CEDAR RAPIDS — Elizabeth Kacere knows how to set a scene. Twice a week, she arrives at the Witwer Senior Center before anyone else, and gets ready for breakfast.
“Prior to Elizabeth joining us, we had some continental breakfast items, but they kind of just sat on the table,” Director Myrt Bowers said.
Using tablecloths, decorative napkins, trays, flowers and even pearls, Kacere creates table designs worthy of a magazine cover.
“Now we have a breakfast buffet; everyone just feels welcome,” Bowers said.
Kacere purchased a toaster for the center so visitors can make toast or waffles, and uses a Panini maker to share her favorite college treat: Grilled peanut butter sandwiches with pickles.
“I learned how to make that my first night in college,” Kacere said with a laugh. “I tell people that’s what I learned in college.”
She may have learned that in college, but her generosity and giving spirit is innate.
“It comes from the heart,” Kacere said.
Kacere credits volunteerism for giving her the health and energy required to do all she does, including more than 40 years of service at St. George Orthodox Church, and acting as guardian angel for her friends and neighbors.
“She helps her neighbors so that they can remain independent,” said JoEllen Haddad, Witwer’s volunteer coordinator. “She’ll drive them to their doctor appointments and to the grocery stores. She’ll take them to and from church, and just check on them to be sure they’re OK.”
The list of Kacere’s good deeds is endless, as Haddad discovered when she nominated Kacere for Home Instead Senior Care’s Salute to Senior Service Contest.
“When there’s a need, the first words out of her mouth are ‘How can I help?’” Haddad said.
Those who know Kacere weren’t surprised when she was named Iowa’s Outstanding Senior Volunteer by Home Instead Senior Care. Kacere, though, needed convincing.
“I was so excited,” Kacere said. “At first, I didn’t realize it was for the whole state of Iowa. I thought it was just for Cedar Rapids.”
As the state winner, Kacere received $1,000 from Home Instead Senior Care — $500 from the national corporation and a matching amount from the local branch — to give to a non-profit organization of her choice. She chose Witwer Senior Center, which has operated out of a temporary location since the flood of 2008.
“I want it to go to the fund for a new space,” Kacere says.When that becomes a reality, she’ll be there adding touches to make it home.