2017-04-13 / Columns

All About The Town

By Betty Browning

There is a lady in St. Ignace who takes the idea of volunteering to a whole new level. Donna Pope has spent a lifetime volunteering to help her community, her friends, and her family. She remembers a time when her family was helped by others, she says, and she wants to do her part to contribute what she can.

She was born Donna Mills. Her parents were John and Mamie Mills of Garnet, and she is proud to say she was born at home. She is one of 15 children, and helping at home is probably where she learned to help others.

She moved to St. Ignace at the age of 18. A young woman on her own, she began working as a housekeeper.

Trying to catch up with her is not an easy task. After 30 years of being known as “The Lunch Lady” at LaSalle High School, her schedule since her retirement in 1998 these days includes volunteering at the school serving the lunch meal, helping at the St. Ignace Hope Chest, working with the women’s group from the United Methodist Church, and even taking her turn numerous days a month on the Crisis Hot Line for St. Ignace Area Hope.

Donna Pope of St. Ignace. Donna Pope of St. Ignace. When she is not helping at various programs around town, she enjoys traveling.

Her four children, Barb Huntsman,

Mamie Garceo, Eddie Pope, and Billy Pope, do not live locally, so Donna travels to be able to spend time with all of them. This past Christmas, she went to Denver, Colorado, to spend the holiday with 20 family members. Not only does she travel around the country, she is a world traveler. Along with her daughter Mamie, her granddaughter Marley, Marley’s husband Adam, and five others, she once flew to Beijing, China, to watch Adam win a bronze medal in wrestling at the 2008 Summer Olympics Games.

While talking with Donna about her life, and her years of volunteer service, we both came to realize that our families were both

Posing in an earlier family photograph are (from left) Donna Pope, her brothers, John and Louie, and her sisters, Gladys, Louise, Alice, and Phyliss. Posing in an earlier family photograph are (from left) Donna Pope, her brothers, John and Louie, and her sisters, Gladys, Louise, Alice, and Phyliss. Garnet, and she knew almost all of my relatives and I knew many members of her family, as well. Her father had even sold my grandparents the farm where they lived up until their passing. She had also gone to school with my mother, my uncle, and my aunt. Small world!

Retirement “rest” was not for Donna, but it gives her all the time she needs to help with many programs around town.

She helps at the Evergreen Living Center on Mondays and Wednesdays when they have bingo, she also volunteers for the Red Cross during blood drives.

What is the best volunteer program she can remember helping with, the one that still today touches her heart and makes her want to continue volunteering?

Mamie Mills holding two of her children. Mamie Mills holding two of her children. “Working at the Hope Chest,” she says. “I love Project Hope.”

“When I was young, I remember how hard times were for us,” she continued. “People gave to us. At holidays, and year-around, people were good to us and helped us out.

“When I got older, after my kids were gone, I kept thinking, I wish there was a place I could take this stuff I have, and let others who need it, use it. I would send stuff up to Strongs, to a center there, so it could be used by others in need. Then they opened the Hope Chest, and I am now the ‘volunteer boss.’

“I help out others because so many people helped me out over the years. I am paying it back.”

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