Volunteer Determined to Keep Moving as Long as He Can

Keeping active is in Keith Tomlinson’s DNA.

The 75 year-old retired minister and chaplain has completed nine marathons and 11 half-marathons. Even after back surgery two years ago, he crossed the finish line of one more marathon. He runs in pain, but says the pain isn’t any worse when he is running than when he is sitting. In fact, he says sitting is the hardest thing he does.

“I didn’t want my back problems to win the battle,” he said. “There are too many things that I enjoy doing – my biking and my running. There are things I can do to benefit others as long as I can still get around.”

Retired minister and chaplain Keith Tomlinson remains very active in volunteering at local nonprofit agencies, including here at St. Paul Elder Services, where he delivers Meals on Wheels and distributes a monthly activity calendar to residents.

And he does many things to benefit others. Before his back surgery he tutored elementary school students, worked with the meal program at Loaves and Fishes in Appleton and visited homebound people in conjunction with the ElderMatch program.

“I don’t like to have a day where I don’t do something worthwhile,” he said. “Whether it’s pulling weeds in my flower bed, delivering meals, or whatever. I need to feel like I matter in this world. I tell people I still want to be running races when I’m 80 and preaching when I’m 90. Whether I accomplish either one, I don’t know, we will see, but that’s my goal.”

Today, as a member of the Retired & Senior Volunteer 55+ Program, he volunteers at St. Paul Elder Services in Kaukauna. In addition to providing residents there with a monthly activity calendar, he delivers Meals on Wheels every Monday to folks in Kaukauna and Sherwood.

St. Paul Elder Services reminds him of the nursing home and retirement community in Waverly, Iowa, where he worked.

“Having worked in long-term care as a chaplain for 21 years, I see the value in caring for older people who can so easily be overlooked, forgotten and even mistreated and abused,” he said. “St. Paul Elder Services really cares for the people and does a good job of treating them with dignity and respect.”

As a chaplain he worked 55 to 60 hours a week, visiting residents in their rooms and apartments, climbing stairs, walking long hallways and sometimes making calls in the middle of the night.

When he retired at age 65, he and his wife, Ginny, moved to Kaukauna to be closer to their son and his family in Kaukauna. But there was no way he was going to adopt a sedentary lifestyle.

“I went into ministry because I care about people in addition to caring about the Lord,” he said. “And that has carried over into my retirement. I like to be involved in something that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

He helps with the community meal at Loaves and Fishes by driving to Manderfield’s Home Bakery to pick up three boxes of day-old bakery, He also delivers desserts that Ginny makes for both Loaves and Fishes and Pillars Adult & Family Shelter.

He still runs three times a week for at least five miles each time, depending on the upcoming event.

“My theory is that the longer you sit the harder it is to get going, so I am going to keep moving for as long as I can.”