Paula Purleski: May Volunteer of the Month

Paula Purleski (shown on the right in the photo) has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels in Wayne County for more than 20 years, most recently in Flatrock where she works out of St. Roch's Catholic Church with site manager Sue Holtschlag and her other colleagues.

When asked what was special about volunteering that she would recommend to others who might be considering such an opportunity, she replied, "Do it for yourself. Because the rewards that you get from it are so much greater than just to be a part of it. It's a good experience and you meet a lot of wonderful people. And the neat thing about it is that when you think you're down and out, they really lift you up because they really are down and out, you know? It just makes you look at life a little differently."

Purleski, who still works a regular job in addition to her volunteering responsibilities, delivers meals to the homebound and also assists with meal preparation. She has lived in or near Flatrock for the past 42 years, and she enjoys helping her neighbors who sometimes need a bit of extra attention.

"I like helping people. I love to talk to them. We're friends. They're not just someone I drop off food to. We'll chit chat a little bit. Yesterday one of my families invited me into their house and we had a really nice conversation for a few minutes and then I had to leave. So that was really nice. You just become friends with these people. They're like family and they look to you for any information you can give them.

"I'm checking them out, making sure that they're answering the door, and that they're upright. Not having any difficulties. If they do then I call Sue and we get family over there."

Looking back on when she first started volunteering, Purleski has fond memories of taking her then 3-year-old daughter along with her, who oftentimes made a connection with the homebound seniors they visited. These days she sometimes takes her grandchildren on her rounds, and they enjoy the experience as well.

"I used to do Meals On Wheels when my daughter was little. She used to go with me and I got it out of [what was formerly known as] Seaway Hospital at the time. But then I had to go to work full-time so I had to give it up. So then when I was able to return to it, my friend asked me, 'How about working for Meals on Wheels?' I said, 'How about OK?' So that's what I've been doing ever since."