ROYAL CENTER — He’s a former Lions Club president who helps take a donkey on tours of nursing homes and the Veterans Home each Christmastime. She’s a regular sight in her daughter’s Pioneer Elementary classroom.
And both say they volunteer because “it’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Bill and Mary Lou Foerg, a retired Royal Center couple, were nominated for the Pharos-Tribune’s “Good Neighbor” award by Mary Lou Foerg’s sister Judy Graham, who lives in Lucerne.
“They have a servant’s heart they share with a lot of people,” Graham wrote in her nomination letter. She described a variety of organizations and projects the Foergs have been involved in, ranging from activities at their church, St. James Lutheran Church in Logansport, to participation in the Royal Center Lions Club and independent volunteer efforts, like helping with outdoor maintenance for friends in need.
The Foergs, whose surname rhymes with “burg,” didn’t grow up in Royal Center — Bill is from Pulaski County originally, and Mary Lou grew up in Fulton County. They settled in Cass County in the early ‘70s and moved to Royal Center in 1979.
They’ve been involved at St. James Lutheran since about 1976, estimated Bill Foerg.
That’s far longer than the current pastor, K.C. Dehning, has been in the area — Dehning began leading the congregation in June 2009. But he’s seen the Foergs’ dedication to their roles.
Bill Foerg is an elder in the church and heads up the team of ushers. Mary Lou Foerg coordinates the church’s funeral dinners. And the two co-chair St. James’ missions committee, directing plans for several bake sales throughout the year and leading the committee when it decides at the end of the year what ministry to direct funds raised to.
“If we have a need, we can call on them and they’re there,” said Dehning. “They’re willing to help out on just about anything.”
And they don’t do it for the thanks, he added.
“They’re not grandiose in any sort of way,” said Dehning. “They will help when it’s needed and they really don’t want recognition for it. ... They’re just humble people.”
The Foergs almost declined being interviewed about their volunteer work. They’d been taken by surprise when they learned Graham nominated them for Good Neighbors.
“God and our church is the main reason we do a lot of the things we do,” said Bill Foerg.
“If you can help people, you’re supposed to help people. You’re not supposed to get praise for it.”
Bill Foerg was president of the Royal Center Lions Club for five years, stepping down just this year. Through the Lions, he got involved in building a pavilion at the Royal Center Park, as well as plans for decorating the town for the Fourth of July and Christmas, carrying out eye exams at kindergarten roundup at Pioneer Elementary and taking a donkey named Nicodemus to nursing homes around the area at Christmastime.
“It’s just like bringing a dog in,” explained Bill Foerg. “People hug him ... he’s very soothing.”
When Bill Foerg and another Lions member take Nicodemus to the Veterans Home in Lafayette, they bring along a small cart, too, which Nicodemus pulls, delighting the veterans at the facility. Other times, the donkey is saddled with a basket of Christmas cards to distribute.
A few months later, he’ll be found ferrying fish back and forth during Pioneer Days each June in Royal Center, when the Lions fry up fish as a fundraiser for the club’s community service projects.
While Bill Foerg is with the Lions, Mary Lou Foerg visits the third-grade classroom of the couple’s daughter, Kim Schroder, where she assists Schroder and other classroom staff with, in Graham’s words, “a friendly smile and her love for children.”
But Mary Lou Foerg credits her parents for instilling in her the importance of community service. Bill Foerg says the same about his parents. The two have tried to pass that value along to their three children, two of whom still live in Cass County.
“I don’t think anything we do is out of the ordinary,” said Mary Lou Foerg. “I think the rewards you get back — the friendships you make, they’re rewarding enough.”
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME