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The power of persuasion: A saleswoman's touch in the service of charity

Created date

November 24th, 2009

On a brisk fall afternoon in Illinois, June Lauter s phone barely gets through a full ring when she answers with a lively, Well, hello! How are you today?! Fired up for the interview that she had penciled into her already full calendar a week earlier, the 81-year-old great-grandmother is ready to talk and gets right down to business. [caption id="attachment_6669" align="alignright" width="280" caption="June Lauter (right) and Ruth Saffro staff the table during Sedgebrook s bath and dental drive in April 2009. (Photos by Lorraine Willmot)"][/caption] This vibrant enthusiasm, startling at first, would come as no surprise to anyone who s ever met her. In fact, it s one of the hallmarks of the hard-driving personality behind her life-long knack for getting things done. Even as a youngster living on the northwest side of Chicago with her mother and older brother, Lauter wasn t one to sit back and seized every opportunity available to her. At 13, she took it upon herself to help her family muddle through the financial difficulties still lingering from the Great Depression.

Sales calling

One day after school, she convinced the manager of a ladies apparel store not only that she was three years older than she really was but also that she could sell merchandise despite having no experience. Lauter turned out to be a natural, and it was clear that she had found her calling. I love people and I love being active, and I guess that s why I ve always been good at selling, she says. I ve spent so much time in merchandising running my husband s businesses and later my daughter s, that it just became part of me. When not managing the storefront, Lauter employed her persuasive touch and talent for sales to help those in need. Over the years, volunteer and charity work became as much a part of her life as the family businesses, and it s a passion she still pursues at Sedgebrook, an Erickson-built community in Lincolnshire, Ill.

Soft spot for charity

I ve always had a soft spot for charity work and have been doing it in one form or another for more than 50 years, she remarks. When I was 23, I started volunteering mainly for Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, making toys and things for the children, and later doing fundraisers for their benefit. Though retired, Lauter is no less energetic for it and prides herself on being an active member of her community. Since moving to Sedgebrook in 2006, she s become involved in at least five campus clubs and organizations, including a volunteer group called the Care & Share Team. One of the many services this group provides is a year-round food drive to benefit the local food pantry. Traditionally, these drives mainly collect food, but in tough times like these, people need the other necessities of life like soap and toothpaste, she says. So, instead of food, I suggested that we hold a series of supply drives. Sedgebrook s pastoral ministries manager and volunteer coordinator Janna Larsen, along with the other committee members, loved the idea, and Lauter had the green light to organize and chair a group to get it done. The drives for 2009 included one in April for bath and dental items; a second in June for school supplies; and another in August for infants and babies. With the help of her friends and fellow members Ruth Pollans, Martha Lemcoe, Ruth Saffro, Deloris Bengston, and Dolores McGowan, Lauter dove into the project with the same drive and finesse that got her started in sales almost 70 years ago. For each of the drives, we set up a table during the dinner hour outside of the Shoreline restaurant here on campus, and we created little displays of the various supplies we were collecting, she recalls. The residents were so generous, and many of them were going through their closets to donate whatever they could spare. Others gave $5 or $10 at a time, which the committee then used at the local dollar store to purchase additional items for donation. In the end, the drives accumulated enough goods to require a flatbed truck to carry them to the Vernon Township Food Pantry, which serves about 120 needy families every month. Holding these drives is definitely a lot of work, but it s the kind of work that I love because you know you re helping those who need a hand, Lauter says. Instead of getting people to open their pockets for profit, as you do in retail, they re opening them for charity.