The charming Betty Mattiske just can’t say ‘no’ to requests for help.
Blame her mother’s war-era work ethic, and being raised on a dairy farm on the shores of Lake Albert, at Meningie, South Australia.
‘My mother never sat around doing nothing and I’ve always thought “that’s the way”’, affirms the spritely 88 year old after arriving home late from a long day of spring-cleaning at her local thrift shop.
Her mother, Meta Fiebig, brought the family up that way during the war years, always busy fundraising for the war effort.
Her father was a beekeeper, and her great-grandfather was recognised for introducing the famed Ligurian bees to Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
And just as bees start swarming when you investigate their hive, once you delve into Betty’s past decades, more and more examples emerge about her extensive, lifelong charity work.
‘I just seemed to be asked to do things, and once I said “yes”, they just kept asking’, she says.
Betty, who chairs the residents’ committee of LHI Retirement Services (formerly Lutheran Homes Incorporated), at Glynde, in Adelaide’s east, has been on the committee since moving into an independent living unit there, with husband Trevor 19 years ago. She will be standing down from the role at the committee’s AGM next month. Her jobs have included organising a monthly concert, which usually attracts 80 to 90 of the Glynde community’s 250 residents. She also runs the community thrift shop, coordinates the 20-volunteer staff, and, when not working at the shop, she washes the new clothes and crockery to restock the shelves.
‘We have bought a 12-seater bus for the nursing home, which is wheelchair-accessible, and then we built a garage to put it in, and we paid cash for it from the shop’s profits’, Betty says.
If that isn’t enough to keep her occupied, she also spends her evenings knitting a range of soft toys in the form of cats, mice, kangaroos and bears. These are sold to raise funds for the Glynde nursing home, with nearly $4000 each year coming from the purchase of these cute critters. The most popular items are her mice. To finish them off, she buys their noses by the hundred – and she’s now on her second hundred. She’s received photos and cards in her letterbox thanking her for her handiwork.
‘They have gone all over the world – to Britain, America, Germany and Switzerland’, she says.
And all this is only since retiring!
Betty spent 25 years fundraising for the former Crippled Children’s Association (now Novita Children’s Services) and joined the Adelaide Lady Mayoress’s committee in the 1960s. She even raised funds through the Mrs South Australia quest when she was 52 years old, and ended up in the top 10 contestants, and as the third-highest fundraiser.
Other examples of her community service that are coaxed out in conversation include her time as chair of a Probus Club and Lions Ladies, and as a member of a range of church committees. Her heart for helping is also seen at Betty’s local Bethlehem Lutheran congregation in Adelaide city, where she has worshipped for about 70 years.
In 1952, Bethlehem was where she met and married Trevor. He died suddenly, a fortnight shy of their 50th wedding anniversary. They were blessed with four children, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
In the 1950s they ran a fruit and vegetable stall together in the famed Adelaide Central Market for a decade. It was a time of dirt floors and a tin shed roof. ‘We supplied Government House, the jails, and hospitals’, she reminisces. The rest of their lives together were spent refurbishing delicatessens all over Adelaide.
Betty is still on the congregation’s women’s guild committee, and the committee for the church’s memorial gardens established when her husband was chair. He was the first to be buried in the garden and she still takes flowers to the garden every Sunday morning before church.
Following her husband’s death 17 years ago, Betty also started a weekly trading table after church, with parishioners bringing home produce and baked goods. It has so far raised $76,766 for her congregation.
‘I was brought up in the church, it has always been part of my life’, she says. ‘I don’t worry about things too much; I always look on the positive side … and with God’s help, because I rely on him a lot.
‘I know he’s a big part of my life and he always will be.’
Despite two hip and knee replacements, Betty’s will to work remains strong. She still gets up at 5.00am, a habit ingrained from her childhood mornings of milking cows at Meningie.
‘So now instead of milking cows, I get up and make my breakfast and get the paper and go back to bed and read it’, she says.
‘I get tired like everyone else, but I never tire of doing things. I haven’t learnt to say “no”.’
Helen Beringen is a Townsville-based communications advisor who has been richly blessed through a career as a wordsmith. She is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and modestly in our community. She hopes by sharing stories of how God shines his light through them, others will be inspired to share his light in the world.
Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor firstname.lastname@example.org
This feature story comes from The Lutheran February 2018. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.
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