Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 24, 2010
Building, organizing, Rudy's always there
At McConnell Place North, Knight Rudy Chowaniec is just a phone call away when residents need a friend
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Outside an Alzheimer care centre in north Edmonton is a garden path, aptly named Rudy's Haven.
The graveled path includes a mailbox, gazebo, mini-golf course and other small attractions that were mostly built and are now maintained by an outstanding volunteer, Rudy Chowaniec.
The staff and residents of McConnell Place North are thankful for the time and effort of Chowaniec, a fourth degree knight who is also a member of St. Christopher Council.
He worked for American Home Products and retired early at age 49. However, being with the Knights of Columbus for 27 years, he knew the value of volunteerism. Since resting on his laurels was not an option, he chose to stay busy helping others.
"Belonging to the Knights, it's not hard to find something to do real quick," he said.
Chowaniec, 79, has ushered at St. Matthew's Parish for many years. He started volunteering at Dickinsfield Extended Care in 1978, and has been helping at their barbecues ever since.
Then he began doing carpentry, yard work and other tasks at McConnell Place North when it opened in 1995. He assists Father Jim Holland with Mass there and helps at their weekly dance nights. The Knights built a complete nativity scene that is set up every Christmas.
"There's always something to do here. There's always something to fix," he said. "It fits in just right for what I want to do. The staff is just out of this world. It's great working with them."
CapitalCare honoured him at a volunteer appreciation tea April 20. For the past 15 years, Chowaniec has been instrumental in organizing events. He enjoys volunteering at the centre so much that last summer he and his wife renewed their wedding vows there, just months before their 55th wedding anniversary.
Sherri Bessette, the activities convener at McConnell Place North, said the staff and residents are fortunate to have Chowaniec around.
"We are very appreciative of Rudy's passion, his dedication, and his commitment to McConnell Place North. The Knights are always there to lend a hand, and I know that Rudy and his wife Theresa are just a phone call away to help. They are more than willing to always help out."
Describing herself as a "big fan" of Chowaniec is Mary Johnson, one of 36 residents at the care centre.
"He's very kind, and he's always willing to help and it doesn't matter when. He's an all-around great gentleman," said Johnson. She is extremely grateful to Chowaniec and his fellow knights for their large contributions of time and money.
Kerry Kilback has worked at McConnell Place North as a care-housing attendant since it opened. A few other knights such as Gordon Mitchell, Frank Cody and Patrick Picardo also help from time to time, but Kilback and other staff view Chowaniec as the leader of the pack.
"Rudy has been here since the beginning too. I mean, lots of knights come and go because obviously they have other commitments or things happen. But he's always stuck with us and stuck up for us too.
"So when it comes to the Knights and their doing projects for us, he puts in a good word for us and they are very generous."
The Knights have donated a gazebo, planters, furniture and countless volunteer hours. A wishing well that Chowaniec built will soon be raffled off, expecting to net between $700 and $800 for the care centre.
All of the knights have a special camaraderie with the residents, said Kilback, and Chowaniec is exceptional at interacting with them.
"For those of us who have been here since day one, he's like part of our family, with the residents as well as the staff. You can joke with him and he gives it right back. We really respect him for everything he does and all the time he puts in," said Kilback.
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