by Carolyn Kaberline
TOPEKA — It’s been 19 years since her retirement from the Santa Fe railroad, but Doris Dressman of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish here is busier than ever as she helps with the parish’s funeral dinners and volunteers at St. Francis Hospital, as well as Let’s Help.
“It makes you happy to know you’re helping other people,” said Dressman. “It also builds better character. I’ve never been an idle person.”
Dressman’s volunteering began shortly after she and her husband Lester were married.
“It started when [a local priest] was ordained,” she said. “We had just gotten married and moved into our present home in May of 1963. People from Nemaha County recognized the Dressman name and called and asked if I would make 10 pounds of potatoes for his reception.”
Having been taught to never say “no” when asked for help, Dressman not only prepared the potatoes, but soon found herself in the reception’s serving line, where she dished out potato salad.
It wasn’t long after that when someone else called and asked if she could help with wedding receptions. And soon she was not only doing that, but helping with the “holy wash,” mainly cassocks and surplices from the altar servers.
Next, she was asked to help with funeral dinners — to both help make the food and serve it. From there, she began helping at the hospital through the Daughters of Isabella.
“I had known several of those volunteering from Santa Fe, so when asked if I was available, I couldn’t say ‘no,’” she explained. From there, she began to help fix and serve food at Let’s Help on the second Tuesday of each month.
While Dressman volunteered as often as she could while she was working, she says she’ll never forget Larry Krische coming up to her after she retired and asking what she was going to do with all her time.
“I’m going to help your brother,” she said, referring to Most Pure Heart’s then-pastor Father Frank Krische.
After volunteering for years, Dressman says she still enjoys it and plans to continue as long as her health is OK. A great day for her is meeting people and “helping them out in any way that I can.”
A smile goes a long way, she said.
“Just saying ‘Hi, how are you?’ is something some may never hear.”
While her work in God’s vineyard has helped many, she believes she has also learned from her experiences.
“I’ve learned how to get along with all types of people,” she said. “I’ve learned how to work with people of all different ages — most were older when I started, so I knew to respect them and follow their instructions. They were the leaders.”
“To make the world a better place,” she said. “I’ve always seen opportunities to volunteer, but not many people volunteer now.”
Her late husband, she recalled, volunteered at Meals on Wheels and was one of the first volunteers for the perpetual adoration chapel at Most Pure Heart, while her daughter was a candy striper growing up.
“I’m not a selfish person. When I decided to retire, I figured I needed to do something for my church and community.”
“I recommend volunteering,” she concluded. “You meet so many different and lovely people you wouldn’t meet otherwise.”