When some people consider the possibility of volunteering their time, they think it would turn out to be a chore. Modern society tells us that we should be paid for our work. But as good stewards, we know that isn’t true. We all have talents to give back to the parish and community. Arlene Meissel is an example of this. She has been a member here at Ascension for more than 40 years but started volunteering about 12 years ago when she retired. Until then, she didn’t realize what she had missed by not being as involved.
“The more you give of yourself to your community and the church, the more you get in return,” she says. “Most who volunteer will tell you it builds self-esteem, pride, and self-worth.”
Arlene and her husband, Tom, especially enjoy working at the annual Christmas dinner. She feels blessed to have the opportunity to serve those in need. And as a member of the Funeral Luncheon group, she calls parishioners to bring food. She also donates food and works the lunches. Arlene enjoys this opportunity to serve and practice one of the Corporal Works of Mercy — burying the dead. The meals provide consolation and support to a grieving family. Arlene also cooks for other parish events.
Having been a member all these years at Ascension, Arlene can still see all the good. She loves how warm and welcoming it is at Ascension. She also gives a lot of her time outside the parish to an organization close to her heart, Quilts of Valor. She leads the organization’s Missouri River chapter, which serves central, south-central, western, and southwestern North Dakota.
“The mission of the Quilts of Valor is to cover service members and veterans who have been touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor,” she says.
The quilts are an award, not a gift. They are a heartfelt expression of gratitude to the service member. The volunteers who make up this group give without expecting anything in return. All the funds this organization receives go right into the quilts.
“We do not do this for glory and recognition,” Arlene says. “It is done for our veterans and service members, who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for us and our country. Some will share stories and memories. If you don’t believe in God and miracles, all you need to do is read or hear some of their stories and experiences.”
This group started in February 2020 and has awarded more than 425 quilts with a waiting list of nominations.
“One thing that stands out for me is how humble our veterans and service members are and the respect they have for each other and our country,” Arlene says.
Arlene especially appreciates the opportunity to award quilts to Vietnam veterans because she feels their awards are long overdue after the negative responses they received upon returning home. Being part of this organization means a lot to Arlene, and she’s thankful to have the opportunity.
“Sometimes, being a group leader can be overwhelming,” she says. “However, making and awarding Quilts of Valor, seeing the reactions of the one being awarded along with their family and friends, and the written and verbal cards and letters of appreciation we receive, makes it all worth it.”
In her free time outside of volunteering, Arlene enjoys playing pickleball, walking, reading, attending her grandchildren’s activities, helping her daughter with her kindergarten class, and making time for friends and family.