Se­nior cen­ter says vol­un­teer like fam­ily

Grand­mother, 95, pitches in as part of her daily rou­tine

The Detroit News - - NEWS - BY JOR­DAN TRAVIS Tra­verse City Record-Ea­gle

Tra­verse City — It doesn’t take long to see that 95-year-old Leda King is a beloved guest and vol­un­teer at the Tra­verse City Se­nior Cen­ter.

You might spot her seated and sip­ping a cup of cof­fee an­other vol­un­teer or staff mem­ber brought her — she’s there ev­ery week­day to help or just to visit. The friend­li­ness they’ve shown her in her 25 years of help­ing out at the se­nior cen­ter is part of what keeps her com­ing back.

“You get to be part of like a fam­ily, you know? When you come ev­ery day,” she told the Tra­verse City Record-Ea­gle. “I love these peo­ple. Ev­ery­body brings me some­thing all the time.”

King started help­ing in the se­nior cen­ter’s kitchen, cook­ing veg­eta­bles, wash­ing dishes and serv­ing lunch, she said. But she can’t get around as well as be­fore, so now she does what­ever she can han­dle. She typ­i­cally helps by count­ing money after each lunch and help­ing with the book­keep­ing. One day, she helped by wad­ding up some plas­tic shop­ping bags.

“Which is no big­gie, but it has to be done,” she said.

Her hus­band, since de­ceased, helped change out lights and with other elec­tri­cal chores, King said.

Com­ing to the se­nior cen­ter is part of King’s week­day rou­tine, she said. Her grand­daugh­ter and grand­chil­dren live with her, and her grand­daugh­ter gives her a ride each day at 9 a.m. after tak­ing the kids to school. King then gets a ride home from her grand­daugh­ter at 3 p.m.

King and her hus­band adopted her grand­daugh­ter’s mother as a baby in the 1960s, she said. The cou­ple also adopted a baby boy around then and fos­tered six more kids through the years.

Both King and her hus­band liked kids, and de­cided to adopt and be­come fos­ter par­ents in part be­cause of her hus­band’s time in the U.S. Coast Guard — he served dur­ing World War II.

“We didn’t want any kids, and then we came home and we didn’t have any kids,” she said.

The drive to help didn’t stop there. King would help her par­ents in their later years — they lived down the road and her dad would hang a red coat in the win­dow when he needed her. She also cared for her mother after she had a stroke.

Vol­un­teerism like King’s makes a huge dif­fer­ence to the Se­nior Cen­ter Net­work, not just in Tra­verse City but at all of its lo­ca­tions, said Lori Wells, the net­work’s man­ager. King and her hus­band were vol­un­teer­ing when Wells started at the se­nior cen­ter, and she saw how the two cared for the place like it was their sec­ond home.

King is one of 125 vol­un­teers who help out with ev­ery­thing from ad­min­is­tra­tive and cler­i­cal sup­port to teach­ing classes the se­nior cen­ters of­fer, Wells said. Vol­un­teers help free up staff mem­bers so the se­nior cen­ters can max­i­mize their of­fer­ings.

Many of the vol­un­teers are the same peo­ple who come to the se­nior cen­ters for ser­vices, Wells said. Hav­ing a chance to help gives them a sense of pur­pose. King is more than just a vol­un­teer — she’s more like fam­ily.

“That makes me feel good that she goes home at night feel­ing like she did some­thing that helped some­one else,” Wells said.

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