Senior meals veteran retires at 88For 28 years, Betty Prinz has been serving up smiles to seniors at the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium through the Elderly Nutrition Program. “I was there the day it opened,” said Prinz, who now lives in Superior.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
For 28 years, Betty Prinz has been serving up smiles to seniors at the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium through the Elderly Nutrition Program.
“I was there the day it opened,” said Prinz, who now lives in Superior. Over the years, she has volunteered in the kitchen, led Friday bingo games and driven meals to homebound seniors. She took over as site manager at the age of 81, spending four hours a day, four days a week providing nutritious lunches to seniors.
If health issues hadn’t led to her retirement from the program in November, say those who know her, Prinz would still be there.
“She’s the youngest lady I ever knew pushing 90 years old,” said Dennis Bartholomew, who volunteers at the meal site.
“She’s just a bright, beautiful, wonderful person,” said Jan Conley of Lake Nebagamon, whose husband, Dave, is also a program volunteer. Prinz’ work at the site has been a gift to the community, she said.
The 88-year-old insists it’s the other way around.
“I got as much out of this program as I gave,” Prinz said.
It kept her active, gave her joy and brought new friends into her life.
“I found people,” Prinz said. “I really and truly found people. People I could relate to … people that I grew to really appreciate.”
She and her husband, Felix “Phil” Prinz, were working at a Milwaukee foundry when they decided to make the move north. Phil Prinz asked his wife if she would move to Lake Nebagamon provided he could find a job. Since he was job scouting during his two-week vacation, she thought it was safe to say “yes” because nothing would come of it. Instead, he snagged a maintenance job at a creosote plant. Leaving three grown children behind, they relocated to Lake Nebagamon. But Prinz didn’t sit still long.
“I couldn’t stand not having anything to do,” she said. She worked part time for a realty office. Then the nutrition program opened up.
“They wanted volunteers,” Prinz said, and she was one of the first to sign up through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). In the beginning, most participants were her age. They’ve gotten younger over the years, but close ties remain.
“It got to be, maybe, a family,” Prinz said. “We all looked out for each other.”
Current volunteers get the same sense of payback. Bartholomew began helping with meals three years ago.
“I got to know the senior citizens of the community; hear their stories,” he said. “I found them interesting. I still do.”
One gentleman shows up half an hour early for the 11:30 a.m. meals. Bartholomew plans his work so he can spend 15 minutes visiting with the older man.
“It’s rewarding,” Bartholomew said. “You feel good you’ve helped.”
Senior Connections couldn’t function without the 100s of volunteers who help at meal sites and in other areas.
Volunteers dish up meals and clean dishes, as Audrey Hakkila and Rose Westerlund did Thursday at the Amnicon Senior Center. In Superior, county board member and veteran broadcaster Lew Martin can be found elbow-deep in dish water at the Senior Center five days a week, washing pots and pans after lunch is served.
Volunteers also pack lunches into vehicles and deliver them to homebound seniors. Thursday, Marvin Colby of Maple tucked 15 meals into his minivan outside the Wentworth Senior Center. With his wife Elizabeth at they wheel, they drove approximately 72 miles to deliver them.
Whatever their role, every volunteer noted that they benefited just as much as those they served.
“People do get as much out of it as they put into it,” Nagorski said.
For more information, on the program, or to volunteer, call Senior Connections at (715) 394-3611 or (800) 870-2181 or visit www.seniorconnectionswi.org.