BELOIT - Positivity, a knack for organizing and decorating and a "can do" attitude make the October Volunteers of the Month, Don and Judy Stottmeister, appreciated by those who know them.
A variety of work assignments and careers found the Stottmeisters moving often during their working years. Moving to South Beloit in 2003 to retire, they quickly became woven into the fabric of the community.
One of Judy's first volunteer activities involved serving as an escort at the Beloit Health System hospital for five years.
"I saw the need to help, and this was a place to make a difference," said Judy. "I made many good friends with the volunteers."
Originally encouraged by a neighbor to visit Beloit's Grinnell Senior Center because of their singing and musical abilities, Judy and Don note that they never did join the choir, but rather, saw things that needed to be done, and were willing to help wherever needed.
A former secretary, Judy was asked to help in the office while a co-worker was recuperating. Then she was asked to help in the gift shop.
"She's an organizer," says husband Don, and Judy did put her skills to work, organizing, pricing and sorting through donations, cleaning items if needed and then decorating the area known as Nellie's Nook, where Don frequently hangs pictures and other items.
Former Grinnell Hall Senior Center Coordinator Paula Schutt had words of appreciation for the couple.
"They are so giving, I do not know what I would do without them. They have the energy of four people half their age and are always willing to help out."
Judy's penchant for organizing continued as she led the effort to purge years of accumulated "stuff" in the basement and attic of the senior center, which, according to Schutt required numerous trips up and down the stairs, carrying many, many boxes. Judy credits husband Don with performing the hauling duty.
"I hauled carloads of stuff to be recycled, and usable items to St. Vincent De Paul's," notes Don, who also takes metal to be recycled and returns the proceeds back to the center.
The tremendous team effort resulted in all decorations sorted and organized, along with special events equipment.
While leadership at the center has changed, new Senior Center Manager Debbie Krause finds their contributions invaluable.
"They are a daily staple. Both have been very involved in the growth of Grinnell, always promoting positivity, always willing to help," she said.
The couple visit yards sales, encouraging leftover items be donated to the senior center, and Don said, "We volunteer to pick up if it's not possible to drop off items. It keeps us busy."
Indeed, Judy has added her touch to many programs at Grinnell. A special area that has captured Judy's interest is the Sewing Lab, where volunteers do mending, stitch lap blankets for area nursing homes, and fidget mats (placemats for dementia patients with things to touch and do incorporated onto the mat). Again, Judy is credited with measuring and organizing the fabric. According to sewing lab volunteer, Terry Babcock, Judy is "the mainstay of the sewing lab, the go to girl when I need help, and a very positive person."
The Stottmeisters are active members of their church, North Love Baptist Church, in Rockford, Illinois, where Don has used his electrical background to help with a church supported faith based ministry at a Ladies Discipleship Home for Reformers Unanimous, installing new electrical receptacles and upgrading the hot water system. He also worked to rewire the church bus barn.
"The Lord has blessed me with good health and a wide, varied background that allows me to be of service and help," said Don.
Don also plays a baritone euphonium in the church orchestra. That talent finds him playing and singing for monthly services at the Park Strathmore Nursing Home in Rockford.
"God tailored my college education, where I studied to teach music, to transition to lead church choirs," said Don, who also composes musical arrangements at North Love. His most recent project has involved creating digital hymnals for use as a worldwide missionary tool.