Meet a winner of the 2023 Marcus Lampros Volunteer Awards, given to eight outstanding volunteers who exemplify our values: Integrity, Respect, Inclusion, Creativity, Commitment, and Teamwork.
Susie McGee was looking forward to retirement. She’d spent 20 years as a mortgage loan processor. But after six months, “I needed something to do,” she said.
Her daughter had recently volunteered with Meals on Wheels People in the kitchen at the Luepke Senior Center in Vancouver, Washington, and told Susie it would be a good fit for her. “I love to cook, but when you live alone, you don’t cook a whole lot,” said Susie, whose husband, Fred, died in 2014.
Susie’s first day at Luepke was one she’ll never forget. Susie was serving food to the diners and a petite woman caught her eye. “As soon as I heard her voice, I knew who it was,” Susie recalled. “I said, ‘Hi, Peggy,’ and she started crying.” Susie’s godmother, Ethel, and Peggy were neighbors. But Susie and Peggy hadn’t seen each other since Ethel’s funeral in 2006. “Peggy was so happy to see me,” Susie said. “I ended up helping her with her tray, and she wouldn’t let go of me. I knew right then and there I was in the right place.”
Susie’s been volunteering in the kitchen on Mondays and Wednesdays since. She’s logged over 1,618 hours since 2017.
“Susie helps prepare delicious soups and desserts for our congregate diners,” wrote Program Manager Debra Bartnik in her nomination for Susie. “Susie loves to chat with the many congregate members that come through our door each day. During COVID, Susie remained a steady kitchen volunteer and helped prepare items for our home delivery clients. She lends a hand whenever she can and is a reliable resource for anyone who works in our kitchen.”
These days, Susie recognizes almost every person who walks through the serving line. “When I’m serving them, I really try to call them by name,” she said. “It’s important that people are acknowledged. I take the time to know who they are. And I want to know who they are. I want to know their story.”
She shared the stories of Carol and Shannon, a cute couple who met at a Meals on Wheels People Christmas party and got married a year later, and Miss Belva, who gave her a copy of a book she was featured in, First Families of Vancouver’s African American Community from World War Two to the Twenty-first Century.
She remembered one lady as “a hard nut to crack.” This woman always came to lunch dressed to the nines in clothing she usually made herself. One spring day, Susie said to her, “Well, aren’t you just a breath of spring,” to which she responded: “Why, yes, I am. And aren’t you a smooth talker?” “I finally got her,” Susie said with a laugh.
“I love our people,” Susie continued. “I get as much joy out of it, if not more, than they do. It gives me purpose — to know that my volunteering means a lot to them, that my time means something. I get more than I give.”
We need volunteers to provide critical support to the older adults we serve. Become a part of our volunteer family and help change a life, one meal and friendly connection at a time. Visit mowp.org/volunteer.