Laura and Ray Ayers are taking a step back from their roles as volunteers at the Keizer Community Food Bank. (KEIZERTIMES/ Craig Murphy)

Laura and Ray Ayers are taking a step back from their roles as volunteers at the Keizer Community Food Bank. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The weeks revolve around Thursdays for Ray and Laura Ayers.

Except for lately.

The Ayers, who have been married for 66 years, have been volunteering at the Keizer Community Food Bank together for more than 12 years. Laura, 84, has been serving food alongside her 88-year-old husband for 10 years.

Recently both of the Ayers have had health woes. Thus, instead of being at Faith Lutheran Church, they have been in their cottage at Willamette Lutheran Retirement Community.

Ray came down with pneumonia earlier this year, got better, then had a relapse that left him in a hospital for a while with fluid in his back. About a month ago Laura was leaving the hospital one windy day after visiting Ray when a strong wind gust knocked her down, injuring part of her hip.

As the Ayers recuperate at home, they look forward to returning to the volunteer service they enjoy so much.

“My goal is to get back there,” Laura said. “I miss it.”

It’s a similar tale for Ray.

“I’ll get back there too, if it’s supposed to be,” he said. “The pneumonia wasn’t as bad as the relapse. Once my lungs are working good again, I’ll be back if they’ll let me.”

The two served community members side-by-side for many Thursdays. Ray handed out items like tortillas, breads and cookies while Laura handed out flour and soups. More memorably, Laura also handed out stuffed animals to children, as profiled in the Keizertimes two years ago.

Nancy Morgan is among the fellow food bank volunteers missing the Ayers.

“It’s been wonderful seeing them work together all those years,” Morgan said. “They are very devoted to each other. They have worked right next to each other. Our volunteers have asked about them, how they are doing. They are very concerned and miss them deeply.”

Laura is itching to get back to her Thursday routine.

“Other than my home and church, that is kind of a family down there,” she said. “I would have been down there last week if they had let me. This week I might go out and give out toys, just the toys. I miss it so much. When it gets to Wednesdays, I start looking forward to it. There are some special, special people down there. Some clients have been down there the whole time we’ve been there.”

Laura has a special connection with the youth.

“I miss the kids the most,” she said. “I love giving them the toys. I love the people we work with. You miss everything. It’s nice to know you’re missed.”

Like his wife, Ray misses all parts of the food bank experience.

“They are a good bunch of people to work with,” he said. “You know you are helping people who are hungry and need food. If you can be more fortunate and help, why that’s the way it should be.”