Local woman named state?s ?Outstanding Older Worker?

Even with her 83rd birthday looming next month, Verla Redger doesn?t have much patience with the idea of retiring anytime soon as a dietary aide at Parkside Homes in Hillsboro.

?My goodness, I don?t want to retire yet?I need to do something,? Redger said. ?Nobody should retire at 65 because that?s too young, I think anyway.?

It?s that kind of spunk and work ethic that has made Redger the winner of the Outstanding Older Worker Award for 2010.

She will receive the award Thursday morning at the 14th annual Kansas Older Workers and Employers Award ceremony in Topeka. It?s part of the KansasWorks program under the Department of Commerce.

?She is a marvelous person and worker,? said Bob Sprowls, who nominated Redger for the award as her supervisor at Parkside.

?As far as I know I don?t think she has ever missed a day without putting it first in the schedule when she needs a day off,? he said. ?She?s here all the time, she?s dependable, she?s the life of the kitchen.

?She?s our cheerleader.?

Redger began working at Parkside back in 1979. Prior to that, the rural Durham native worked as a personal caregiver?first for her own parents, and then for others.

She started as a night-shift employee at the nursing home, but moved to the day shift as soon as she got the opportunity. Though she worked 40 hours a week for many years and often accepted additional overtime hours when she was needed, Redger currently works five days a week, six hours a day.

Her specialty in the kitchen has been washing dishes.

?I love dishwashing,? Redger said with genuine enthusiasm. ?I always have, ever since I could stand up high enough to reach them.

?On the farm we didn?t have running water,? she added. ?If anybody would get anything in my dishpan with my dishwater, I?d throw it out and get fresh. I didn?t like that?and still don?t.?

These days Redger washes dishes at Parkside alongside people half her age.

?They?re nice to work with,? she said. ?The generation gap, I really don?t notice it because they won?t listen to what I say.

?I can do things easier, in some ways,? she added. ?I tell them that, but they don?t do it the way I do it. So I learn to get along that way. That?s their way and I have mine.?

Nominations for the state award were evaluated by an outside group. At the end of the process, Sprowls was informed that Redger and another nominee were tied for top honors.

?That morning we got a call from the secretary of commerce,? he said. ?Verla was there, I was there and our administrator, Gretchen Wagner, was there. (The commerce secretary) listened to what Verla had to say and asked some questions. After lunch she called back and said Verla had won.

?I said, ?Stay on the phone?you have to tell her.? I handed the phone to Verla and she was thrilled to death. She kept saying, ?That other person should have won, I don?t deserve it.? But she deserves it. She?s the perfect employee.?

Redger said she is learning to live with the accolades.

?It makes me feel wonderful,? she admitted. ?I know I?m blessed. I try to do my best and I try to keep busy.?

Sprowls and several of Redger?s friends and coworkers plan to ride together with her to Topeka for the award ceremony.

Redger said Parkside has been a special place for her.

?It?s the atmosphere, the people, the residents?I love the residents,? she said. ?Everyone I?ve worked with has been good. I?ve enjoyed them all.?

?Verla is one special lady and we hope she will continue working here for a long time,? Sprowls said.

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