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Four women reflect on their service to their community

March 3, 2018 GMT

All religions promote service to each other. The Bible encourages it with the golden rule of do for others as you would have them do for you. But secular research suggests the same, saying it gives us relief of stress; relief of pain; a longer lifespan; lowers our blood pressure; reduces mild depression and is good for our careers.

One can search the internet for articles and quotes, but if we took time to visit with everyone we knew and asked the question: “How do you serve others?” we’d find out many do so much. They serve on boards, mentor youth, lead 4H or cub scout troops, coach soccer or t-ball, donate blood, take care of a sick family member or give those who cannot drive a ride to church. Everything makes a difference.

This article focuses on four women in David City and the work they do to make the community a better place to live by serving others.

Jo Taylor, Marilyn Arnold, Shirleen Kotil and Jean Hansen visited with meabout volunteering, and they all expressed gratefulness for the work they are happy to do. It is their joy, and they are glad to pay it forward. Their biggest concern was that they were being singled out for a story as there are so many people in the community who do so much.

These service-oriented individuals weren’t comfortable talking about themselves and so the conversation veered to the importance of the causes they supported, the other people who work beside them and the people they served. They also weren’t interested in having their photographs taken, but did agree to pictures of their hands, which help so many—serving food, cleaning, cooking and reaching out.

Of the photo I took, Jean Hansen said, “They look like my mother’s hands.” She adjusted her wedding ring before I took the picture. Everything about her conversation reminded me she is still, Mrs. Herman Hansen, first and foremost.

All four women agreed that retirement is when they began volunteering more in the community. They all belong to The United Methodist Church, but much of their volunteer work with blood drives, Food Connection, Job’s Daughters, the American Legion Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels and the Library, are secular efforts.

All of the women agreed that volunteering made them feel good. Of those they serve, Shirleen Kotil said, “We don’t see them as people in need. We see them as family.”

Jean Hansen, when asked why she volunteers said with no frills, no fuss, “There’s a need and I can help with it.”

Jo Taylor said, “I like to give back because people have helped me along the way.”

The women are a support to each other, and Shirleen Kotil said of Jo Taylor, “She drives me to get out and do things.”

The times they serve together is also a time to socialize and it “...fights the loneliness,” said Jean Hansen.

These four women serve for David City Blood Drives. Marilyn Arnold is the coordinator, Jo Taylor works at the drives and helps Marilyn prepare the sloppy joes, and according to Shirleen Kotil, who said with a little grin, “I’m the one who eats all the cookies.” All of the women have taken their turns being an escort; working the registration desk; working in the kitchen and serving in the canteen. “I still give blood, too,” said Jean Hansen, who is now 86, and adds, “Helping out gives a feeling of self-satisfaction.”

Marilyn Arnold perked up when we talked about the blood drives which she’s organized since she retired from teaching in 2005. She got involved with the Red Cross Blood Drives after her nephew lost his battle with leukemia. Hesitant to talk about herself, she praised Mark Mohler who, “...calls 200 people to line up donors for each blood drive.”

Area churches take turns donating 20 dozen cookies per blood drive. Marilyn also enjoyed talking about how both Aquinas and DCHS host blood drives, and about the scholarships the Red Cross gives them for doing so. Marilyn often speaks to the high school students, encouraging them to give blood. She said, young, strong and healthy kids make excellent candidates for blood donation. And, “If you think you don’t have to donate because somebody else will, you’re wrong. Your donation is important.” She noted that in January and February, due to inclement weather, 140 blood drives were canceled in Nebraska. Because of that, there was a critical shortage of blood available in Nebraska. Marilyn also volunteers for Bone Creek Museum and helps at the Wellness Center when the Fun Run is held each summer. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the library.

Jo Taylor and Shirleen Kotil have served in the past on the Friends of the Library Board and continue to be members of The Friends. When asked how long they’d been, Jo said, “Oh, about a hundred years,” and Shirleen chimed in with, “A hundred and fifty maybe!” Jo and Shirleen help with the library’s Food for Thought programs. They set up the tables, serve the meals, then clean up after the lunch events. They were quick to tell how many other people help, such as, Judy Davis, Denise Bruner, Lucy Cooper, Joann Lukert, and others.

All four women interviewed have been a part of the Food Connection, organized by Louise Niemann, which gives donated food to those with need, held in The United Methodist Church basement each Thursday. The women talked about how great it has been to see people at the Food Connection help each other out, telling new families where to go to get other forms of assistance.

Jo Taylor noted that many groups give donations of money or food: the hospital, Region IV, the Villa, David Place, Runza, Postal Service, Boy Scouts, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, churches, and individuals, especially during gardening season donate produce. Jo served on the board for the Genesis House, and she believes the United Methodist Women has been one of the greatest impacts on her volunteer life because it helps her be more conscious of what kind of things people deal with now. It’s made a difference in how the church (UMC in David City) thinks about helping in the community, too. An example is when St. Luke’s gave 80 pairs of shoes to the Back-Pack program.

Meals on Wheels is a program offered through The Senior Center and a volunteer effort both Jean Hansen and Shirleen Kotil enjoy. Of Shirleen’s involvement, she says she does it because, “maybe someday I’ll need it.” I asked her how many years she’d done Meals on Wheels. “I have no idea!” was her response. Oddly enough, Jean’s response was similar. Shirleen took a break from delivering meals when her husband Roger was sick, then went back to it after he passed away.

She admitted the job is harder on days with bad weather, but the smile on her face and pleasure in her voice showed the effort is worth it. “I love it! I hear all about their families. Even their dogs.” She said it takes her around an hour and a half to deliver the meals, unless she visits with people a lot, which she tends to do. She noted that some days, she is the only person the meal recipients get to see, and they are so grateful. Shirleen also enjoys driving people places they need to go, such as church.

Jean Hansen served over twenty-five years as Guardian for Job’s Daughters, Bethel 51. Her late-husband, Herman, also helped by serving as the Associate Guardian. She felt strongly that it was important to help develop girls into leaders. Through Job’s Daughters, the girls learned how to preside over meetings, how to be orderly, and how to keep order. Jean attended many state meetings, called Grand Bethels, and made many friends over her years with Job’s Daughters.

When asked what might attribute her willingness to volunteer, Jean talked about what a positive person her mother had been; the work ethic her family set on the farm; the importance of leading when necessary; and staying busy. Her father was a member of the American Legion. She said, “folks about couldn’t bury a veteran without my dad being there in the Honor Guard at the funeral.” Her mother was in the Legion Auxiliary. Jean currently serves as secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary.

And of course, all of these women serve in their church in different ways. One story Jean Hansen tells, is how she originally came to be a member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. A friend invited her to join the choir at The Methodist church in David City because at the time, they had a fun young choir director named Herman Hansen. She and her sister joined the choir. One evening at a St. Patrick’s Party, Herman asked Jean to dance. She asked him, “why me?” and he said, “Because I didn’t think you’d know how to dance.” What Herman didn’t know was that Jean’s sister Elaine had taught her how to dance while listening to the Hit Parade on the radio. Jean sang in the Methodist choir for sixty-five years and the pictures on her dining room wall showed a very happy family which she and Herman created.

These four volunteers are thankful for the opportunity to serve, and we thank them for their service and the memories they shared.