“Carla Bateman: Never Weary in Well-Doing,” Ensign, Oct. 1985, 56–57
Christmas Eve 1933 in Lovell, Wyoming, was uncomfortably cold. Snow piled itself in immovable mounds around the Carlton farmhouse. Six-year-old Carla sat by the frosted window alternating her interest between the holiday evergreen, adorned with decorations she had helped make, and the brilliant fire in the fireplace.
Her contentment was interrupted by the ringing kitchen phone. It was a call to her mother the ward Relief Society president: a family with five small children had moved into the abandoned shack in the foothills outside the town limits. They had arrived with next to nothing and no way to obtain the items they badly needed.
Now, more than fifty years later, Carla Carlton Bateman still remembers spending that Christmas Eve with her mother visiting ward members and neighbors, gathering food, clothing, and bedding to take to the family.
“The expression of love and service offered by my mother that night has been unforgettable,” she says. “All my life I watched my mother and father hand out unconditional service. We got involved because of the teachings of the Church, and it became a family thing. It has since become a way of life for me.”
Carla Bateman has made it so by actively seeking opportunities to serve. Today her name means compassionate service to hundreds of residents of Plano, Texas, a community near Dallas that is now her home. The city named her 1982 “Volunteer of the Year.”
“She does an outstanding job of being there when others need her,” her daughter Marsha comments. One of her many friends adds: “She looks beyond the mechanics of service and gets involved with mental and emotional needs as well.”
When Carla and her husband, Bryce, moved to Plano, the youngest of their three children was in first grade and she could see time in her life that could be given to others. “I immediately began doing several small things to let others in the community know I was available. I joined the school’s parent-teacher organization, managed the school carnival, and helped the teachers and librarians.”
Soon her volunteer efforts were recognized by school administration officials and she was offered a full-time position as a school nurse (a position she still holds). The appointment led her to “the longest-running and most rewarding project I have been involved with,” she says. Her supervisor, the director of Health Services for the school district, ran a program called People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH)—a Christmas service program—out of her own living room. “She provided the entire Christmas for many of the poor” in Plano, which was then much smaller, Sister Bateman recalls. It was not long until Carla Bateman was involved in the program. Currently cochairman of PUSH, she notes gratefully that it draws hundreds of volunteers from throughout the community, including many Latter-day Saints. PUSH now provides gifts, trees, and meals for more than 250 needy families at Christmastime.
Sister Bateman is also treasurer and secretary of the Plano Salvation Army, a founding board member of the Plano Crisis Center, a board member of the Collin County American Heart Association, and a volunteer at local nursing homes.
“People are her hobby,” commented Julia Grenier, Plano’s 1981 “Volunteer of the Year,” at the ceremony honoring Sister Bateman as the 1982 recipient of the award. “I have never heard her say she is too busy.”
Being widely known for volunteer work enables her to accomplish things that otherwise might not be possible. Once, for example, she received a call about a young mother who had been abandoned by her husband at a nearby motel, without money or food for her children. Through her contacts, Sister Bateman obtained money for food and bus tickets home.
In everything she does, Sister Bateman, who is Relief Society president in her ward, calls on principles she has learned through years of Church service. “I have worked in every program of the Church and have been taught the effective use of delegation, leadership, lines of authority, and, most important, the necessity of order in all things,” she reflects.
Inevitably, she has sometimes been the focus of public attention (though she would rather see the spotlight turned on her projects). One newspaper article called her an “efficient angel of mercy.” The fact that she is a Latter-day Saint comes up frequently. She makes no secret of her love for the gospel. “The Savior taught love and service through his words and his actions,” Sister Bateman explains. “I try to emulate his example by reaching out to anyone who expresses a need, even to those who are in need but remain silent.”
Her example is not lost on others. One non-LDS friend who runs a clothing store for the needy comments, “Carla lives her religion better than anyone I know.”