Retired nurse provides hot meals, warm wishes to the needy

9:28 AM, Jan 25, 2012   |    comments
Jean Nowak
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Each month, KARE TV recognizes outstanding volunteers in our community as part of the "Eleven Who Care" program. Jean Nowak is the latest honoree.  

At 82, the retired nurse has a packed volunteering schedule and shows no signs of slowing down. She gives 10 hours a week to Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis.  Jean also volunteers countless hours at her church, St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Brooklyn Center.

"It's just joyful for me to serve," Jean said.

Jean and her husband Jim have been married 59 years. They have five children and eight grandchildren.  

The Sharing and Caring Hands Tuesday Crew

It's another Tuesday in the kitchen at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis. Potatoes are cooking in the stove; volunteers are slicing buns around a butcher block table. More helpers are  unpacking doughnuts out in the dining area.

Everything is running like a well-oiled machine, thanks to Jean Nowak's quiet command.

"She's able to handle it smoothly," a volunteer named Diane said.

"The cheery attitude she serves with and the dedication, it's made a difference in my life," volunteer Martha Wood said of her friend Jean.  "She's been a great example for me." 

A cheerful, smiling Jean is the point person on the massive effort that will bring hundreds of hot meals to the needy on what promises to be a cold Minnesota day.

"She's just a sweetheart," volunteer Clyde Johnson said.

They call her a "sweetheart of a boss" whose commitment is topped only by her compassion.

"Not only our clients who we have the privilege to serve, but also to myself as a volunteer here and the staff," Diane said. "And anyone who walks through that door."

For 23 years, Jean has headed up this group of volunteers who've come to be known as "The Tuesday Crew".

"We work, but we have fun," Jean said smiling.

Yes, Jean's recipe includes equals parts elbow grease and laughter to get through a full day of work that starts before breakfast and ends around 5:00 p.m.

"That's why I'm sitting down part of the day," Jean laughed.

Although she may need a stool from time to time, Jean says she never needs inspiration to make these meals for Minneapolis' hungry and homeless.

"I really believe that all God expects of us is to take care of his poor, sick, marginalized," Jean explained. "Most of the people are so appreciative, it's just a pleasure. It's a pleasure to serve them."

"She's just a real down to earth person who cares about others," Clyde said of Jean.

"Jean has been a faithful servant for years," Sharing and Caring founder Mary Jo Copeland said. "We all get the call.  Not everybody answers, but Jean did."

She has answered the call for 23 years and come next Tuesday she'll answer again.

"It's a way of life for me," Jean concluded.  

For more information about Sharing and Caring Hands visit:


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