Judy Peifer is the first person many see upon entering The Salvation Army’s church and food bank in Swift Current, Sask. She has a personal mission to make everyone’s day better and to express the love of God to every person she interacts with.

Judy hasn’t always had this specific mission, and it hasn’t always been easy for her to interact with people in such an important way.

“I was very shy growing up. I hardly said two words in high school. This job with The Salvation Army has brought me out of my shell,” she says.

“I’m Still Here”
For 17 years, Judy’s husband was a pastor, and they eventually moved to Swift Current. When it was time to retire from pastoring, Judy looked for a new way to serve, so she applied for a job at The Salvation Army’s church as an administrative assistant.

“I didn’t think I would get it,” Judy recalls. “There were tons of people who had way more experience than I did. I had worked in retail and didn’t have a lot of office experience, but they chose me.”

After her first day, Judy told Salvation Army Captain Michael Ramsay, the pastor there at the time, “I don’t think this is for me. I think you hired the wrong person for this job.”

“No, I believe I got it right,” he replied. Captain Michael had seen a special gift in Judy for compassion.

“Ten years later, I’m still here,” she smiles. “I believe that I am here for a reason and that the Lord put me here.”

Enter COVID-19
Over the 10 years that Judy has been in her position, she’s seen many people come through the doors and has offered service and ministry to each one.

COVID-19 came to Saskatchewan in 2020 and changed the way the church and food bank operated.

“I’ve always tried to pitch in wherever I can,” Judy says. “When COVID-19 hit, volunteers were not able to come into the building, so it was all hands on deck.

“I had to step up,” she continues. “I stocked shelves, bagged sugar and flour, cleaned bathrooms—whatever needed to be done. I tried to help the food bank as much as I could. We were making sandwiches and putting them outside for people, we were filling hampers … a lot of different things.”

It was Judy’s roll-up-your-sleeves attitude that truly made a difference to those who were hurting during the pandemic. From simultaneously taking calls on a headset to going directly to the front door during pickups to make sure that people got to see a smile and a wave, Judy continues to do her best to make sure each person who comes into safe contact with her feels special and feels the love of God.

“People really need a listening ear,” she says. “Being a pastor’s wife wasn’t much different. The fact that I can pray with people and minister to them is awesome.”

As She Is
As much as Judy has made an effort to do her part, it has been challenging for her, too.

“You don’t realize how much you miss people and interaction,” she says. “The fact I can’t hug someone or shake their hand has impacted me.”

Judy leans into her faith to give her the energy and support she needs to face each day.

“You really rely on God during these tough and unpredictable times,” she says. “I pray at the beginning of the day: ‘Lord, give me patience and wisdom, and whatever I need today.’ You have to be patient with people and you have to show God’s love.”

Judy believes God gave her spiritual gifts that have carried her through and helped her grow as an individual.

“I think that my family and other people who know me would say that my gifts are compassion, empathy and caring,” she believes. “I always thought I had to preach or sing, but I realized that God can use me as I am, and that’s incredible. I see people from all walks of life, and I’ve learned to empathize and see where people are coming from. I listen to people, and I don’t judge.”

Looking Ahead
Judy was recently recognized for her inspirational work.

Change the Narrative SC, a program in Swift Current that celebrates essential workers who go the extra mile, especially during the pandemic, presented her with a certificate and gift cards from various local businesses. She was also featured on their Facebook page.

“In her nomination, the long list of co-workers and friends that had overwhelming praise for Judy was mind-boggling,” it stated. “To our dismay, it was impossible to convey just how deeply this individual has impacted us all. Thank you, Judy Peifer. You are beyond essential to our community!”

As for what 2021 forward holds, Judy has no doubt.

“It’s been incredible to have a job that I love to go to with people I love to be with,” she says.

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