Your Community: Timeless volunteers

Johnson County Library can boast of two long-time volunteers who happen to be in their 90s, Al Pope and Fran Warden.

Johnson County Library can boast of two long-time volunteers who happen to be in their 90s. When you hear more about these dynamic nonagenarians, you’ll learn a thing or two about staying active at any age.

Al Pope

Al Pope

Al has volunteered with Johnson County Library since 1994, sorting donations for the Friends. He helps determine book condition and where is the best place to sell them to support the Library. “Al is quite the worker. Very seldom will he accept help when picking up and moving boxes of books,” reports fellow volunteer Marshall Ellis.

In his 29 years volunteering, Al has contributed 4,980 hours at the Library, the equivalent of over two years of full-time unpaid service valued at $149,151.

At 93 years of age, nothing stops this retired pastor. He logs over 1K miles a year riding his bike outdoors, from April Fool’s Day until mid-December. Al also volunteers at Lakeview Village where he writes a monthly newsletter column, shares his musical talents on the piano twice a week, and serves in their library.

Al has made many friends at Lakeview Village and the Friends of Johnson County Library. “During the 20 years we’ve served together, I have found Al to be a dependable, caring, compassionate and kind person,” declares fellow volunteer Louise Weller. “He always brings a sense of humor to the sorting room.”

During the pandemic, Al couldn’t socialize with his fellow sorters as social distancing, masks and strict shift scheduling impacted their volunteer environment. His solution: gather everyone in the breakroom for five minutes and share two riddles every Tuesday. Marshall says, “The riddles are a bright spot for a laugh during a sometimes-quiet day.” His fellow volunteers love the riddles so much that they sometimes hold back unsellable joke books from the recycle bin  to help Al find new material.

Al is a dedicated volunteer worker and a loving soul. We are so thankful he has chosen to volunteer with the Library.

Fran Warden

Fran Warden

Fran began serving as a greeter at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1985. This quick-witted conversationalist with a contagious smile has volunteered at many charities including at the St. Mary’s Food Kitchen.

In 2010, Fran began volunteering at Shawnee Library. She loved it so much she now serves twice a week and has contributed 2,285 hours of service. At 95 years, Fran fills a very physical

role pulling books and shelving holds items for easy pick-up. According to Johnson County Library branch volunteer liaison Julia VanderWerff, “She has earned the nickname ‘One Fast Kid’ because Fran sometimes finishes shelving a cart before staff can fill another one.”

The Library staff and patrons simply love her. “Fran always brightens our day when she comes in, shouting ‘I’m heeeere!’,” says assistant branch manager Megan Clark. “Fran greets every patron picking up their holds with enthusiasm. Many stay to chat,” reports Julia.

According to Fran, many of her Holy Trinity Church friends are at least 20 years younger. She jokes that they are busy doing too many other things which gives her the time to serve. But her friends and even Library staff are often inspired by the work she does as a volunteer.

One of those adoring fans is information specialist Zach Contess. For many years, Zach and Fran worked closely together. “I can say for a fact that even Fran does not know how many people she has inspired,” says Zach. “To put it simply, it is hard not to watch someone do so much for their community, with such vitality and grace, and not aspire to do more yourself.” Zach now volunteers because he was so inspired by Fran.

VanderWerff echoes that sentiment. “Fran is an iconic staple of the Shawnee branch. I want to be her when I grow up!”

No matter your age, you can make a lasting impact like Al and Fran by volunteering at the Library. Check out the wide variety of volunteer opportunities at jocolibrary.org/volunteer.

Johnson County Library – Nurturing the Community’s Collective Wisdom