Pamela Atkinson’s status continues to grow as one of my personal heroes.
I simply consider Pamela — not Pam — as Utah’s Mother Teresa. Her love and concern for the homeless and less fortunate remains unparalleled on city streets, alleys and shelters. A Westside shelter and a statewide homeless assistance fund have been named in her honor.
A few weeks ago, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Lee Davidson penned an insightful article on the importance of focusing our acts of Christmas charity in the right direction.
Toward the end of the article he quoted Pamela who urged Utahns to give to the less fortunate all year long, not just during the weeks sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Presbyterian elder quipped, “I’ve searched the scriptures and nowhere have I found that it says thou shalt only give at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Let’s start thinking about [the needy] in January. The Sub-for-Santa families that we all adopt, they have needs year-round. Pick up the phone on January 2 or 3, and say ‘How was your Christmas? Do you have any needs for the month of January?’”
With her typical positive twist, Pamela added, “It’s just a way to share the great spirit that Utahns have of giving and caring about others all year-round.”
The myriad of Christmas tunes flooding the airwaves, the touching stories we hear, and the countless kind acts of others brings the spirit of Christ-like love into our hearts during December. We should capitalize on those warm feelings by following this pattern the other 11 months.
A few years ago, I served as board president for the Utah State Employees Charitable Fund.
Our annual drive encouraged state employees to contribute to one of over 500 non-profit charities that have a Utah presence. Employees have the option of either making a one-time donation or designating a specific amount from each paycheck to their favorite charity.
I invited Pamela to address volunteer leaders from more than two-dozen state agencies at the kickoff event to inspire them to motivate their co-workers.
She emphasized that even a $1 contribution from each paycheck makes a difference to those in need.
Pamela carries new pairs of socks with her that she hands to those on city streets seeking contributions.
She fully understands that you can never be comfortable if your feet are miserably cold.
Pamela grew up in England and witnessed her father race greyhounds and then gamble away ever dollar he gained. He later left his wife and five children in a mouse-infested house with no indoor plumbing.
She developed a love of learning and chased the dream of marrying a rich man and “never have anything to do with poor people.”
Pamela finished high school (the first in her family to do so), landed a coveted spot in a London nursing school before sailing to the Torres Strait islands in the south Pacific working among the aborigines.
She later earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then a master’s degree from the University of Washington before arriving in Utah. She continued in her nursing/social work profession while voluntarily serving others virtually every waking hour.
I share a slice of Pamela’s background to illustrate that all us — regardless of where we come from, where we are headed, or where we are at — should serve our Savior by joyfully serving those around us.
She epitomizes the Apostle Paul’s teaching that we should “… above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
January is the time to continue the true meaning of Christmas.
Charlie Roberts previously served as a bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.