Doing Good for the Neighborhood

By Phyllis Rose, Freelance Writer, Editor, Senior Services Volunteer


From a career in food service to clowning with her husband to volunteering, Harriet Grannan, 85, of Kalamazoo has had a lifetime of serving others. At the old Kalamazoo Central High School, she baked cookies and cakes for the 3,000 meals a day prepared for students. Changing jobs, she went to the YWCA to cook for them and then spent 17 years in food service at the Eaton Corporation’s facility in Galesburg, retiring from there 25 years ago.

She and her late husband, Dean, performed as a clown duo, Mr. and Mrs. Buttons, marching in parades and presiding at store openings here and in Texas where they spent the winters.  Now, she’s a volunteer through RSVP – Your Invitation to Volunteer. She crochets items for those in need through Helping Hands, Happy People and delivers meals for Meals on Wheels.

Her connection to Helping Hands came about when she went to Senior Services of Southwest Michigan to get her taxes done. She had been crocheting hats which she delivered to the Salvation Army and Ministry with Community. While at Senior Services she asked if anyone there knew anywhere else she could donate her crocheted hats since she had hundreds.

From that question, she learned about Helping Hands and she’s been meeting with them twice a month since 2016.  “We have a chitchat time,” she said. “Some knit. Some crochet. It’s a fun time to get together and know that you’re doing good for the neighborhood, the community.”  At Christmas, she crochets hats for the patients in the psychiatric unit at Borgess where her daughter works.

Asked to consider delivering meals through Meals on Wheels, she gave it a try. She’s a hopper, the volunteer who takes the meals to the house.  “I love it,” she said. “I enjoy making the people feel good. If I have a grumpy person and I can make him smile or laugh, it makes me feel good.”

Several of her Meals on Wheels clients have dogs so she takes bones to their dogs. “One lady’s two little dogs, the minute we drive in the driveway, they know we are there,” she said. “One brings me a toy and I give him a bone. The other just comes and gets a bone. It makes life interesting.”

Grannan likes making the people feel like they are important since many of them are alone all day. But, she gets something back from them, too.  “One lady on my route is always so upbeat and happy,” she said. “I can always count on her giving me a kind word and just being friendly.”

Because of those kinds of rewards, Grannan encourages other seniors to volunteer. “It doesn’t take a lot of time,” she said. “You can pick and choose what you want to do. There are so many things you can do. It’s easy to work into your schedule. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I think it’s very rewarding.”

More volunteers are needed with Meals on Wheels, Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, Kalamazoo Literacy Council, Volunteers 4 Seniors for medical rides and grocery shopping help, Mentor Academic Success tutor and mentor program, Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP), Senior Services Home Repair, VA Medical Center and more. Regular, flexible, short-term schedules available, Contact RSVP at 269-382-0515, or click here to complete our online application.