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Donald Krupa’s volunteer duties include assisting patients with wheelchairs. Photo by Susan Szalewski/for the Catholic Voice.

Volunteer at hospital also helps in other ways

Donald Krupa says he knows he’s been blessed – with good health, a loving family and a successful career.

So he tries to repay God by helping others, including volunteering at his parish, Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert in Omaha, and at Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy, also in Omaha.

"God’s been good to me," Krupa said one recent morning while volunteering at an information desk at the hospital’s medical building. "So I figure I should give something back."

Krupa has volunteered at Bergan for nine years and makes the volunteer work part of his Tuesday routine, which includes a 7:15 a.m. cardiac rehabilitation workout at the hospital, 9 a.m. Mass in the chapel and a 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. volunteer shift.

The exercise has helped him recover from quadruple bypass surgery he underwent in 1995. He began the cardio workouts at the hospital in 1998, the year he retired after 12 years with the U.S. Postal Service. Before that, the Creighton University business graduate owned a bar for 20 years and worked at Western Electric in Omaha for three years.

A member of Our Lady of Lourdes since 1938, Krupa regularly pitches in at fish fry dinners and festivals. He is a pickle card agent for his parish and other parishes and establishments, and is in charge of the charitable gaming cards at Our Lady of Lourdes events.

Last year, the parish honored him as one of two recipients of a "Spirit of Our Lady of Lourdes-Saint Adalbert Award."

Krupa also is an avid gardener, and he gives away many of the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and green beans that he grows in a large plot at his home near 42nd and Center streets.

Krupa said he grew up in a close-knit family that, like many during the Great Depression, didn’t have a lot of money. His parents and a brother have passed away, but he stays in touch with his sister, Phyllis Cuba of Kearney, and her family.

The volunteer work at Bergan seems anything but a chore for the 82-year-old, as he welcomes visitors and patients to the hospital’s medical office building, greets friends he’s met there or elsewhere, points people to their destinations or escorts them personally, often pushing patients in wheelchairs.

"It’s a very active job," said Marilyn Mattheis, facilities coordinator at Bergan, who supervises a team of a dozen retired volunteers, including Krupa.

The people who walk through the medical building doors come from all walks of life; some are expectant parents looking for the maternity unit, others are cancer patients, hair thinning from chemotherapy. Some visitors appear confused, while others can be irritated, tired or frustrated by their illness or their care of a sick loved one.

But Krupa and the other volunteers learn to be patient, and to recognize when people are lost, frustrated or don’t feel well, Mattheis said.

A lifelong bachelor, Krupa said he will keep volunteering at the hospital as long as his health allows. Mattheis said she is grateful. His experience and knowledge of the hospital and doctors there has been "invaluable," particularly during a two-year stretch of construction in which physicians’ offices were moved about, she said.

On a September morning at the hospital, during Mass in the chapel, Krupa listened to a homily by Father Carl Sodoro, in which he spoke about "dying to self" in serving others.

Perhaps ironically, by "opening ourselves to loving service," people gain "happiness on this side of eternity" and much more in the next, said Father Sodoro, a chaplain at Bergan who is in residence at Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert.

Krupa, it seems, knows the rewards of service.

"It makes you feel good," he said later, "when you leave here, that you’ve helped somebody."

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