Volunteer of the Year Stories
Beverly (Bev) Bischoff grew up in Columbus, Ohio. She attended Ohio State University where she studied elementary education. Eventually Bev left Ohio and settled in Chicago. Her corporate career started with a local advertising firm. It wasn’t long before her talent landed her the position of Executive Secretary to managing partners with Murphy, Hauser, O’Connor & Quinn, and later, Ernst & Young.
In 1990 Bev said goodbye to city living and moved out to Wheaton with the intention of retiring. Her first foray into relaxed living didn’t last long; in 1991, she found herself back in the Executive Secretary role with Bensinger, DuPont & Associates. Providing critical support to the President and CEO of the company kept her on her toes. “It was very much like an episode of Mad Men,” Bev explained. “First I learned to use a typewriter. Next came the electric typewriter. When the computer was first introduced to the office…oh boy! I remember trying to master all the new programs while answering the phones and keeping up with all the other duties of the job. There was never a spare minute.”
Bev’s second round of retirement landed her a part time job as Research Assistant for Hotel F&B Magazine. “I don’t retire well,” Bev remarked. “I like to keep busy.” The position was ideal. It combined Bev’s love of research with the comfort of working from home. After so many years in the hustle and bustle of a busy office, the quiet was a welcome change of pace—and the commute was a dream!
The high level of discipline required for a corporate career carried over to her home office. A set daily schedule was a must, but for the first time, Bev found herself with a few free hours each week. As she searched for something new to engage in, she found herself wondering about the “Little Yellow House” across the lot from the Wheaton Eye Clinic.
Lucky for Spectrios, five years ago Bev’s curiosity brought her through our doors as a volunteer. Her experience with computers and attention to detail make her a perfect fit for assisting our Vice President of Development, Diane Levine.
Not one to remain idle, Bev has also tackled organizing the charts room and assists with other administrative duties as needed. Being a purpose driven individual, volunteering for Spectrios has become part of her weekly routine. “It’s a great feeling to help someone who needs it,” Bev shared. “When I was working full time I wasn’t able to explore volunteer opportunities. Everybody should do it.”
Bev has two sons and three grandchildren. Her passions include cheering on the Ohio State Buckeyes, walking, reading, cooking and baking. Her signature dishes include pork tenderloin with apples and onions, rump roast and linguini with clam sauce. Bev’s chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods are legendary. “I would spend all Sunday baking for my coworkers. People couldn’t wait for Monday to roll around to see what I was bringing in.”
One baked good she never mastered was pies. “My mother made wonderful homemade pies. I baked cookies, brownies, you name it, but not pies. Those were best left to mom.”
Karen Thomas - 2014 Recipient of Clarence Troyer Volunteer of the Year Award
In 1998 Karen Thomas became a patient at the Spectrios low vision center. For three years, she drove around town sporting the latest in low vision aids, specifically low vision driving glasses, limited only by the daylight-only restriction that prohibited her from driving at night.
The day finally came when she knew her driver’s license should reside in a frame on the wall of her home instead of in that special place in her wallet. But instead of tears and resistance, Karen rose to the occasion: she presented Dr. Williams with a list of 10 reasons why she should no longer drive. Luck for us, this didn’t mean she stopped being an active member of our community.
Karen is a positive thinker and one of our most energetic volunteers. While she was a Spectrios Patient, she because involved in helping with the first Spectrios Gala, collecting unique items to put in raffle baskets. Her upbeat attitude won her an invitation to become a member of the Spectrios Board of Directors, whose members are all volunteers.
In 2006 she was elected Board Chairman for a two-year term. When her term ended and the position of “Patient Services Coordinator” became available, Karen resigned from the Board, applied for the position to become part of the Spectrios staff, and was promptly hired.
Karen has continued to volunteer as committee chair for the Gala raffle baskets. She is the designated “Cheerleader” at nearly every Spectrios Open House, working alongside our low vision doctors welcoming and educating prospective patients. She tells her story with such enthusiasm and joy that she is often recruited to play the role of a patient so that potential patients, their families, and sometimes the board members will better understand the Spectrios’ mission.
Many of our special event and open house success were due in large part to Karen’s enthusiasm and hard work. She quickly became a part of our team and part of our family at the low vision clinic. Karen often says that Spectrios is the only place where people understand how she can see a piece of thread on the floor and fall over a footstool trying to pick it up.
Karen retired from Spectrios in 2013, but she is still well known in DuPage County for her work as a Spectrios volunteer and low vision services spokeswoman. When asked about her various roles, Karen says, “I just come whenever they need me.” Karen Thomas is a valued and beloved member of the Spectrios family. We are proud to honor her as the 2014 Volunteer of the Year.