BELOIT - Lois Ferrera enjoys working with people, and she is committed to giving back to her community.
Those passions have led her to a life of volunteering.
Ferrera grew up in Sparta, Wisconsin, and first moved to Beloit in 1953. She married and went on to raise six children. She also worked as a pediatric receptionist at the Beloit Clinic before retiring.
But even before the 84-year-old retired, she was busy offering her volunteerism for many causes, including being a room mother in the School District of Beloit and Brownie Scout leader.
And over the years, she sang in the choir and ushered at St. Jude Catholic Church, was a member of the Rock/Green Audubon Society helping with controlled burns, and sorted items at the St. Vincent de Paul store. She also volunteers with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
On a recent day, she was at Hackett Elementary School where she regularly works with students helping them hone their reading skills.
It seems to come naturally to her, as Ferrera is a devout reader of many books each month.
"I like the kids and I love to read," she said.
At this session, she held up flash cards for students to read aloud to her.
"I go to the back of the room and call the kids up. They have words on flash cards," she said. "If they know the word, we punch (press) the card and I ask them to make a sentence with the word."
The teachers appreciate the help.
First-grade teacher Jenny Walsh said Ferrera would read to her students and listen to them read to her. Then she would ask them questions about what they had read.
"She was excited to work with them and the kids enjoyed her," the teacher said.
Lois also has 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren and very white hair.
"We called her grandma," Walsh said.
Ferrera serves on the Caritas Board of Directors and volunteers at the site during the week when families can come in and obtain grocery items.
"We walk along with the clients who come in," she said of the volunteers there who help the clients pick out what they need.
Max Dodson, Caritas Director, praised her efforts.
"She's wonderful; she's attentive and she pays attention," Dodson said. "We call the clients "neighbors" and she volunteers as an escort. Our volunteers go with them offering the various food items," he said.
But Ferrera does more than that.
"She talks to them and she engages them in conversations. Some want to talk and some don't," Dodson said.
Dodson said Ferrera is very nonjudgmental and is someone who cares.
"She exemplifies those characteristics and her attitude is infectious," he said.
Dodson said Ferrera also is someone they can call to come in and volunteer when they are short of volunteers on any given day.
Ferrera also has been involved with Family Promise of Greater for many years. De Anne Gile, the volunteer coordinator for Family Promise for St. Jude and St. Thomas is well acquainted with Ferrera.
"Her job is to provide all the milk, white and chocolate, for the family members who stay during the week. She pays for it herself. She has always done that," Gile said. "It may sound like a small job, but it's not really."
Providing the milk is part of the many pieces that make Family Promise work, she explained.
She also has words of encouragement for anyone thinking about volunteering.
"Just do it," she said. "It's rewarding and there's so many places that need help. I'm a people person, but if you are not, you can always stuff envelopes or do something else."
Moreover, "All the schools need help; you could be a lunch buddy," she suggested.
Not only are area leaders appreciative of Ferrera's help, her family also is supportive of the volunteer work she has done all these years.
Her son Jerry Ferrera wrote: "I along with my five siblings, multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren are amazed and so proud of her selfless efforts of helping the less fortunate."