Betty Heck-Dennison is a welcome face when regulars walk in the City of Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Community Center on Thursday mornings. The 95-year-old volunteer greets everyone by name and is lightning quick with one liners and still sharp as a tack.
“I always tell everyone here that she’s smarter than all of us,” says Community Center Manager Mary Wagner-Stockman. “She keeps us on our toes, and when we make a mistake, she lets us know.”
It’s no surprise to those who knows her. Betty has always been that way. After a successful 29 year career in retail, mostly personnel management, she found a new purpose by volunteering with various local organizations over the past 30-plus-years. “You get more out of it than the people you are serving if you do it for the right reason.”
Growing up in the heart of Fort Wayne, Betty saw early on what it meant to be a strong woman. “My dad died when I was five and my mom raised us four kids during the Great Depression.”
She marvels at how Fort Wayne has grown since then. “Oh my goodness. I can’t believe it. I grew up in this neighborhood and I probably walked every inch of Fort Wayne because we didn’t have a car. You either walked or took the bus, so we walked.”
Twice a widow herself, Betty carried on the tradition of strong women in the family. She raised five daughters who all grew up to be career women just like mom. To keep herself busy, she started volunteering as a driver with the Red Cross in her early 60’s despite not being the best with directions at the time.
Betty laughs recalling the story about telling her daughter about her new gig. “My daughter asked me if I told them I often get lost?” A wry smile comes across her face as she says, “Barb, they didn’t ask!” From that moment on, she was hooked. After seven years with the Red Cross, Betty volunteered for years at the the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Fort Wayne and Matthew 25 of Fort Wayne.
Betty started volunteering at the Community Center in 2007 after asking her neighbor Carol Clark(former manager of the Community Center) if they had anything for her to do. “She said, sure, and the rest is history.”
That was over 15-years ago. Since then, she’s become an institution because of her sense of humor and organizational skills. “I call her the Queen of the Community Center,” says Volunteer Coordinator Josh Ogle. “What a sweet and impressive lady. I hope at 95 I’m operating all kinds of technology the way she is.”
Betty says she realized early that working with people was her niche in life. She says she’ll keep volunteering as long as she can still do the job. “I do think about it, but I don’t want to quit. As long as my mind is good, I feel like I should be doing this.”
Ogle says the Community Center runs on many volunteers like Betty. “We always look forward to her walking through that front door and we know everything is under control when Betty is at the front desk.”
Wagner-Stockman couldn’t agree more. “It’s a blessing to all of us to have her here and to have her in our life.”
It’s so easy to why Betty Heck-Dennison is Positively Fort Wayne!
If you are interested in volunteering at the Community Center, contact the Fort Wayne Volunteer Center, you call Josh Ogle at 260-427-6441.