A Gift to the Community
Helping neighbors is simply a way of life for this greatgrandmother.
Once a month, the women who live at the Summit House Retirement Community in Britt, Iowa, eagerly anticipate the arrival of their own volunteer manicurist, 80-year-old Blanche Chizek. Blanche happily greets her clients with warm hugs and cute jokes, ready to apply light pink polish, the residents’ mostrequested hue.
“Seeing them laugh is just wonderful,” Blanche says. “It’s very touching to me.”
After an afternoon of doing nails, Blanche is off to another of her many volunteer commitments. She fills care packages for soldiers at the Britt VFW Auxiliary. She assists patients at the Hancock County Memorial Hospital. She helps at her church; recently, she mashed 75 pounds of potatoes so she could make dumplings for the congregation. She babysits her great-granddaughter every Friday. Blanche’s daily schedule is packed with selfless tasks, and she enjoys being busy in this way.
“After my husband, Bill, died 13 years ago, I thought, What am I going to do with my life?” she says. “I decided to volunteer, and I love to give. I feel I’m needed for a reason.”
Blanche’s giving nature is wellknown in Britt, as are her culinary skills. When a friend’s apple tree was overloaded, Blanche gladly picked up two pails of the excess fruit and turned them into apple bars, which she brought to the Summit House to serve during dinnertime. Her potato salad is legendary; she made 100 pounds of it for her daughters’ joint 25th wedding anniversaries, and she readily brings extra helpings to people all over town.
“She likes to feed everyone,” says daughter Bonnie Wilhite. “There were always extra people at our dinner table when I was a kid. She bakes traditional Czech kolaches once a week—a timeconsuming recipe—and then shares them with others.”
Even out-of-towners get to know Blanche and her generous spirit. She volunteers during the town’s annual Hobo Days, a fourday festival that honors America’s migratory workers, and she gives homemade treats to cyclists who pass through Britt during The Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
“She’s like the Energizer bunny,” says Jean Perkins, a fellow member of the Britt VFW Auxiliary. “You can depend on Blanche. If you need something, she’s there.”
`I feel I’m needed for a reason.❞ —BLANCHE CHIZEK
Blanche Chizek and her great-grandchildren, Paisley Chizek, Gracee Schleuger, Graham Chizek and Collins Chizek (from left).