Birthright volunteer is making a difference
At age 80, Joan Silverberg is just getting started as a volunteer at Birthright in Wentzville.
"I only started about six months ago. I'm still learning a lot," said the member of Sacred Heart Parish in Troy.
Some of the women come for help because they are determined to have their baby but need assistance, Silverberg said. Others are still open to various possibilities but are willing to listen to the reasons why choosing an alternative to abortion is best.
Earlier this summer when Silverberg celebrated her 80th birthday, some 100 of her close friends and family joined her and her husband, Dallas Barteau, for lunch in O'Fallon. They knew she would not want gifts for herself. Aware that she is an avid pro-life supporter, they asked guests to consider briniging an unwrapped item for a newborn baby to be donated in her honor to Birthright in Wentzville.
Silverberg was showered with baby clothes, blankets, diapers, toys and more with an estimated value of more than $1,000.
Silverberg has been a longtime volunteer at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-operated food pantry at her parish. She said she thought it best to move on to other volunteer efforts where she would not have to lift heavy items.
Silverberg and her first husband moved to Troy about 34 years ago. He died about 12 years ago. She remarried about eight years ago, and Dallas also was involved in helping the food pantry.
A late-blooming career as an educator gave Silverberg much satisfaction. She had attended two years of college before getting married and raising six children. When the youngest was in kindergarten she went back to college part-time and took seven years to complete her degree.
She taught for a year at Sacred Heart, then some nine years in Silex before returning to Sacred Heart as principal for five years.
"I liked teaching. I liked that better than being principal," she noted with a laugh. "But that was a new challenge."
Three of her children live in the Troy area, two live in Colorado and one in Arizona.
She enjoys her parish and goes to church nearly every day. For several years she was involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, a good fit since she had become a Catholic about a year after marrying her first husband.
She has only simple advice for other retirees. "As long as you're healthy and able, I think it's really good to be involved in something to feel like you're contributing to the world," Silverberg said.
Diane Grasilie, director of Birthright of Wentzville, said the clients get inspiration from Silverberg. "They're looking for a mother or grandmother figure to speak to. And she has a heart for pro-life, stepping out there and making a difference."
It's important to have volunteers of various age groups, Grasilie said.Retirees are especially helpful because they have flexible hours.
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