The volunteers probably didn’t realize what they were getting into. But aching muscles aside, nobody’s complaining very loudly.
For many years, the Naperville Jaycees have lent a hand with snow shoveling to area seniors and others who need help clearing their driveways and sidewalks. This year, they’ve paid a lot more visits than usual to the driveways’ owners. There might be a special place in heaven for those hardy shovel-wielding volunteers.
“It’s not something that everybody wants to do,” said Dave Prinzi, cochairman of the group’s yearly service project, who finds it challenging to find members willing to commit to a labor-intensive, season-long relationship that often stretches from one year to the next.
Twenty members of the Jaycees are taking part this year, routinely heading out to clear their assigned driveways and sidewalks when at least two inches of snow has come down. That has happened on 14 days so far this winter, according to National Weather Service data.
Some of the volunteers are feeling it in sore arms and backs. Beth DeGeeter’s pains are relatively few, although she admits the workload is a bit heavier this year than it was in the most recent couple of winters.
“The last two years were pretty light. Last winter I think I was out (shoveling) twice,” she said. “This year it’s been snowing, and you go out every time.”
The lifelong Naperville resident, who also confesses that she loves winter, appears to have it imprinted in her DNA that time and energy are to be given away. She comes from a long line of Jaycees, including her dad, Al DeGeeter, who’s “a Jaycee of old,” she said.
“So volunteering has always been a passion of mine. I currently don’t make a lot of money, so my daytime is my time to give,” said DeGeeter, who’s been a shoveler since she joined the Jaycees in 2008. “It’s a worthwhile project — and it’s a great workout.”
It worked out that when the time came to assign her a homeowner with a snowy driveway, it was her parents’ that went to her. With help from her mom, Margo DeGeeter, she managed to keep the driveway, porch and sidewalk clear.
It wasn’t long before she and her dad went out and picked up a snowblower — which just enabled her, her parents and sometimes her two brothers, Ed and Ken, to clear snow faster than they could manage with just shovels. Sometimes the family crew covers other volunteers’ locations when they can’t get there themselves.
“They enjoy volunteering as well, so they like to help out,” DeGeeter said. “It’s a big family affair. We work together, we help each other out.”
Partnering volunteer shovelers with driveway owners isn’t always that straightforward. Prinzi, who has helped coordinate the program for the past four years, does a bit of match making every fall when local seniors start calling to sign up for the service. Sometimes the task involves consulting a map, to connnect seniors with volunteers who live nearby.
It’s a relationship builder, so he tries to keep the partnerships intact from year to year.
“One of our volunteers has been taking care of the same woman for seven years or so,” he said. “They kind of get to know their person, their schedules.”
Shovelers often head out after having dinner with their families. Because the Jaycees have members all over the Fox Valley, that can mean driving a ways at the end of the day to move somebody else’s snow. Prinzi lives in Oswego, and others among the volunteer crew are Aurora residents.
“They just travel a little farther,” Prinzi said. “But they’re happy to help out.”
The Jaycees’ shoveling committee includes Chris Albano, James Bernicky, Mark Coleman, Tom Coleman, Chris Cooney, Beth DeGeeter, Matt Dingledine, Zak Kates, Travis Ksiazek, Mike Loewer, Tom Mano, Mark Moulesong, Paul Notoli, Ben Pawola, Chad Pedigo, Ricky Rieckert, Ben Santella, Greg Siegel, Helen Taylor and John Trojanowski.