Gloria Butler

Everyday Hero Gloria Butler has created a ministry, in the village of Plain City, that is literally changing lives. Fred Squillante | Columbus Dispatch

Gloria Butler

Gloria Butler has terrible stage fright and considers herself an introvert, but no one would know that from the way she opens her arms to make everyone feel like family.

The 78-year-old is a people person, a trait that pairs well with her natural instinct to help those in need at the St. Martin de Porres Outreach Mission Center in Plain City. 

She describes it as her “home away from home,” having dedicated 25 years to the center. Butler serves as the director of the center, the charity arm of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which provides home furnishings to people who have experienced a loss such as a house fire or unemployment.

Referrals from social services agencies, other churches, health departments and more make up the majority of clientele Butler helps, but the center accepts walk-ins, too. Those who come without a referral are asked to get a background check from the Plain City Police Department before receiving services.

Butler, a petite woman with short brunette hair, loves telling stories and cites her grandmother—who taught her to care deeply for others—as her biggest influence. 

Butler provides her services pro bono, with hours varying each week, and she expects no payment from those to whom she lends a hand.

“People always ask me, ‘Oh, how can we repay you?’” she said. “Just pay it forward. That is how you can help, because it’s the right thing to do.”  

She is not alone in her effort; her husband, Jim, 77, coordinates deliveries with clients to drop off furniture to them. The Butlers, with assistance from other volunteers, typically help between 80 to 100 families each year. 

Donations, grants and fundraising efforts keep the center running smoothly and allow Gloria Butler to buy any supplies or needed items that have not been donated. She likes having a system of picking out the furniture a person needs instead of running the center like a grocery store.

“We didn’t think we would have the energy and longevity to run a store,” Gloria said.

In the center’s early days, church members offered to store items at their homes. In 2009, Gloria and Jim received grant money from the Catholic Foundation to build a house—they were able to fill the one-story house with furniture and appliances. Twin beds are the most popular furniture she gives away to clients, and microwave ovens are the most requested.

Butler’s generous actions in her community are why she earned the honor of “Catholic Woman of the Year” in 2010. Being nominated as an Everyday Hero gives her the same feeling all over again.

This type of work is nothing new for Butler. Her daughter-in-law, Nancy Thomas, admires her for that reason.

“Even if they don’t have items, they find resources that do have the items that people need,” said Thomas, also of Plain City.

The volunteer work doesn’t come without its challenges. Encountering people from different walks of life has taught Butler a valuable lesson.

“The hardest part about this job is keeping your heart open and not to judge anyone who comes for help,” she said. 

So Butler keeps her heart open and helps anyone in need, no matter their circumstances, which is why Dee Dee Bradley, a longtime friend, says Butler  is “extremely generous.” Butler drops off food, checks up on people and asks how they are doing all the time, Bradley said.

“It is the way of life for her,” said Bradley, 80.

Living in Plain City, Bradley occasionally helps Butler at the center, and Bradley’s husband, Jim, 82, assists with deliveries as well. 

“She is such a unique individual,” Jim Bradley said. “I don’t know how they are going to replace her.”

As Butler gets older, she hopes to retire soon and find a younger person to take over the position to keep the mission center running.

Until then, “I will continue to help people and keep that focus,” she said.