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Don Nary served lunch to residents at Our Lady’s Inn in St. Louis. He and his wife, Alverne (“Al”) have volunteered at the maternity home for a decade.
Don Nary served lunch to residents at Our Lady’s Inn in St. Louis. He and his wife, Alverne (“Al”) have volunteered at the maternity home for a decade.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Retired couple’s personal touches at Our Lady’s Inn make clients “feel like they’re at home”

Don and Al Nary volunteer at maternity home as part of Ignatian Volunteer Corps

Don Nary enjoys woodworking, and his wife, Alverna (“Al”), loves decorating, especially for the holidays. They’ve contributed their talents to make Our Lady’s Inn a warm, home-like atmosphere for women and children who live at the maternity home.

The septuagenarians have volunteered at Our Lady’s Inn in St. Louis for the past decade as part of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. The program offers semi-retired and retired women and men an opportunity to serve others, pray and reflect together as a small community and grow spiritually.

With Halloween over, Al, recovering at home from a recent surgery, sent a list of to-dos along with her husband to take down the old decorations and set up the Thanksgiving-themed decorations in the common areas. She also sees to it that the mothers’ rooms are given a special touch, such as coordinating the curtains and bedspreads.

“She likes it to be coordinated, and to make them feel like they’re at home,” Don said.

All that Al could think of was making women feel as comfortable as possible. “Here you have a woman who is coming off of the streets or living with relatives and is in a homeless situation,” she said. “I wanted her to feel a hug when she opened the door to her room.”

When Al decided that the windows needed curtains, that meant Don got to work hanging up curtain rods.

“These outside walls are solid concrete,” he said. “I went through a lot of drill bits.”

Don has used his love for woodworking to make several special creations for the basement playroom, including a play kitchen, a large, hand-painted dollhouse and storage cubbies for children’s dress-up clothes. He’s enlisted the help of several family members, including a grandson and daughter, in making the items. He’s also made smaller items for a benefit silent auction for Our Lady’s Inn.

The Narys, members of Assumption Parish in South County, said they’re happy to help out wherever needed at Our Lady’s Inn, which provides shelter and support for women who choose life for their babies. The couple has driven mothers to doctor’s appointments, helped with child care, kept the food pantry and clothing room organized, served meals and answered the phone.

“There’s always something to do, something going on,” Don said. “And the staff here … I can’t say enough about them. They’re very dedicated, knowledgeable, they’re firm when they need to and they do it with loving care. It’s not just a place where people come and stay.”

Al Nary already had been retired for several years, and Don was retired about two years when they joined Ignatian Volunteer Corps. Al read about program in the St. Louis Review. “We both enjoyed a very healthy and happy work life, and we just wanted to help give back,” said Don, who worked for 43 years as an engineer at McDonnell Douglas, later Boeing. Al, who worked in the health care field for more than 40 years, has volunteered elsewhere, including with several hospice programs.

Don said the Ignatian Volunteer Corps is more than just volunteering in the community. “We get together once a month and talk about different topics,” he said. It’s great to get different viewpoints. It’s a mutual group of people who have the same goal in mind. Then we go back out and do our thing.”

Our Lady’s Inn executive director Peggy Forrest said that clients notice the personal touches that the Narys have given to the home. She recalled a staff member who spoke with a client who had recently moved in. “She said that this was the nicest room she’s ever had,” Forrest recalled. “She loved it and was so thankful to be here.”

Al said she appreciates the mission of Our Lady’s Inn in helping women and their children to have a stable future. Clients receive case management services and participate in workshops on parenting, nutrition, employment readiness, educational preparedness and stress management, among other topics.

“This is not just a place where you come and get meals and have a bed,” Al said. “When you see them come in — and many of them come in different states (of life) — to see them transform, it’s just beautiful to see.”

Ignatian Volunteer Corps

The Ignatian Volunteer Corps offers semi-retired and retired women and men an opportunity to serve others, pray and reflect together as a small community and grow spiritually. Using their talents and professional life experiences, volunteers commit to serve one or two days a week.

There are nearly 50 volunteers who are contributing eight to 16 hours of service a week at 21 partner agencies and schools in the St. Louis area.

Volunteers meet monthly as a community for prayer, conversation and reflection in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality. Each volunteer also meets monthly with a spiritual reflector to talk about their service experiences in light of their faith.

To learn more about the program, contact regional director Sister Amy Diesen, OSF, at (314) 361-7765, ext. 147; or email [email protected].

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