neighbors, first at the location on San Pablo and continuing now on the church campus.
Burt volunteers all day on Tuesdays, preparing produce for distribution in the morning and preparing protein bags in the afternoon. In addition, he picks up bread once a week and brings it to N4N. Every two weeks, he goes with a team to pick up clothes for distribution. It’s no exaggeration to say that he plays a big role in the operation. According to Chet Hecht, Director of Outreach, Family Ministry and Fellowship, “Burt’s even keel when things are hectic at N4N keeps everyone focused on the job that we’re doing.” When there are problems to be solved, Burt is often a part of the solution. Chet added, “When I see Burt at work, I see the hands of God at work, serving the community.”
When asked about Neighbors 4 Neighbors, Burt smiled and said that he enjoyed being a part of something special. “It’s one of the best kept secrets because I don’t think people really know that seven tons of food go out the door every Tuesday, along with 1200 pieces of clothing. We serve over 300 families, averaging four per family, so you’re talking about more than 1000 people we help each week. To me, I get a great deal of joy doing something so positive.”
St. Margaret’s couldn’t agree with Burt more. Neighbors 4 Neighbors is something very special and very positive, and we salute Burt Collette for the very active role he plays in this ministry. He is indeed a servant who’s doing God’s work in the community.