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).

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