Two brothers and their double cousin have found a calling with volunteer services at the Sedalia Senior Center, a place where they have strong family ties.

Brothers Earl and Charles Gerke and their cousin Don Gerke have been delivering noon meals for two years to shut-ins, the elderly and the disabled throughout Pettis County.

Each delivery makes a difference in the lives of people receiving the meal. Often, it’s more than food that recipients need. It’s the smile and words of another person — a friendly face who takes time to talk.

Earl, who is retired, said Thursday he enjoys helping out because it gives him something positive to do and because of his fond memories of the building  

“Charles and my mom and dad and Don’s mom and dad too, they spent a lot of time in this building,” Earl said. “It sort of ties it together a little bit.”

The brothers’ mother and father Cecilia and Leo Gerke and Don’s mother and father William and Florence Gerke, of Clifton City, often came to the Senior Center for meals and to play bingo.

Earl said volunteering at the center began with him and then his brother Charles joined in. Charles said he then decided to call cousin Don to help, and the rest is history.

The men help each other with Earl and Don usually volunteering three days a week and Charles volunteering two to four.

“This week I’m driving all five days,” Don said. “Me and Earl usually go together except for Mondays, and on Mondays I take the north route up northwest and east of town.

“My Monday route is about 50 miles because they take care of all of Pettis County,” he continued. “Not just the city limits.”

Don said he enjoys volunteering because he was looking for something to do.

“I was retired for a couple years and they called me to go with Earl one day,” he said. “I came down here and I really enjoyed the people. I said, ‘this is something I want to do’ and it evolved from there.”

He added the staff at the center makes volunteering fun but it’s the people they deliver the meals to who make it worthwhile.

“When you’re driving those routes, you get to know the people,” Don noted. “Then, the downfall of it is when you lose one of them. They almost become like family, you know.

“There’s a lot of little things …” he continued. “I think one of the things too, is it’s somebody coming to their house each day.”

Charles added that 99.9% of the people are grateful and show gratitude to the volunteers and the Senior Center. He said his biggest lesson and memory of volunteering came from his grandchildren.

“I have three older grandchildren, 16, 15 and 14,” he said. “And the 14-year-old girl made the comment when she rode with me, that all kids ought to do this, to see how other people live. That’s a memory that sticks with me.”  

Machele Thierfelder, the center’s coordinator and head cook, said the three men are amazing because one can call on them and they are there.

“They are a true blessing to the center,” she added. “They bring laughter, and love and they love what they do.”

There are 35 people who help out at the center but Thiefelder added they are always in need of volunteers.

“Whether they do driving or working in the kitchen, working at the front desk, helping with bingo, I mean we always have a spot for someone,” she explained.

To volunteer at the Sedalia Senior Center, 312 S. Washington Ave., call Thierfelder at 660-826-0713.

Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Faith Bemiss is a reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering general assignment, arts, food and entertainment stories. She can be reached at 660-530-0289.

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