96-year-old Baudhuin stays young through volunteer work

Written by Patti Zarling  Press-Gazette Media

One of the big changes Blanche Baudhuin experienced as a volunteer with Red Cross was moving to a computerized system. ‘I never owned a computer, I was afraid,’ Baudhuin said. ‘They showed me a simple way.’ / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media

Blanche Baudhuin wore a cheerful red and white Christmas sweater and matching red shoes recently to greet blood donors at the local Red Cross on Deckner Avenue.Many regular donors recognize the smiling 96-year-old as she takes their name and types their information into “Susie” the computer. After all, she’s been a volunteer for the Northeastern Wisconsin chapter of the American Red Cross for about 36 years.

“I just love it,” Baudhuin said. “I hate to think of the day I can’t volunteer anymore.”

She said the gig keeps her young at heart. She used to be a driver for the nonprofit’s transportation services, but now she helps out at the front desk, sometimes answering phones, but mostly checking in donors.

She started volunteering after her husband died.

“I had to do something to keep busy,” Baudhuin said. “Before I came here, I also helped with the free Thanksgiving dinners for people and made quilts for the needy.”

Baudhuin said she likes volunteering for the Red Cross.

“I enjoy meeting the people,” she said. “Most of the people who come in know me because I’ve been here so long. When they come in, they kid with me.”

One of the big changes she experienced was moving to a computerized system.

“I never owned a computer, I was afraid,” Baudhuin said. “They showed me a simple way. I’m too old, can’t run it. We named her Susie.”

Although she no longer drives for the Red Cross, she still occasionally volunteers off sight, by helping at locations such as Green Bay City Hall, during blood collections.

Everyone she works with at the Red Cross is nice, she said.

“I like the people,” she said. “They’re friendly, and nice to get along with.”

Baudhuin grew up in Algoma and move to Green Bay in 1940. She likes to crochet and play cards when she’s not volunteering. She turns 97 in March.

She thinks more seniors should consider helping others.

“Instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for yourselves, get out and volunteer,” she said. “That’s how I feel about it.”

The Red Cross appreciates her efforts.

“She’s an absolute joy,” said Jody Weyers, regional volunteer and communications director for the local Red Cross. “I think it goes to show volunteering definitely keeps you young at heart. If you’re thing is sitting at home and thinking about ailments, it’s better to get out and keep busy.”

Blanche Baudhuin, 96, helps Jerry Vander Heiden check in to donate blood at the Lakeland Red Cross on Deckner Avenue. / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media

Larry Guyette has known Baudhuin for more than a decade and drives her home after she volunteers at the center.

“She has such energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “She gets upset if she can’t make it here. It’s something that’s really important to her, and I thinks she sets a good example for all of us.”

— pzarling@greenbaypressgazette or follow her on Twitter @PGPattiZarling

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