Alexandria's Frances Beck Named Ecumen Volunteer of the Year

Jul 20th, 2010 5:18pm

Frances Beck has been described as a tiny little fireball. While she may be small in stature, her presence is huge.

A diminutive 4’11”, Beck has a big grin that spreads to everyone in her presence. Her quirky, goofy laugh fills an entire room and incites laughter from those around her.

But it is her giving, unselfish spirit that is gigantic.

A former resident of Evansville, Beck has lived at Bethel Manor in Alexandria since 2002. She so enjoys helping other people at the entire Bethany Community facility that she volunteers 40 hours a week – even though she’s 88 years old.

At 5:30 every morning, she delivers newspapers to residents’ doors. At 7:30 a.m. she goes to the office and makes coffee and gets the cookie tray ready for visitors and residents. She helps deliver Meals on Wheels. She helps immobile residents get to and from activities and appointments. She points visitors in the right direction, helps with tours and answers questions. She is on the welcoming and social committees.

Every Sunday, Beck assists at the chapel with communion and fellowship. She loves to treat neighbors and staff with her homemade desserts. She crochets prayer shawls and lap blankets for anyone who needs them. When she sees that someone needs help, she makes sure the staff knows about it.

The list goes on and on, and includes doing anything she can to help anyone in need.

“The thing that stands out the most is that you are always looking out for everyone’s best interests,” social worker Ashley Olson said to Beck. “You have a caring heart and you are a good advocate for everyone.”

“I love my office girls,” Beck replied with a pleased grin, referring to Olson, housing manager Wendy Halbe, and other staff. Beck loves to help her “girls,” from setting up tables to performing administrative tasks, to cleaning up after parties.

“We are just happy to have her here,” said Halbe. “We don’t know what we would do without her. As a staff, we wonder how she has such endless energy to do all of this.”

It’s not only the staff that appreciates Beck and her desire to help – the residents do too. She’s almost a permanent fixture in the Bethel Manor lobby.

“I think everybody knows me,” she said, greeting a fellow resident and asking if she needed help with her coffee and cookies.

According to her “office girls” and anyone else on the receiving end of her benevolence, Beck does her “job” with a smile on her face and a desire to do more.

“I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Beck said of why she works so hard. “I get exercise, I meet people, I get to know people and help people, and I like that. If I couldn’t help I think I would be sick, and that’s the truth.”

The hours she has logged, along with her upbeat nature and attitude, haven’t gone unnoticed. The staff at Bethany recently nominated Beck for the Ecumen 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award.

In the nomination letter they wrote, “For the past eight years she continually goes above and beyond assisting her fellow residents…In addition to being hard working, Frances has a very caring heart. She is a great advocate for her fellow residents.”

Out of hundreds nominated for the award, Beck won. Better yet, she was asked to attend a ceremony to receive the award. Ecumen, the non-profit senior housing and services provider that is the parent organization of Bethany Community, honored her with the prestigious award at the Ecumen Leadership Conference held in May in Brooklyn Center.

“I got to go to the Cities!” Beck said with glee.

Upon acceptance of the award, Beck had to get up on stage and give a speech. Much to the amusement of the audience, the first thing she said was, “Well, I’m missing a lot of work to be here today.”

She was so excited about the honor, she can’t remember much else about her speech, but she will never forget earning the award.

“It was stunning. It was heart thrilling, I could hardly speak,” she recalled.

Whatever she said made a tremendous impact on the audience – she got a standing ovation.

“To think I could raise myself that high at my age,” she concluded. “It was very special. It was something I will never forget.”