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Three Volunteers in Their 90s Stand Out


For inspiration on volunteerism, look no further than three members of Grace Community Christian Reformed Church, in Oak Lawn, Ill.—the youngest of whom is 91.

John Langeland, 91, Don Holwerda 92, and Harry Beezhold, 94 have volunteered at Pass It On Thrift Center since its doors opened in 1999. Volunteers run the entire operation; all proceeds go toward tuition relief for families whose children attend the three campuses of Southwest Chicago Christian Schools.

“Volunteering at Pass It On, I keep my mind and hands occupied,” Langeland said. “I am also supporting a worthy cause. The atmosphere is exceptional, and what I do is appreciated. There is a wonderful harmony between workers.”

Langeland carries the official title of custodian, but unofficially he is known as “Mr. Fix It.” He spends six days a week at Pass It On—given it’s closed on Sunday—taking out the trash and doing small cleanup jobs, but he does minor furniture repair as well, recovering about 100 kitchen chairs each year. He also recycles metal from items that cannot be sold, which provides additional revenue for the store.

“John is one of the best workers that place has ever had,” said Beezhold, who until recently also volunteered nearly every day at Pass It On, and still does occasionally.

“I enjoy being there because every time the door opens, I meet someone different,” he said. “When you tell people what the store is for and what the money goes toward, they are surprised but think it’s great.”

Stop in on Mondays, meanwhile, to meet Holwerda, who serves as manager of the day, overseeing all operations. He volunteers at another local thrift store as well, splitting time between the two.

“The Lord has blessed me with good health,” Holwerda said. “I figure this is a good way to donate some of my time. I enjoy meeting with the people, and it’s surprising that some of the same customers are in every Monday.”

While they might be the only volunteers in their age bracket, Langeland noted that they feel no different than the other volunteers; all cited the positive atmosphere.

“We have known each other for years,” Holwerda said, “and there are times when our paths cross, but there is a lot of camaraderie among all of the volunteers. We enjoy being there, the opportunity to do something, and the ability to generate funds to help parents put their children through Christian school.”

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