'Soul food' brings together Walworth County seniors, volunteers
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Beulah Wolline is all smiles as she visits recently with Meals on Wheels volunteer Terri Kropetz. Wolline, 101, of East Troy, says she looks forward to the weekly visits from Kropetz. Kropetz is among some 500 volunteers who give their time to ensure that area seniors have a nutritious lunch and a brief friendly visit. Terry Mayer photo.
EAST TROY -- If a person knew nothing else about Beulah Wolline, they quickly learn that she’s staunchly loyal.
Wolline started working at Hansen Oil Co. in Burlington as a bookkeeper, eventually buying the company and working full time until she was 80. Even after selling the business, she stayed on until retiring for good at age 95 -- after 71 years.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
Now legally blind, Wolline sang in the St. James Methodist Church choir for 82 years and has visited the same beauty parlor, Nelson’s Mane Concern Hairstyling, also in Burlington, for 55 years.
While the length of their friendship pales in comparison, Wolline’s relationship with Terri Kropetz has blossomed just fine after almost six years. And they met because of Walworth County’s Meals on Wheels program.
“I didn’t know Terri until she started delivering to me, and now we’re very, very close friends,” said Wolline, 101 years young and an avid bridge player. “She put me last on her route, so we get to spend some time together. I look forward to every Monday.”
Kropetz, 62, has been involved with the health and human services department’s effort in East Troy since the fall of 2000, although she’s done similar volunteer work for many years.
Little did the women know until one of their first chats, but Kropetz’s first husband’s grandmother, Clara, had been Wolline’s childhood and lifelong friend. The bond has strengthened ever since.
Kropetz delivers about 20 meals every Monday and occasionally fills in open spots in the rotation. Her route takes 90 minutes to two hours.
“I had my first child later in life and quit working, but I’d volunteer at school and do other things,” Kropetz said. “I still wanted another opportunity, and I got involved in delivering meals on a Monday or Wednesday twice a month, and then for three or four years I did Mondays and Tuesdays. The route shrunk and was broken into two, and then it was put back into one larger route. I’m retired and have the time, so I don’t mind.”
Anne Prince is the program supervisor for nutrition programs with the HHS department, which oversees Meals on Wheels, an effort that includes more than 500 volunteers who deliver on 13 routes throughout the county, plus five dining centers that serve senior citizens in community settings. The organization serves almost 32,000 meals per year.
“Our meals are provided to these folks at no cost to them, although they can make donations,” Prince said. “We receive a federal grant, and we’ve gotten other smaller amounts from places such as the Tavern League of Wisconsin and this year from the University of Wisconsin-Rock County. However, our (federal) funding will be cut by 8 percent this next year, so unfortunately we will have to reduce the number of meals we’ll be able to serve.”
However, that doesn’t mean they will stop relying on their loyal volunteers, especially during the busy holiday season.