By JOE SUTTER
Messenger staff writer
MANSON - Some days, Lois Birkey goes straight from rocking babies to calling bingo with old folks at the care center.
It's a part of how she has made service to others a way of life.
Birkey has spent time in various volunteer positions throughout her life, but right now there's three she does regularly.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, she can be found in a quiet room in the United Church of Christ, caring for infants and toddlers under age two for the Christian Kids Daycare.
Tuesday afternoons, she's helping another volunteer run the Bingo game at the Good Samaritan Society care center of Manson.
Throughout the month, she also serves as a resident advocate for the care center.
"We just take a list - about six of us - and go visit (the residents), and see how things are going. If there's anything we feel needs to be brought to the attention of the staff, we will do that," Birkey said.
She said the residents really love their bingo.
"We form friendships, and it gives them and extra activity to do with people other than the staff - bringing them a part of the outside. I look forward to keep doing that. They're at a stage in life where they need a lot of love and input."
But her work at the day-care center seems to best fit her lifelong passion.
Birkey has been with the day care for about two years, basically since its inception.
"They had an ad in the paper. I said, well I can rock babies," Birkey said. "I was glad it was so close to me, right across the street. And since I've always enjoyed children."
Birkey said the day care provides a Christian environment for working mothers to send their children to. Volunteers are very important to keep it running.
"We wouldn't get along without people like Lois," said Bonnie Eldridge, the only full-time employee other than the owner. "A volunteer like Lois - there's no words we can put on that."
Eldridge said Lois Birkey's husband, Jake Birkey, was also a big help to the center.
"Jake and Lois both help us pick up kids at school. That's a very big thing," she said. "Otherwise we'd have to pack up all the kids and take them in cars."
Eldridge said Jake Birkey also does maintenance around the building.
"I made the table and benches for outside," Jake Birkey said, "and a couple of bookcases for inside. I tried to seal up some doors in the winter, to help with the winter draft."
Last year, Jake and Lois Birkey helped the Good Samaritan residents go on a fishing trip.
The Birkeys have always loved serving others and helping children. In fact, that's how they first met - while volunteering at a children's home in Kansas City.
"I was a child-care worker," said Lois Birkey, "and he was the laundry person. He didn't always get the clothes up on time, at first, so I would go and help him. One day a week, he relieved the older child-care worker, so we were up on that floor together, taking care of 20 boys."
Jake Birkey said they served at the home from 1952-54, then moved back to his farm in Manson and got married. Five years later, they were invited to join the home in leadership positions, and spent eight more years there.
It was rewarding work, but now without sacrifices and hardships.
"Lois said we'd never raise our children in the city, and we ended up raising the older ones there," Jake Birkey said.
Lois Birkey said, "Our time at the children's home was some of the best years of our life. It gave us experience in the big city, and with a lot of different kinds of people. It helped us fulfill our desire to serve God.
"A lot of those kids were wards of the court, from broken homes. They had parents who couldn't take care of them. You just show them God's love and help them know they are important, that somebody cares about them."
After the children's home, the Birkeys had foster kids for 10 years, ranging in age from newborns to 14 years old, Lois Birkey said. They had four kids of their own, as well.
Jake and Lois Birkey have served together in other ways; they spent two weeks one summer at a camp in the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania.
"It was a beautiful setting there; we had a hard time getting away," said Jake Birkey.
They've also been on service trips with Mennonite Disaster Service, cleaning up after floods or tornadoes.
Lois Birkey was an EMT for 15 years with the Manson ambulance, and had a job with the Manson preschool for a number of years.
She said she and Jake try to stay active, riding bikes and walking together, because they love the outdoors.
"When I think about it, this seems like a way of life for us," Lois Birkey said. "We feel God wants us to serve others, and show his love in whatever way we can. God has blessed us in many ways through our service."
Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org