Volunteers serve up friendship at diner [video]
Willa Wininger was ready to retire, but she didn’t want to slow down.
After a food service career in Texas hospitals and nursing homes, Willa moved to Good Samaritan Society – Hastings Village in Hastings, Nebraska, to be closer to her sister.
She now has a retirement spot she loves, and it didn’t take her long to find a way to stay active.
Near the center of the 140-acre Hastings Village campus sits the Village Diner, an old-fashioned cafe that boasts “home cookin’ like your mama used to make.”
Most of the customers are Good Samaritan Society residents from the surrounding campus, but the diner is open to anyone hungry for a home-cooked meal.
The diner was also short one waitress. Enter Willa.
Twice a week, the Texas transplant volunteers to wait tables at the diner.
I’m a person all my life that’s been working, doing things. I just couldn’t sit at home and do nothing.” – Willa Wininger, Good Samaritan Society – Hastings Village resident and diner volunteer
Rita Michka lives nearby at Goldbeck Towers and stops at the diner almost daily.
She’s seen how volunteering here has helped Willa in just a few short months.
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“The longer Willa has volunteered, the more she has come out, and she jokes with people and she remembers people’s names. She’s just a really fun person."
Willa’s not the only one staying connected by working at the diner.
Most of the staff are resident volunteers.
They range in age from 65-90 and do everything from waiting tables to running the cash register.
"It’s a lot of fun," says Eunice Turnquist. “We’re like family here because a lot of the customers come every day.“
Willa and Eunice serve up a four-course meal on why staying active can lead to a well-balanced retirement:
Willing to serve
Diner operator Tammy Krontz can keep her prices low with the volunteer help she gets from the residents, who work only for tips.
“They have such good work ethics,” Tammy says of her volunteers. “They don’t want to call in sick. It’s really incredible the loyalty they have.”
For Willa, staying engaged in what she calls a “wonderful atmosphere” is the perfect recipe.
“It’s important for me to work around food and to make sure these elderly people are happy and have food. This is what I want to do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”