Volunteering Gives Iowa Octogenarian a Purpose

Jul 28, 2021

Volunteers are the unsung heroes and the backbone of The Salvation Army. From stocking food pantry shelves to stuffing backpacks with school supplies for kids in need to distributing hot meals on a frigid winter night, the men and women who give tirelessly and generously of their time and energy make The Salvation Army’s work possible -- not only in Omaha but across the entire Western Division.

When he retired 18 years ago, one of the first things Ted Huisman did was drive over to his local Salvation Army corps in Newton, Iowa, to ask what he could do to help. Huisman, 87, had dedicated his professional life to helping and supporting severely disabled people, and he wasn’t about to stop helping in the community just because he wasn’t earning a paycheck anymore.

“Too many people my age are without a purpose. Volunteering gives me a purpose in life,” said Huisman, who, in addition to volunteering at The Salvation Army also serves at a half-dozen other organizations in Newton.  

Every morning Huisman arrives at the corps between 7 and 7:30 a.m., gets to work organizing donations and checking expiration dates in the pantry and stays until the job is done.

He credits his wife of 63 years, Vivian, for keeping him motivated and on task.

“She says, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going,’” said Huisman. “So I do.”

He also credits the Bible for his service-oriented approach to life. “Jesus talked again and again about helping widows, children and the poor. As a Christian, I believe we are called by Jesus to help others,” said Huisman.

“Ted helps the people we serve by treating them with respect and being there for them when they need help,” said Newton corps officer, Capt. Janelle Cleaveland. “He has truly made a difference in our operations and in the lives of the people we serve.”

Huisman doesn’t anticipate retiring to the recliner any time soon. “As long as I am upright and walking and able to take sustenance, it’s a great day,” he said. “I’m going to keep doing what I can for as long as I can.”


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