Volunteer gives all year long- Pilsen’s Magdalen Dvorak personifies the Christmas spirit

People without Christmas in their heart will be hard-pressed to find that spirit under their Christmas tree.

Fortunately for residents of St. Luke Living Center in Marion, numerous volunteers spend countless hours exemplifying the Christmas spirit.

“A home like this couldn’t survive without volunteers because it would be so boring,” said Khrista Branson, activity director and social service designee. “It would take the sunlight right out of it.”

One of those rays of sunlight is Magdalen Dvorak.

“About 95 percent of Magdalen is her heart,” Branson said. “She’s just amazing. She laughs a lot and doesn’t let things get her down. She brings out the positive side of everything.”

For Dvorak, 86, working with residents at St. Luke has become a way of life. She was employed at the facility for 28 years and has added 15 years as a volunteer.

She wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I used to know all the residents (when she worked there), but now they’re getting new ones so I don’t know them all,” Dvorak said. “But I still enjoy the people and I always laugh because I’m their age, and I go anyway because I feel it’s important.”

And it’s important to people other than Dvorak, too.

“I depend on volunteers like Magdalen a lot in my job,” Branson said. “That’s a big part of my job-having volunteers who are willing to come in and spend time and energy.”

Dvorak said she realized volunteers are an important part of the equation while she was a St. Luke employee.

“People came in and helped out by volunteering, and I knew that was something I eventually wanted to do,” she said. “This gets me out among the people. I don’t just want to sit at home.”

On the rare occasion Dvorak does sit in her Pilsen home, she uses her oven to bake homemade kolaches, which she shares with the St. Luke residents.

“When she brings kolaches, the residents just love it,” Branson said. “A lot of times they have trouble remembering names, but they know she’s the lady who brings kolaches.”

“It’s really fun when they say, ‘It’s the lady from Pilsen and she brought kolaches,'” Dvorak said of her visits to deliver two dozen of the fruit-filled delicacies. “That makes me feel good.”

Dvorak also helps Branson on craft day at St. Luke.

“Last year we made Christmas wreaths out of paper and the residents colored them,” Dvorak said. “We try to do things that are appropriate for the season.”

Dvorak is also responsible for calling bingo numbers.

She developed her nurturing skills over the years she was raising her nine children, two of whom still live in the area.

“My kids all think it’s great that I do my volunteer work,” Dvorak said with a smile. “I think they’re proud of me because they’re always bragging about me.”

Branson said volunteers, while plentiful, are always in demand.

“I have a whole page full of names-probably at least 25-that I call on on a regular basis,” Branson said. “Their participation varies from monthly to weekly, but we can always use more volunteers. They’re really important to the residents.”

Volunteers help ease the residents’ transition to St. Luke, Branson said.

“Most of our residents have been out in the community just like the rest of us before they moved here, and they miss those people,” she said.

“The more people who come in, the more it makes (the residents) feel like their life is continuing in a normal way.”

The Christmas season seems to open the hearts of more people.

“We always have more people around Christmas who want to reach out,” Branson said.

“It seems like we always have church groups that carol, people that bring in gifts and cookies and more people that visit.”

But Christmas isn’t limited to December for Dvorak.

“I have Christmas all year long,” she said. “I’m able to give something to help someone else.

“Especially for those who don’t have family, having someone visit them is important,” she added. “I get just as much out of my visits as the people that I’m visiting with because I really do enjoy the interaction.

“If anyone has ever considered being a volunteer, they should get out and do it because it will give them a feeling they’ll always remember,” Dvorak said. “The residents always say thank you and that’s all the pay I need.”

More from article archives
USBC event attracts 80 bowlers to Marion
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN The first nine-pin-no-tap USBC handicap doubles tournament drew 40 two-member...
Read More