John and Shirley Walker
Age: John is 65; Shirley is 63.
Occupation: John is director of mail services at Creighton University. Shirley is Creighton's residence hall mail supervisor.
Family: Two sons, five grandchildren.
The two started Creightonians Helping the Less Fortunate, a drive to collect items students discard when moving out of residence halls.
Published Monday April 28, 2008
BY VERONICA STICKNEY
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
John and Shirley Walker didn't let the 1980 fire that destroyed their home in Naples, Italy, torch their spirit.
Instead, the Bellevue couple, who have been married for 45 years, took what lessons they could from the tragedy.
Shirley gratefully accepted $500 from the Red Cross. She spent the money on a sewing machine and used it to make the family new clothes. They were in Italy because John was in the Air Force.
The help they received hasn't been forgotten.
"It teaches you to have a heart for others," Shirley said.
Now, the Walkers are in their sixth year of Creightonians Helping the Less Fortunate. Shirley, the residence hall mail supervisor at Creighton University, began the project after seeing students discard items while moving out of the dorms.
Last year alone, the couple said they took 27 truckloads to such places as the Siena Francis House, Open Door Mission, Stephens Center, Salvation Army and Holy Family Catholic Church.
They do this on their own time because, they said, it is the right thing to do.
Plus, it's teaching students to help others, said John, who is Creighton's director of mail services.
"The kids are giving," he said. "That's the most important thing to me."
Donations include stereos, lamps, rugs, printers, microwaves, televisions, mini-refrigerators, desks, chairs, futons, food and even snow skis.
This year, Shirley has collection points on every floor of Creighton's nine residence halls. She also has a student volunteer in each hall.
Still, much of the work falls to her.
From mid-April to mid-May, Shirley comes in to work most days at 6 a.m., two hours earlier than normal. She also often stays until 8 p.m., well past her usual quitting time.
And don't think she donates those clothes without washing them. She takes them all home to do that, too.
"I just love giving," she said.
When she's not working, Shirley, who grew up in Georgia, likes to crochet and knit with a group at Creighton that donates what they make. She also serves as fellowship leader at Capehart Chapel in Bellevue.
She and John both like to bowl. Shirley is secretary of her league.
John, who grew up in North Carolina, likes to golf, fish and hunt.
He is quick to give the students credit for making the donation project work.
And it all feels so good.
"We're accomplishing something," he said. "It's taking a little time, but we're giving back."
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(Note: Permission received from the author June 27, 2008)