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Turlock woman makes slippers, afghans for local seniors
Donna Oppelt (left) delivers slippers she handmade along with Santa (Ken Hood) to residents of Elness Convalescent Hospital in December 2009. This year Oppelt made afghans for residents of Las Palmas Estates. - photo by Journal file photo

Donna Oppelt doesn’t consider herself an angel among us. She just does what she feels is the right thing to do. The Kiwanis Club of Turlock, however, considers Oppelt an outstanding volunteer worthy of recognition.

Oppelt was awarded Kiwanian of the Year in 2010. She managed this feat by crocheting 537 pairs of slippers, enough for every pair of feet in five local senior living centers. She and her team of three Santas and seven elves gave the slippers to elderly folks in Turlock who might not have received another Christmas gift that year.

This year, Oppelt knitted afghans instead of slippers. She will donate 22 of them to her church, and the other 78 will go to Las Palmas Estates residential center in Turlock.  

Each pair of slippers and each afghan was hand crocheted by Oppelt. She considers herself a night owl, and she does most of her crocheting in the evening.

“It gives me something to do while I watch TV,” Oppelt said.

The idea to make so many pairs of slippers came from Oppelt’s Kiwanis Club. She said that the club planned to donate packaged socks to the retirement centers.

“I said ‘hey I can make these myself’ so I did that instead,” Oppelt said.

Since joining the Kiwanis Club two years ago, Oppelt has taken many opportunities to volunteer.

“When I first joined I had a finger in everything. I felt like I had to get involved. I think that’s why they made me Kiwanian of the Year, because I was willing to do whatever,” Oppelt joked. “Now I know there are things I don’t belong involved in. Like the golf tournament. I’m just not good at golf!”

Oppelt has found other ways to get involved in Kiwanis that do not involve golfing. She taught theater for 23 years, and she has put that stage knowledge to use at the Kiwanis and 12:10 Lions Club Halloween Maze for the last few years. Oppelt is the head witch in the haunted maze.

“I like to give back to the community, but there are certain ways everyone is better suited to volunteer. You find your little niches where you belong,” she said.

In addition to her Kiwanis volunteer experience, Oppelt is also involved in the Friends of the Turlock Library. She has been a board member for the organization for the last few months, and helps out in the newly opened Friends book store inside of the Turlock Library.  She has been involved in the annual book sale to benefit Friends of the Turlock Library for the past few years. The books that do not sell every year are packed up and sent to Ghana. She said that Ike Essuman, owner of Ike’s Appliance, does the actual packaging and sends the books.

“I’m just involved in getting all of those books out of the Methodist Church after the sale. We send a good number of books every year,” Oppelt said.

Oppelt has been involved in the Turlock community for many years. She taught at Turlock High School, and was the first president of the Crowell Elementary School PTA.

“I’ve always been community oriented. It just feels like the right thing to do,” she said.

The next thing on Oppelt’s “to do” list is to distribute the 100 afghans she made. Then she will focus her energy on the Friends of the Turlock Library book sale in January. Even with all of this on her plate, Oppelt doesn’t feel at all burdened by the time commitment of being a community volunteer.

“At least it gives me something to do,” she said.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.