Caught in the Act of Generosity: Chuckie McHenry

by Christina Socorro Yovovich of the Rad Gen Committee

Chuckie (Helen) McHenry is a 3rd generation UU. She grew up UU, and started her volunteering history while doing a gap year between high school and college, when she served as an informal helper with the youth group at the Cedar Lane UU church in the D.C. area. In 1979 she moved to Albuquerque, and immediately began attending services at First Unitarian. She officially joined the church 29 years ago when her daughter Meghan was in the 3rd grade.

In 1995, she began volunteering in the RE program, starting as a parent assistant for her daughter’s 4/5 grade class. Since then she has continued serving with the children and youth of First U in many different roles. She has taught or mentored at every age level of RE programming, from preschool to high school. She attended the Kids Camp from 2005–2015 as a counselor, a nurse, and sometimes both. She says the pandemic left an empty spot in her life where volunteering used to be—but in recent times she can be found back in the RE building on Sundays, often staffing the welcome table and taking the temperatures of kids as they come in.

When asked why she has focused so much time and care on the children and youth of First U, Chuckie says simply, “I like kids.” She says volunteering is the most selfish thing she does. When told she has been described as an unsung hero of RE, she replies dryly, “I do sing.” For much of her time in RE, she has told the kids that she’s 25. She says one counselor at the Kids Camp heard her and said, “You were 25 when I was an elementary camper!” These days, she concedes that she might be 26.

Chuckie worked for many years as a nurse in the preemie nursery at a local hospital, a job that consisted of constant crisis. As a nurse, and also as a woman and mother, she always had to stay calm and handle each crisis as it came, postponing any emotional reactions. In retirement, the time opened up for these emotions to surface, and she has experienced panic attacks, but also emotional breakthroughs. Through it all, she serves the children and youth of First U, showing up each week ready to help where she is most needed.


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