Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Thanks to Doris

From today's Waterloo Courier...

Volunteer brings message of God, sweet treats to the elderly

By EMILY CHRISTENSEN, Courier Staff Writer

SHELL ROCK --- Doris Haan has always had a passion for the elderly.

For 30 years, she has made her living cleaning homes and apartments for the elderly in Waverly.

And for about 25 years, she has spent much of her extra time at the Allison Care Center, leading residents in devotions and hymnal sing-alongs.

"People are missing a lot when they don't get involved with the elderly," says Haan, 72. "They have a lot to add to your life."

Haan began her volunteer activity at the facility in 1981, just a few months after her mother was taken to the home. Her strong voice caught the attention of those in charge and they asked her to take over the devotion responsibilities.

It was the opportunity she had been praying for.

"I prayed for a long time that the Lord use me how he wants to use me, and these doors opened and I am so thankful for that," Haan says. "I truly feel I am serving the Lord in what I do. I feel it is a very important thing."

Her love of people and the Lord eventually sent Haan to the Shell Rock Care Center and the Clarksville Community Nursing Home where she leads hymnal sing-alongs. She now leads weekly sing-alongs at the three homes as well as Bible studies. She also travels to Waverly every other week to lead a Bible study at Bartels Lutheran Home.

But it isn't just her voice and passion that has residents asking when Haan will visit next. It's her doughnuts. After each visit, Haan offers homemade doughnuts to each of the participants, a sweet treat they have come to grow and love almost as much as Haan herself.

"I make them from those biscuits in tubes. They aren't too hard to make, but I am known as the doughnut lady to many of them," she says.

Marilyn Moser, activity coordinator at the Allison Care Center, says good volunteers like Haan are hard to come by.

"Anymore it is difficult to find someone who will come one day a month and do a program. A lot of women work now, so it is a godsend to have someone who can come and do a program weekly," Moser says.

Moser has only been with the care center for five years, but has learned that Haan is a gem of a volunteer. Very few stick around as long as Haan has, and even fewer go beyond the traditional roles and take it upon themselves to provide treats for the residents they interact with.

"She considers it an honor to come here and to me that is fantastic," Moser says. "She considers it a privilege to come here and that is really something. It's not something she feels like she has to do, but it is something she wants to do."

While Haan's passion is the elderly, she also leads a Bible study in her home twice a month for the younger generation. Many of them started visiting when they were still in high school, but have since graduated. They still come when they can, Haan says.

"She is just a neat lady," says Phyllis Sill, Haan's niece. "Just to be around her lifts your spirits. She is totally content with her life and strong faith in God and it shows in her life. She realizes many of the elderly were brought up going to church and she brings some of that to them. She enriches people's lives with Bible study and by just listening to them."

No snarky comment, just wanted to make you read a news clip most of you would never, ever read. Who wants to read about somebody’s grandma and her doughnuts?

Okay, just one, when considering life -- perhaps living as cool and as hip an existence as anyone in Iowa can -- you may want to think about Doris and the fact that when the bi-coastal-chattering-class types talk about Iowa and flyover people, they're talking about Doris. People don’t usually think about Iowa, and when the do think about Iowa, they like to think about it in a monolithic stereotype – and our Doris-es fit the preconceived mold perfectly.

And, frankly, that perception is not all bad, it makes us seem much nicer than we really are and stories like this provide cover for all the creepy Iowans and their bad behavior. So go out into the rough and tumble knowing that old Doris has got your back.

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