The Every Day is a Day On series spotlights volunteers at Operation Gratitude who are moved to action to support servicemen and women, their families, and first responders.
The seventh blog in this series features Lil Bauer, a volunteer who has been with us since our founding. Now at 95-years-young, Lil is one of our oldest volunteers yet she still runs circles around the rest of us! Known for her signature hats, she is affectionately known as “the hat lady” around the FOB. She is a true force of nature when it comes to volunteerism.
This is Lil’s story…
Lil Bauer has been volunteering since Operation Gratitude was founded in Carolyn Blashek’s living room in 2003 and led the donations receiving team for many years. Fully of energy, Lil surrounded herself with countless ladies who kept our volunteers happy and our shelves in order.
Up until the pandemic, Lil was at the FOB every day handling inbound donations, folding the thousands of pairs of socks we receive each year, breaking down and repacking batteries, screening letters, and helping wherever there was a need. Even though she can’t come to the FOB these days, her caretaker, Rhoda Byrd, stops by and picks up bins of items for Lil to work on at home.
Director of Operations, Kimberly Potter, and Senior Director of Volunteer & Community Engagement, Stacey Danlyan, both worked closely with Lil at the FOB. One year for her birthday, Lil was given an obnoxiously orange chair; her favorite color. Lil was the only one who sat in it. The orange chair is jokingly referred to as Lil’s throne at the logger’s table. Kimberly said, “She may have forgotten our names but she never forgot what her responsibilities were when she came as a volunteer. She knew what everyone else was supposed to be doing and made sure that she cracked the whip if you were slacking off.” Stacey talked about the hats Lil wears to match her outfit every day. Stacey can’t remember Lil without one.
Although she’s focused and determined, Lil is also someone who loves to poke fun with her fellow volunteers and make them smile. Director of Handmade Programs, Kelly South recalled the story of meeting Lil for the first time. “I’d spent a year making one thousand hats and scarves. When I arrived to donate them, the first person I met was Lil. She was so warm and caring from the moment I met her. She made sure that I felt appreciated for the work I had done. Within minutes of walking in the door, Lil had organized a large group of Girl Scouts to help me pack my donation into bins. In no time, she had me on the floor helping set up for the next assembly day. Lil was the first person I met, and I worked side by side with her for many years.”
Senior Director of Donor Relations, Nancy Levy also has fond memories of working with Lil in the early days of OG. Lil was an unstoppable 80-year-old at the time. Nancy remembers Lil carrying load after load of care packages from the assembly line during eight-hour assembly days. At the end of the day when the young volunteers were exhausted, they would find unstoppable Lil sweeping the floors with an industrial-sized broom.
Supporting the military has long been important to Lil. Her sister was a Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVE), her brother served in the Army, and her father served in the Navy. Because of these personal connections, her favorite part of volunteering is being able to show her support by directly giving back to the troops.
When talking about getting involved, Lil said, “It’s something that you really want to do to help the military. So, if you have the time, it would be nice if you could volunteer for whatever job is needed.”
Lil is more than a devoted OG volunteer. Throughout her lifetime she has also committed herself to volunteerism in the Los Angeles area. She was a dedicated volunteer docent at was the Los Encinos State Historic Park giving visitor tours. After a long day of volunteering with OG, Lil was often known to pack up quickly to get to her second volunteer job of the day.
Lil has demonstrated that any person can contribute to Operation Gratitude. With enough passion, anyone can be a force of nature like Lil. There is a place for everyone, no matter their age or ability.
Get involved with Operation Gratitude’s virtual volunteerism efforts today!
This post was written by Jake Kelly, a communications intern at Operation Gratitude. Jake is from the Chicago suburbs and is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut pursuing a Bachelor’s in Journalism & History with a minor in Political Science.
Read more in the Every Day is a Day On blog series.