A ‘Professional Volunteer’ - The Missourian: Senior Lifetimes

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A ‘Professional Volunteer’

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 9:29 am | Updated: 7:55 pm, Sat Jun 22, 2013.

Similar to the quilts she sews, Dee Turner has provided comfort and warmth for many people.

Whether it’s through the Quilts of Valor program, Meals on Wheels or supplying the bread for church Communion, Turner has always tried to enrich someone’s life.

But as Turner sat for this interview in her church, she said, “Don’t make me holy, though.”

Spirit of Giving

Turner was just a child when her mom died of tuberculosis. But she said she heard from aunts that her mom was also a giving person, which leads Turner to believe she picked up those traits.

At the age of 84, she still gets so much out of helping others. 

For instance, Turner said she gets more out of Vacation Bible School at her church, Immanuels United Church of Christ in Holstein, than the children do.

Originally from St. Louis County, Turner moved to Holstein in 1972 with her late husband, Roy, who was an electrician.

As a homemaker, she was a Meals on Wheels volunteer for 20 years. She delivered to elderly and disabled  clients, and she got to know the people on her route.

“It was part of my life,” Turner said, adding that she  finally stopped volunteering with the program in December. “You make good friends.”

She also recently retired from the Missouri Hills apartments in Treloar after 30 years of volunteer service on the board and an original steering committee member.

Turner explained that Missouri Hills started out as housing for senior citizens and evolved into low-income government housing.

As a board member, she was heavily involved in the day-to-day operation of the apartment units, doing such  chores as cleaning and hanging curtains.

Her involvement with the senior and low-income housing was just another way that Turner’s life touched people in need.

“It’s been a very rewarding thing to be involved in,” Turner said.

Her husband often called her a “professional volunteer,” and he was a giving person, too, baking the bread for church Communion.

“He could just make a beautiful loaf of bread,” Turner said.

Turner still provides the Communion bread, but it is the frozen kind, since bread baking is not her expertise.

Continued Involvement

While she is stepping back from some of her volunteer service, she will continue to stay involved in many ways.

And she is waiting on her eighth great-grandchild. She has three children — Sue Pinkley, who is retired from the Warren County school system; Joe Turner, who is  a maintenance supervisor for a factory in O’Fallon; and  Ted Turner, who  is a correctional officer in Fulton.

Turner remains active in the church lunch ministry, which draws an average crowd of 70, including mentally challenged adults from the Emmaus Home and seniors who don’t want to eat alone.

As Turner flipped through some pictures of the lunch ministry, she pointed out some of the Emmaus clients and said they are “very loving people.”

Quilts of Valor

Quilts of Valor, which is a national program for veterans, is one of her favorite ways to help.

Her Quilts of Valor group  has more than 100 ladies who volunteer, she said, adding that they have made about 1,000 quilts since starting in 2005.

The quilts, which have been given to wounded soldiers, have gone around the world, and the veterans have written to express thanks for the gifts.

Turner said “we put our love in every stitch,” and she said the letters from the veterans can be heart-wrenching. She recalls one veteran writing that the quilt was  like a bouquet of flowers in the window. Veterans who have lost legs can cover up with a loving quilt, she said.

Turner also helps make other quilts for her church to auction with the proceeds going to good causes.

As she looks back on all she has done to help others, Turner said she feels satisfied but always feels she could do more.

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