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2013 Woman of the Year — Spitnale devotes her life to volunteerism PDF Print E-mail
Monday, December 30, 2013 9:00 PM

BY ERIN COX

Staff Writer

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DELPHOS —Faith and family stand as the top priorities for Millie Spitnale and both have led her to a life dedicated to volunteering and community involvement.

Spitnale sees herself as blessed to have her husband, Marvin, who could provide financially for their family, allowing her to stay at home to care for their children and have time to volunteer as well.

Volunteering was never an option for Spitnale. Throughout her life, when Spitnale has seen a need, she has filled it; as a Christian, she feels that is her duty.

“I always think of other people,” Spitnale said.

She has spent so much time volunteering that when her husband proposed, that’s what she was doing.

“He proposed when I was at an ice cream social with the Girl Scouts so that the kids could see my ring,” she said. “My Scouts even had a wedding shower for me.”

Her children: Mark (LeAnn) Spitnale of Fort Wayne, LeAnn (Deron) Sorrell of Lima, Lana (Jerry) Johnson of Delphos and Laura (Steve) Emura of Hawaii; knew how much time their mother has spent serving the community throughout her life and wanted to recognize her for her lifelong commitment.

In their nomination, they added up the years she had participated in various community organizations, which amounted to more than 250 years of community support.

Spitnale’s first act of community involvement started at 11 years old when she became a member of the Delphos Presbyterian Church.

“An old maid, May Davis, asked me to go with her and she was my first Sunday School teacher there,” she said.

Spitnale has remained a member of the church ever since and participated in its choir for 67 years.

“My husband and I and all four children have sung in the choir,” she said of why she enjoyed it. “It’s such a family thing.”

Spitnale also became a Bible School teacher at the church from 1950-56.

“I took all the neighborhood kids and rode bikes there,” she said of one of her favorite memories. “I didn’t drive and I still don’t drive; I prefer not to.”

Spitnale has participated in Mother’s Club for 63 years, which is her second longest membership in a community organization. This year, she decorated the group’s tree at the Delphos Canal Commission Christmas Tree Festival and all the decorations were donated to the Thrift Shop after taking it down.

Spitnale returned to volunteering with the Girl Scouts after a brief time to start a Brownie Troop for her daughter, Laura, and the girls in Laura’s first-grade class in 1967. From 1967-82, Spitnale acted as the neighborhood chairman for the Scouts.

She enjoyed getting to be a leader for her daughter and the other girls and organizing all the troops, all while riding her bicycle to get the materials they needed.

In 1968, she started volunteering and giving blood to the American Red Cross.

Spitnale loves her children and when they were younger, a couple of them needed blood transfusions. The Red Cross provided the blood to help her children and that was something Spitnale and her husband wanted to repay.

“I want to thank them for what they gave to me,” she said.

She still volunteers at blood drives by directing people where to go.

Her love for children doesn’t stop at her own, though.

In the early 70s, Spitnale and her friend, Gladys Risch, organized a bike-a-thon for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, which works to improve children’s lives through a variety of means.

She volunteered at Franklin School in the special education department starting in 1970 for three years. Through Mother’s Club, she would organize holiday parties for the children, which she simply describes as “rewarding.”

“The most precious thing was the thank- you letters from the children,” she said.

Spitnale also worked at the local voting polls for almost 50 years and helped organize the Jefferson Alumni Choir.

“It’s fun to sing with all the former students and teachers,” she said. “Last year, I was the oldest one.”

When her husband retired, they both started volunteering at St. Rita’s Hospital weekly. Spitnale took care of abused children who were staying at the hospital.

One of her favorite memories of volunteering at the hospital was when she wrote poems with one of the little girls there. Spitnale enjoys writing poems and has written many about her time spent volunteering, so to share that with the girl was special.

It has been those kind of memories that have made her volunteering worth it. As Spitnale wrote in one of her poems, “I was so rewarded, they have changed my life.”

Spitnale’s son, Mark, remembers his mother never had an approach to only doing things that she would be paid for.

“She indicated the world is not all about having money, that it is all about being happy,” he said.

For Spitnale, spending 64 years with her husband has made her happy and she wants to try to help others be happy as well.

Spitnale and her husband are now retired but she now volunteers at the Thrift Shop and attends church regularly.

“I’m really needed,” Spitnale said, so she keeps on volunteering.

 

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