Gwen’s Story: A Century of Impact
Gwen Tulk has been changing lives and inspiring others for nearly all of her 100 years.
She spent many of them as a teacher and elementary school librarian, and her impact on others didn’t stop with her retirement in 1982. She instead turned her attention to volunteering, signing on with Senior Services’ Meals on Wheels program to deliver hot meals in Kalamazoo’s Eastside neighborhood once a week.
It was a commitment she kept for the next 30 years.
“It was just part of my lifestyle,” Gwen said.
United Way has long been a supporter of the Meals on Wheels program, which delivers hot meals daily to qualifying seniors, allowing them to live independently in their homes longer. UWBCKR currently provides funding under its Basic Needs strategy.
“I’ve never experienced hunger, and I sometimes think that’s why I like to do Meals on Wheels, to make sure people aren’t going hungry,” Gwen said. “Food is very, very important.”
Her husband, Henry, was already volunteering as a driver by the time she retired.
“I decided I might as well do something like that, and I became his hopper. We did it together for 11 years, and then he passed away and I just continued,” she said. “I liked the camaraderie out at the center. (Volunteers) always got together before the meals were ready to deliver, and it was just fun.”
She said she enjoyed getting to know and serve the people she delivered meals to each Friday.
“I looked forward to it. It was just very gratifying, very rewarding to see their smiles when you ring their bell.”
She’d often bump into the people she served in other areas of her life.
“I remember a fellow by the name of John, and he was a person that lived alone. He just needed meals,” she said. “Every now and then I’d see him in the grocery, and he’d hug me.
“It was just part of my life.”
Gwen was named Michigan 2017 Senior Citizen of the Year in May for her community service work, and was honored at the Michigan State Capitol on Older Michiganians Day.
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