We have to say it – here at HIP we have the coolest volunteers. Charlie is one of them. Also known as “Ornery” (a nickname she wears with pride), Charlie is 66 years old and has been volunteering at our Senior Meals program for roughly one and a half years. She grew up in Montana, where she worked at her family’s six restaurants from the age of nine. From there she went on to get degrees in medical lab technology, histotechnology, scientific illustrative drawing, criminal justice, and psychology. She also spent three seasons as a firefighter for the National Forest Service – all despite overwhelming odds.
“I was born with a cleft lip and palate and hearing loss. On both sides of my family they said to get rid of me, put me in a mental institution, don’t acknowledge me, nothing. When I was growing up I had five surgeries between the ages of 3 months and 5 years, and when I was two, the doctor told my parents not to do anything for me because I won’t amount to anything in life…Well, out of a family of six, I am the only one who has any college degree whatsoever.”
Not only does she have multiple college degrees, she is a veritable jack of all trades. Whether you need a machine fixed, a room decorated, or an animal birthed, Charlie can do it all. Unfortunately, due to her bad back and knee, she has difficulty finding work in Seattle, but that doesn’t deter her from volunteering whenever she can.
Charlie discovered Senior Meals when she and a friend in Lake City decided to attend. She heard that HIP was in need of volunteers to help set-up, serve, and breakdown the meals, so she immediately offered up her services. Since then she has been wow-ing us all with her efficiency and ability to carry three plates in one go. To other potential volunteers, she offers this advice: “Take a chance at things that help people out. Doing the volunteer work here, you get to know the people. Have a sense of humor, because, you know, elderly people, they don’t get too much laughter in their lives. It’s more boring and medical and meh. So what I usually do with all these people here is I tease them – that’s why they call me Ornery!”
Thank you, Charlie, for your dedication and down-to-earth attitude. We appreciate everything you do!
P.S. Charlie will be participating at “Listen Up!,” a multigenerational poetry presentation at the Repertory Theatre on April 23rd at 7pm. The program will be partnering with the Silver Kite Intergenerational Theatre Company. Tickets are $5 – stop by if you have a chance!