Congratulations to Masonic Village at Dallas resident Karen Mertz, who received the “Volunteer of the Year” award at the community’s volunteer luncheon this year!

In addition to her work with numerous on-campus committees and events, Karen volunteers with Back Mountain Memorial Library and Habitat for Humanity.

She, along with other volunteers, make blankets for families at the Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia University, which empowers economically-disadvantaged single mothers by providing opportunities to complete a college degree and create brighter futures for themselves and their children.

She also distributes items to the Salvation Army, donates toys to Shriners Hospitals and provides books, games and clothing to the Pyramid Healthcare Dallas Detox and Inpatient Treatment Center. She hosted fundraisers for Toys for Tots and Shriners Hospitals.

“I started most of these [volunteer] efforts myself and am still very involved with them,” Karen said. “I love volunteering. My parents instilled these acts of giving back to the community, church and school. It was something that we just always did. It brings me such great feelings.”

Karen has called Masonic Village home since 2013. When she moved there, she joined many activities that were already established. Along with her friend, Sarah Jones, who now lives at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, she started the Veterans Day programs and Shriners Hospitals collection. She served on the executive committee and became co-chair of the social committee. She is co-chair of bingo and has been chair of the Octoberfest activities. She’s in charge of the book club and even bakes cakes for resident birthday parties.

Karen was surprised and touched to be honored at the volunteer luncheon, where she received a potted plant and a gift certificate for dinner at the Greens at Irem Clubhouse.

She continues to find the hours to do everything because she budgets her time well and is “good at delegating.” At 76 years old, Karen said she has been “blessed” with good health and keeps herself fit.

“People say I ought to wear a pedometer because I’m up and down the hallways all day,” she said. “I feel like there are lots of people who work behind the scenes [with me]. I’m just out there because I’m physically able to do it. I walk on the treadmill every day. I like staying active. It helps my brain.”

While she enjoys all her activities, she said making fleece blankets for war veterans is probably one of her favorites.

“It started at my church,” she said. “We do it for children, too, who go through a trauma, like a fire or flood or death of a loved one. I had the idea that we should do more for veterans since we have a veterans’ hospital nearby. We got together and made 40 blankets. We went out and played bingo with the veterans. Whenever they won, they got a blanket. It was so much fun.”

Karen was raised in Northumberland, which is just below Danville, Pennsylvania. She studied elementary education at Bloomsburg State College (now university) and taught kindergarten for 17 years in Dallas. A widow, she was married for 38 years and has two sons and two grandchildren.

Karen enjoys living at Masonic Village because it’s a small campus, everybody knows everybody, and everyone is nice.

“We try to get to know all the residents,” she said. “We have a welcoming committee, but I’m not on it. There are a few things that I don’t do!”