Larry Waldhart of Harrison has not let a second stroke stop him from volunteering.
“I enjoy doing it,” said Waldhart, 81. “It’s just a way to give back.”
Waldhart is not alone when he volunteers. He has his wife, Kim, at his side.
“She’s my manager,” he said. “She helps me out to stay busy. We go back and forth volunteering here and there. We still stay fairly busy.”
Waldhart began volunteering several years ago, starting with the Thompson Community Center, where he washed dishes. He also helps with Meals on Wheels, ThedaCare, Salvation Army of the Fox Cities and St. Joseph Food Pantry.
His first stroke was in 2001 and another a year ago. They have slowed him down but not taken him out of the game.
“I have to watch what I do,” said Waldhart. “I can’t do anything too technical. I’m not operating with a full deck. It’s one of those things that if you can’t do it, don’t do it.”
At the Salvation Army on Wednesdays, Waldhart washes dishes. His wife helps serve the meal.
“I feel comfortable washing dishes because I can see my end results,” he said.
He also helps serve the lunch meal.
“The people need the food and we can furnish it,” he said. “I look forward to helping them out.”
Waldhart and his wife volunteer Thursdays at St. Joseph Food Pantry, where his wife helps with registration and other computer work and he hands out the food to clients.
“There are a lot of people in need of food,” he said.
He enjoys socializing with clients, especially veterans.
“We talk with the veterans and joke around,” said Waldhart, who served 12 years with the National Guard and 18 years with the Army Reserve.
Whether it’s handing out food staples or a tray of hot food, Waldhart enjoys giving his time.
“It’s rewarding to see the smiles,” he said. “You don’t realize how lucky you got it until you see these people looking for a bit to eat. I just enjoy doing it.”
Volunteering gives him a way to interact in the community.
“Appleton is my home,” said Waldhart, who spent 50 years as a designer at Allis-Chalmers in Milwaukee and then Appleton before retiring. “It’s good to get out and help out.”
Kim said volunteering has also given Waldhart a daily purpose.
“His second stroke really slowed him down,” she said. “He couldn’t do as much as he used to. But, boy, does he love people.”
He is also able to inspire other stroke sufferers at a stroke support group, said Kim.
“He can tell them he can go out in the community,” she said. “He can tell them that life doesn’t stop when you have a stroke.”
Karen VanderWielen, volunteer coordinator at the Salvation Army, said the organization values the Waldharts.
“Larry truly cares about others and he shares his stories with laughter as well,” she said, noting that, along with his wife, “both of them make others feel comfortable.”
Linda Dums can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet the volunteers
Each Friday on the Good Neighbors page we introduce you to a volunteer in the Fox Valley. If you want to nominate a volunteer, send details to email@example.com.