Dennis Speck RSVP volunteer of the year

Sweet Home has more volunteers per capita than anywhere else on the West Coast as far as Retired Seniors Volunteer Program Director Beth Fox is concerned, and topping the list of RSVP volunteers this year is Dennis Speck.

Speck was born and reared in Oklahoma and moved to Oregon in his teens.

He and his wife had three children, a son and two daughters.

After working 42 years for Willamette Industries, he retired and joined the volunteer workforce, which has become a full-time job itself.

He is chief cook and bottle washer for the Sweet Home Senior Center, Fox said. “Every Wednesday, 100 to 130 savory, nutritious meals are served for the reasonable price of $3. Another 20 or so take-out or delivery lunches are served, at just slightly higher prices. His pinto bean pie is a favorite.

“With his equally able cadre of volunteers, Dennis manages on of the best ‘restaurants’ in town, a rare self-supporting meal site. Dennis works with his fine crew to plan and purchase the best food values in order to pass that value on to seniors, even if it means driving over a three-county area to get those deals. Dennis and Dorothy Smith will go out in the fields and orchards to pick vegetables and fruits for meals.”

Speck started helping out as Sue Claasen cooked meals once a week at the old center, Speck said. That was five or six years ago. “Then one year – must’ve been about three years ago – me and her had to cook Christmas dinner. I went and got it all donated.”

After that, Speck began taking purchasing and the kitchen. Now, he runs it with “lots of good help,” including Smith, Edith Sergeant and Claasen.

“It’s something I like to do, so I just keep doing it,” Speck said. He enjoys going out and finding food inexpensively.

Speck, 68, has been in Sweet Home for 49 years. He retired in 1994.

“I’ve got to tell you,” Fox said. “Sweet home is a town that I brag on everywhere.”

Fox and RSVP Volunteer Coordinator for Linn County Juanita Whiteis presented pins for years of service as well on April 24. Receiving 15-year pins were Carmen Hyde and Fae Farrier. Receiving 20-year awards were Genevieve Rice, Estelle Plunkett, Betty Oliver and Donna Johnston. At 21 years were Hazel Suter, Albert Sallila and Martha Phillips. At 23 years was Myrtle Carter. At 24 years were Paul and Christine Wetzig, and at 25 years was Lorna Hinck.