Volunteer Vows to Help 'So Long as God Gives me the Breath'
Area resident Rose Walsh has spent decades helping others, starting with her father, who was often sick throughout her childhood. If you ask her, she says she is the one who reaps the benefits.
Rose Walsh is on a simple, yet dedicated journey.
When she comes across people she can help, she does so. Walsh is a regular volunteer for area churches, Orland Township and for anyone who needs a hand.
“They give me more than I give them, but everyone tells me that’s not true,” Walsh said. “But it is that way for me. It’s just such an exciting thing when you know you’re doing something for someone, and they need you.”
The 76-year-old has been a resident of Orland Park since 1972. She's built a busy schedule of volunteer work throughout the area.
She helps with Orland Township’s immunization program, making records of shots after people receive them. A member of St. Michael Parish, Walsh participates with the church’s St. Vincent DePaul Society, reaching out directly to area people in need. She also serves food to the homeless at St. Blasé Church in Summit and collects items to donate to the church’s effort.
“They often need the small things, toiletries people take on vacation,” Walsh said. “You’d be surprised how big that is for someone who has nothing. They don’t even have anything to put the items in.”
For Walsh, the busy schedule is natural. Her eyes brighten and smile widens when talking about the various ways people can volunteer locally, and the possibilities in helping others.
“I think I’m going to be doing it as long as I can, so long as God gives me the breath,” she said. “When you have seen illness and taken care of illness, it seems to be in you to do it.”
‘I Give Hugs to Everyone’
Tony Fabian, Walsh’s father, was 50 years old when she was born. As she grew up, her father was often sick, and she would help with his care. When other relatives had ailments, she didn’t shy away.
“I think it’s just been put into me,” Walsh said. “As we were younger, like everyone else, we didn’t have much.”
The family moved often throughout the south side of Chicago, spending years near Garfield Boulevard and Shields Avenue, as well as around 91st Street and Woodlawn Avenue.
During that time, she learned money isn’t the most important aspect in life.
“I’ve put that to my children too," said Walsh, who has three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “They do similar. No matter what you have or don’t have, you don’t need millions of dollars.”
The experiences helped her when Walsh’s husband Bill started having his own health problems. She worked for 25 years in warehouses for Sportmart (known today as Sports Authority) on morning shifts to then care for her husband in the afternoon.
They were married 46 years before he passed away in 2003.
“He was a good man,” Walsh said. “I have a granddaughter who’s about 38 years old, down to 7 years old. Eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. One will be 5, and the other will be 1 soon. It’s a wonderful thing. I have had a full life.”
Walsh’s parents were affectionate, often hugging their children, which helped shape her warm approach with people.
“I give hugs to everyone I deal with,” Walsh said with a smile. “When I see my kids the first thing I do is I hug them. If that’s the last thing I do before I go, at least I gave them that hug.”
‘Some Just Want to Talk’
Walsh first began volunteering at Orland Township in 1983 and continues to do so today. In November, the township honored her as its volunteer of the month. She often picks up random tasks even if she stops by the offices on Ravinia Avenue for social events.
But she sees it as a two-way street, as Walsh and her husband depended on the township’s senior services, especially toward Bill’s passing.
“When somebody helps you, you come back and do it for someone else,” she said.
In 2003, she expanded her service by lending a hand at St. Blasé and joining the St. Vincent DePaul Society.
Walsh is among 25 other Eucharistic Ministers from St. Michael who perform face-to-face outreach with people every couple of weeks, depending on the needs.
“We are in teams of four to five people. We then get people who call with a problem, and we see what they really need,” Walsh said. “We visit at home. Some need financial. Some need food. Some just want to talk. They have problems, and need that one on one. We then continue calling them to see what else they need.”
Walsh gets excited talking about fundraisers and clothing drives, along with the St. Vincent work, and has no intention of slowing down.
“They razz me sometimes, and say I have too much on my plate,” Walsh said. “I always say God will tell me when to stop.”
For people who haven’t yet found a way to give back to their community, Walsh simply suggests that people should keep looking.
“I have a friend who says she can’t be with people who are sick,” Walsh said. “So I tell her she’s here for another reason. Maybe you can do something else for somebody. You may not even know it. It’s there. You just have to follow it. Don’t be scared. Just go ahead and do it.”
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