Linda Hudgens with Dr. James Worsley, Chesterfield's deputy county administrator for human services
As a retired pediatric nurse, Linda Hudgens has always enjoyed serving the community of Chesterfield.
“It’s a passion. It’s what drives us all to do what we do,” said Hudgens, a 2023 Senior Volunteer Hall of Fame inductee. “It’s something that burns inside of you, and you can’t explain it ... you just feel it, and you know it’s the right thing to do.”
The Senior Volunteer Hall of Fame, founded in 1982, aims to recognize seniors aged 60 or older that contribute outstanding volunteerism to Chesterfield. This year, the Senior Volunteer Hall of Fame had 20 nominees. Together, the nominees have committed over 180,000 hours of service to Chesterfield since turning the age of 60. Out of the nominees, Hudgens is one of three that was inducted, alongside Alice Mitchell and Audrey Ross. Hudgens is recognized for her service with St. Matthias’s food pantry, the Central Virginia Asthma Coalition and the Point at Bellgrade community.
Hudgens moved to Chesterfield when she was 15 and attended Manchester High School. After graduating from Louise Obici School of Nursing in Suffolk, Hudgens and her husband, Bob, settled in Chesterfield. In 1989, the couple began attending St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Midlothian and became very involved.
Unfortunately, Bob passed away in 2010. To honor him, Hudgens wanted to give back to St. Matthias, the church he adored.
After volunteering for another church’s food pantry in 2012, Hudgens became inspired to start one at St. Matthias. The rector at St. Matthias wasn’t sure there was space for the pantry, but Hudgens was determined. “If I can find a space, will you at least consider it?” asked Hudgens. The rector agreed.
Hudgens then found an old, unused sacristy in the church. “It was the size of a walk-in closet. It just had junk in there,” said Hudgens. After cleaning it up, Hudgens established the first location of St. Matthias’s food pantry in that small sacristy.
Hudgens reached out to a Richmond social worker, and the two met with the principal of a Richmond elementary school: Clark Springs. The school started sending four families a week to St. Matthias, where Hudgens and other volunteers provided at least a week’s worth of food (three meals a day) for each family. Hudgens was very passionate about helping Clark Springs students and families before the school closed in 2015. “Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry,” she said.
Soon after, St. Matthias’s food pantry was accepted as a Feed More agency. “From there, it just started to open up,” said Hudgens. “We were getting so many donations, and people were hearing about us. Other churches even joined in to help us.”
Presently, St. Matthias directly aids the students and families of Carver, Chalkley and Greenfield Elementary School. “It takes a village to make this happen. In the whole big picture, I have probably 70 volunteers that work under me,” said Hudgens. “In May 2023, we served 6,900 meals. When our food pantry first began, we served less than 1,000 a month.”
St. Matthias’s food pantry now resides in a larger storage room with an office space included, doubling the space of the cramped sacristy. The pantry has new paint, shelves, carpet, a stand-up fridge and even three freezers, all thanks to a grant from Feed More. “It brings me joy to know that my husband would be extremely, extremely proud of me having done this and chosen this as something to do in his memory,” said Hudgens.
In addition to the work she’s done for St. Matthias’s food pantry, Hudgens also served as the chairperson for the Central Virginia Asthma Coalition for 10 years, until the coalition merged with the Allergy & Asthma Network. At the coalition, asthma camps were offered every summer for children with the disease. Hudgens volunteered at these camps as an asthma educator. “I had asthma as a child,” said Hudgens. “I’ve also taught asthma forever. The camps gave these kids a chance to learn about asthma and learn how to manage their asthma and be healthy.”
Hudgens also currently serves as the president for the Point at Bellgrade, a retirement condominium community in Midlothian. In this role, Hudgens assists community members with residential issues, such as replacing shingles on roofs. “I used to be on the board, until the previous president retired,” she said. “I became president four years ago, and I just got re-elected again. It's a huge responsibility; much bigger than I thought.”
Hudgens is committed to serving her community and everyone in it. “People are valued no matter where they come from or what their situation is,” she added. “Our blood is all the same color, and we are all in this together.”
This article was written by Constituent and Media Services summer intern Kate Stanko, who is a rising junior at Virginia Tech