The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 17, 2013

'You find a niche' | Westmont retiree believes in volunteering

JOHNSTOWN — Betty Gritzer of Westmont believes that when it comes to volunteerism, she has no reason to say no.

The 66-year-old spends Tuesdays working with the Daisy Girl Scouts of Troop 40928 at Westmont Hilltop Elementary School and with girls ages 11-19 at the Rise and Shine mentoring program at the YWCA of Greater Johnstown.

Gritzer is co-leader for the Girl Scout troop for those in kindergarten and first grade, which meets after classes in the school library twice a month.

She began with the Westmont Daisy troop last fall when it was without a leader.

“I enjoy working with the young girls,” Gritzer said. “I won’t deprive them of that experience.”

History with Scouting

Although she was never a Girl Scout, Gritzer has a history with Scouting dating from 1974 when her daughter wanted to be a Brownie and had no troop leader.

From 2002 to 2010, she was troop leader for girls who met at the YWCA, taking them from Brownies to Juniors, which is fifth-grade level.

Through the years, Gritzer has served as manager for quality sales production, nut and candy and cookie sales and on the program team for events.

A woman she became friends with in 1974 asked her to help at the Girl Scout’s day camp, Camp Conshatawba in Summerhill, and Gritzer worked there for 10 years.

She serves as volunteer registrar for Westmont and Greater Johnstown troops, deciding the best troop for incoming girls and organizing and keeping tabs on the troops.

Gritzer is on the history committee to preserve the past by archiving old photographs and uniforms, and went to a conference in New York City to learn how to do it.

She visited Savannah, Ga., home of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, for Girl Scouting’s 100th anniversary last year and is a member of Trefoil alumni leaders, for those with at least 10 years experience as a Girl Scout leader.

‘It just grows’

“You find a niche, and it just grows,” Gritzer said. “I’m still friends with some of the people I met in 1974.”

Mary Parson, executive director at the YWCA,  met Gritzer when they led a Girl Scout troop together.

“I think it has been not quite 10 years,” Parson said. “You don’t have to worry about anything if Betty is doing it. She’s very detailed and organized.”

When Gritzer was a stay-at-home mom with her two daughters, she volunteered as a secretary handling vouchers in the office at St. Vincent de Paul.

The Rise and Shine mentoring program meets weekly at the YWCA, 526 Somerset St. in the Kernville section of Johnstown.

Listening to girls’ concerns

Gritzer talks with about 15 girls who don’t usually have the opportunity to voice their concerns outside of their environment.

“The girls are free to talk about life and what is bothering them,” Gritzer said.

“There is no subject we won’t discuss. I’ve seen some of them speak up and come out of their shell.”

The group does crafts and service projects and gets a snack, but one week a month they get to choose what they want to eat for a full meal and another week they can swim in the YWCA’s pool.

Gritzer has been working with the program, which receives contacts through schools and the Johnstown Christian Home, for about three years.

At the YWCA, she also has volunteered with spaghetti dinners once a month, a one-time fundraiser making apple dumplings, the Kernville garage sale and hosting Biker Build, a group of young adults who biked from coast to coast.

“We were a resting place for them,” Gritzer said.

“We gave them dinner and they could sleep and use the pool, then we gave them breakfast.”

Tribute to Women

Gritzer also helps with the YWCA’s Tribute to Women every year, reading and evaluating the nominations sent in.

On the day of the event, she’s in charge of the reception table, finding guests’ name tags and seating arrangements.

Gritzer also has been a YWCA member since 2003, participating in water-walking classes and yoga.

“I’m not content to stay home, so I’m not a stay-at-home senior,” she said.

“Volunteering gives me something to talk about.”

‘Liked to bake’

Before her retirement, Gritzer owned and worked at the Lovin’ Oven Bakery on Fairfield Avenue in the West End section of Johnstown without the help of any other employees except an occasional family member.

“I had fun,” she said.

“I always liked to bake. I was trained as a secretary and was working as a Kelly Girl at the vo-tech when I saw they had adult education for culinary arts.”

After graduating in 1990, Gritzer’s first job was a pastry chef at what is now City View Restaurant, where she worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift with no two days off in a row.

It was then she opened the Lovin’ Oven to make her own wedding cakes and cookies.

10,000 cookies

“I put 10,000 cookies through my oven in the first year,” Gritzer said.

Because of the demand for her baked goods on weekends and the fact that her husband worked during the week and was off on weekends, Gritzer retired from the bakery business.

She also used her culinary talents at the former St. Rochus Roman Catholic Church, where she said she was always in the kitchen making gobs and nut rolls and working at fish fries.

She and her husband, John, are now members of Our Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, where she sometimes helps to make nut rolls.

Enjoys reading

When she isn’t volunteering, Gritzer enjoys reading historical fiction and murder mysteries.

Two of her favorite authors are John Grisham and Stephen King.

“I’m a read-a-holic,” she said.

“Once I start reading, I can’t quit until I’m finished. I sometimes go to 3 in the morning.”

Gritzer also enjoys jigsaw puzzles and has recently started to learn how to play mahjong.

“A group meets at the library, and my husband and I do it together,” she said.

Gritzer’s two daughters are married and live out of state, Christine in Columbus, Ohio, and Catherine in Jacksonville, Fla.

She has two granddaughters in Florida, and one is a Daisy Scout.

“She just loves it,” Gritzer said.

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