One in a million

Southsider gives her time freely with seniors at The Social of Greenwood

By Stephanie Dolan

Today, there are nearly 110 million adults over the age of 50 in the United States. And within the next 15 years, senior citizens will outnumber children in America. It is with a certain amount of expectation that the health of many older adults declines as they age, but… it’s also common knowledge that there are some tips for staying young with which nearly anyone can take advantage.

Two of those most well-known tips would include staying social and remaining mentally fit. Fay Jarosz, 83, of Greenwood, has taken full advantage of these youth-savers and then some.

Jarosz has been volunteering in her community for nearly 40 years. Currently, she spends much of her time volunteering at The Social of Greenwood, a senior center located at 550 Polk St.

“Fay is…” The Social’s Executive Director Andrea Sutherland began, “amazing!” chimed in The Social’s Operations Manager Ashley Koval.

“She has volunteered here for a long time,” Sutherland continued. “She has always just been there when we needed her. And she gives us way more than we could ever thank her for. We have about 65 volunteers. She definitely stands apart. She’s Fay. She’s sassy. Sometimes she has pink and purple stripes in her hair. She holds down the fort.”

People skills

Bob Goodrum, a former executive director for The Social, said that Jarosz has exceptional people skills and named her Volunteer of the Year during his tenure.

“I met Fay when I was director at The Social of Greenwood for a little over three years,” he said. “When I got there she was a member and over the time I was there she became a dedicated and involved volunteer.”

Goodrum said that another one of Jarosz’s many fine qualities is her patience.

“Dealing with members over there at The Social – many of them are over 70 and have hearing difficulties and other physical difficulties, so talking to them and repeating things is often necessary in making sure that they’re accommodated,” he said. “Fay just generally cares about people.”

During Goodrum’s time at The Social, Jarosz began volunteering to do receptionist work as well as call bingo. Today, she can still be found at the receptionist desk each Monday as well as in an evening game of bingo.

“She’s just one of those people that you’re better for being around,” Goodrum said. “She’s upbeat and positive. One day I called her and she’d tripped over the dog and fallen and blacked an eye. She’s telling me all this and then she says, ‘at least I didn’t squash the dog.’ She’s always looking on the bright side. That’s the kind of way she looks at life.”

Fay Jarosz. (Photo by Stephanie Dolan.)

Staying balanced

While Jarosz is currently only volunteering with The Social of Greenwood, she has spent time in the past as a clown with the Special Olympics and spent six months in Clown College.

“I knew I wanted to be a cutesy clown,” she said. “We got to pick our character and mine was named Cricket. We’d give the kids stickers, dance with them and play games.”

She was also the president of her unit with the American Legion Auxiliary and she volunteered as a mentor for junior-year high school girls taking part in Hoosier Girls State, a project within the American Legion Auxiliary that teaches girls about government.

“I did that for 15 years,” Jarosz said. “We put out a newsletter every day for the girls. They would write articles and we would write them up and make a little newsletter for them.”

How has Jarosz found the time and inclination to do so much for others?

Giving back    

“It’s just my nature,” Jarosz said. “I love helping people. I started volunteering around 1980.”

In that time, the widowed grandmother and great-grandmother of 24 has enjoyed bowling, concerts and bartending.

“I make a really good margarita,” she said.

Before much of her volunteering began, Jarosz was the general manager of a clothing company in East Chicago.

“I was the general manager there and worked there for 29 years,” she said. “I semi-retired when they closed but I started there as a phone operator. From that, I went to an insurance clerk. I did all kinds of jobs there until I landed the manager’s job.”

Now, Jarosz is just volunteering with The Social of Greenwood. But this likely won’t be her only outlet for volunteering for long. She has always been a hard worker and has never been one to shy from adversity.

“My parents were from Germany,” she said. “They came over in 1928 and became citizens. We didn’t speak English at first when we went to school and they sent a note home asking my parents to speak English to us. All we spoke at home was German. We grew up not learning any more German and we should have. That was our heritage. It was funny, when my aunt would come from Germany and I’d spent a week with her, it would all come back. I’d understand and I could speak with her. But once she left, it went away again. But I still understand a lot.”

Jarosz had been a member The Social of Greenwood since 2013. She has been volunteering since she became a member.

“The best thing about volunteering at The Social is meeting all the different kinds of people who walk through this door,” she said. “There are all kinds of 50 or older people. We have over 1,300 members. We get more and more members every day.”

Jarosz also said that there are quite a few of her fellow members at The Social who also volunteer.

“Fay is in her 80s and she runs circles around Ashley and I,” Sutherland said.

“Fay is like having your best friend at work with you every week,” Koval said. “She’s sassy. She’s funny but she comes in and puts a lot of effort into everything she does.”

“My life is better for having known Fay,” Goodrum said. “She’s one of those people when you’re blessed when your paths intersect. I had a wonderful volunteer when I was there and I continue to have a wonderful friend.”