Dick Maw


For more than 12 years, Dick Maw was a regular at the throttle of Wellspring Women’s Center’s indispensable dishwashing machine.

Maintaining a serviceable stock of clean coffee cups, plates, bowls and silverware for a steady stream of women and children on hand for Wellspring’s time-honored breakfast/lunch program is pretty much a singular task, and at times, taxing. There are dirty dishes to soak and rinse, send through the dishwasher, pat dry, eye for cleanliness, and return to the serving line. It’s a cycle repeated many times over 3 ½ hours. 

The job is a cadence of hydraulic whooshes from the machine, mixed with the muddled din of laughter, animated talk and all-around camaraderie of the guests in the adjacent dining room.

Dick, a retired insurance businessman, clocks in at a spry 82. He is a beloved and familiar face among Wellspring’s guests, staffers and volunteers, and known for his even keel and dispensing kindness, sound advice and an ever-ready smile.

But all the aforementioned Wellspring dining tradition has changed, of course, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dick and other loyal senior volunteers considered most vulnerable to the virus have had to retreat to the safety of their homes, strict social distancing and caution. Meanwhile, Wellspring’s nutritious dining program now depends on staffers and younger volunteers as guests queue up at the front door for food in takeout containers – for enjoyment on-the-go or finding limited outdoor seating in the newly repaved rear parking lot.

For the veteran senior volunteers, there is no denying absence makes the heart grow fonder. And after more than a half-year of a vastly streamlined dining procedure at Wellspring, there is a gnawing uncertainty whether familiar figures in the volunteer ranks like Dick will be able to return anytime soon – if at all.

Until there is a proven vaccine, says Dick, who also copes with asthma, returning is not in the cards.

“If there’s any place I’d rather be, it’s at Wellspring,” he says. “I’d go back in a heartbeat.”

That he holds the nonprofit in such lofty esteem speaks volumes. Dick is no one-trick pony as a volunteer.

He also has logged longtime service in tutoring – at the Sacramento Food Bank, for folks pursuing their GED later in life; the Helping One Student to Succeed program at Jonas Salk Elementary School in the San Juan School District; and Reading Partners, at Brett Hart Elementary School in the Sacramento School District.

“You can probably tell I think education is the key,” he says.

Dick has a creative bent for writing, and has been active with the Writing for Healing program at the UC Davis Medical Center, and belongs to a circle of like minded people honing their writing skills through Amherst Writers & Artists.

He became a Wellspring regular thanks to his wife of 59 years, the former Paula Thomas, who as a volunteer on the serving line, drafted her husband as a fill-in one day when the nonprofit came up short a dishwasher. It wasn’t long until Dick became smitten with the pure intimacy of Wellspring — its dedication and accomplishment, bearing witness to the truths of people from all walks of life. It is, in all respects, an unwavering testament to the nonprofit’s credo, “Hospitality With Dignity and Love.”

“Wellspring does such a vital thing,” Dick says. “It’s not just the food program but the whole experience. People get treated like human beings.”

Born in Norfolk, Neb. – in the same hospital as fellow Norfolk native and late-night talk-show legend Johnny Carson – Dick has lived most of his life in California. He met wife Paula when both were students at UC Santa Barbara. He also served in the Army, seeing duty in Los Angeles during the incendiary Watts riots more than 55 years ago.

The parents of three daughters, Jennifer, Barbara and Beth, and grandparents to Chase and Addie, the Maws settled in Sacramento after Dick had forged a successful corporate insurance career with firms including Aetna and Industrial Indemnity. They also had lived in San Diego, Hartford, Conn., and San Francisco.

It was during Dick’s corporate assignment in Sacramento that he decided to branch out on his own. Over time, what emerged was Maw Michener & Associates, based in Citrus Heights.

There is no shortage of competition in the insurance business, but Dick “had a plan” to succeed.

“I had an agreement with myself that I would talk with at least 30 business owners a day – put my face in front of them and hand them a business card – and I did that every day. After a while, they began calling me back.”

“After two years as an independent business person I was making more income than I ever did as a corporate citizen,” Dick says.

He and firm partner Mike Michener shared a sound business philosophy — honesty and integrity. “We didn’t sell insurance – we provided service to people,” he adds.

Michener assumed the helm of the business after Dick retired about five years ago.

“I think if you work hard and use the ability you have, you can find success,” Dick says. “I also believe that it is really important to give back.”

The passion to give back is very much alive as Dick and Paula tiptoe through the minefield of life during the pandemic.

Paula, active in Soroptimist, has used her sewing machine skills to fashion facemasks that are donated throughout the community. Dick is active — virtually — in his writing circle and is particularly adept at haiku.

The couple shares an active but cautious social life with friends and family. Distancing and masking are paramount.

Dick describes the frustration of having to be socially distant with family members.

“I can’t hug you now,” he tells his daughters and grandkids. “But I’m putting hugs in the bank.”

For friends wondering what’s on Dick’s mind of late, beyond the daily grind of the news, he has found voice and clarity in the paucity of haiku – to wit:

Manifestation

Lift up your thoughts and feelings

Be grateful, find joy

********

Lies are infections

They attack our country’s heart 

Where are the doctors?

*************

The thing about truth

It’s not like a good rare steak

It must be well done

*****************

We must realize 

Smoke can come in many forms 

To cloud our vision

***************

Awful things happen 

When we choose fear or weakness 

Reach out – find your strength 

***************

Life requires us

To decide – Integrity 

Or mendacity

****************

The list gets longer 

Smoke, virus, the election 

An Apocalypse

***************

Without compassion 

Leadership does not exist

Only empty words 

*********************

Covid and fires

Challenging our hopefulness 

Making us reach deep 

*************************

Challenges in life 

Test the strength of our spirit 

Building character

*******************************

Truly great nations 

Don’t require promotion 

The vision does it

***************************

Early visitors 

Leaving marks on icy ponds

With tiny footprints 

*********************

Memories are made

In the heart of anyone

Acting with courage

**********************************

There is great sadness 

Returning to the ashes

Where memories lived

****************************

Ill winds may lead us 

To hope for coming goodness 

Healing close behind 

********************************

Discovery requires

Venturing through to the new 

Leaving old behind

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