Keith and Evie Burger, have made volunteering a lifelong endeavor. Active volunteers in their church, community organizations and beyond, they have been named Black Creek’s 2018 Citizens of the Year by Black Creek Advancement Association. They will be honored for their work at a banquet at the River Rail in Shiocton on Sunday, June 10.
– Photo courtesy Black Creek Advancement Association.
For two people who consider themselves new to the area, Keith and Evie Burger sure have made an impact on Black Creek. In their “short” 38 years here, they’ve been and continue to be leaders in their church, service organizations and community groups. They are generous with their time, talent and treasure. Through it all they work tirelessly behind the scenes to help everyday people. For this work and a whole lot more we’re pretty sure this unassuming couple doesn’t talk about, the Burgers have been named Black Creek’s Citizens of the Year for 2018.
When a member of Black Creek Advancement Association, which sponsors the annual award, finally tracked down this busy couple to give them the good news they were, not surprisingly, volunteering.
“If I had been told first,” Keith said later, “I wouldn’t have accepted it. There are a whole lot more people who do more for the community!”
Luckily, Evie was spotted first, working in the back room at the Salvation Army building on Hwy. 54. In her characteristic even-handed tone, she simply said “Well, that’s something.”
It certainly is.
Though neither of them is a Black Creek native — Keith was born in Shawano, grew up on a farm and graduated from Suring High School while Evie grew up on a farm near Oneida and graduated from Pulaski High School — they are firmly entrenched in Black Creek’s volunteer scene. Evie started teaching religious education at St. Mary’s Catholic Church when the couple’s children — Dennis, Wendy, Karen and Andy — were growing up. Keith also started his local volunteering at St. Mary’s, serving as a confirmation teacher. The church continues to be at the center of most of the couple’s community service activities to this day.
“Heaven’s an eternal banquet,” Evie says. “You know what we’re doing. We’re following Jesus’ example.”
But perhaps we should take a brief step back and look at what is probably the couple’s greatest achievement. With Dennis (age at the time 8) and Karen (5) at home, Keith and Evie chose to raise their niece and nephew, Wendy (7) and Andy (5) Anderson, when Evie’s sister Mary died unexpectedly. It was no doubt a serious commitment under difficult circumstances, but one the couple undertook with an amazing outlook.
“They’re all our kids,” Keith says all these years later. “They were family and we volunteered for the long haul,” Evie adds.
So with their family in tow, the Burgers were busy. Keith worked all over the state during his career with Wisconsin Bell/AT&T. Evie worked for Wisconsin Bell, then stayed home to raise the kids until they were middle school age, then went back to Fox Valley Tech to get an accounting degree. She eventually retired from McMahon & Associates. Throughout all of it, the couple remained active volunteers.
In addition to her work in religious ed, Evie was a Girl Scout leader and service unit manager, volunteering that led her to become widely known throughout the county as Black Creek’s Cookie Lady. Keith’s year as a confirmation teacher led to a role as a Eucharistic minister, service on the church’s parish council, and a long stint as a lector, something he continues to do today.
“I’ve been waiting 35 years or so for someone to replace me,” he likes to joke of that last role, something he originally took on to help Father Thad Koszarek at the last minute.
Today Keith can be found serving mass and washing dishes at funerals; he has helped with lawncare at the church and cemetery and works alongside Evie at most of the congregation’s ice cream socials, wine tastings and other events.
“Father Thad got me involved,” Keith explains. “We needed something to fill those hours besides working.”
And fill those hours they do. Though the couple had always made food and other donations to the local Salvation Army, Keith started helping onsite every other week when he retired. That eventually became a weekly commitment and together the couple now volunteers there every Monday — sometimes more often — helping with food distribution and moving, stocking and consolidating donations.
Keith says he really enjoys his role as deputy grand knight with the local Knights of Columbus unit that encompasses parishes in Black Creek, Seymour, Isaar and Navarino. His work with this group has him helping with the annual Tootsie Roll drive and two brat frys, a task he repeats on behalf of the Friends of Black Creek Village Library. Keith, it turns out, has kitchen skills: he’s also been known to bake for the library’s annual Book & Bake Sale, another service effort he shares with Evie.
For her part, Evie credits Catherine Goetz, a school friend of over 50 years, as a driving force in her volunteer story. Catherine was a Girl Scout leader in Seymour at the same time Evie was involved in scouting in Black Creek. This is just one facet of a lifelong friendship based in community service of all sorts. Together they volunteer through Kohl’s Cares, Ben’s Wish, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Community Family Resource Center and a number of other organizations in the area. If you attend a fundraiser, there’s a good chance you’ll see Evie and Catherine working behind the scenes.
And the list could go on and on. Keith’s first service effort was with the U.S. Navy from 1965-69; today Evie is active with Black Creek’s American Legion Auxiliary unit. She can also be seen volunteering at Green Bay Botanical Garden and recently donated her 17th gallon of blood through the American Red Cross. “I only donate my tired blood!” she jokes.
Despite all of it, the couple says their kids like to tease them they lead “such a boring life.” But they insist this just isn’t true.
“This would be a job if it wasn’t so much fun,” Evie says, explaining that she and Keith both like the people they meet and volunteer with as well. “And I think that leads to the best part: the good feeling, not only that we keep busy, but we get the good feeling that comes from helping people, too.”
Keith and Evie will be honored as Black Creek’s 2018 Citizens of the Year with a dinner and program at River Rail Bar & Banquet Hall, Shiocton, on Sunday, June 10. Tickets are now available for $16 each at Fox Communities Credit Union and BMO Harris Bank. For more information, contact Teresa at 984-3130.
Black Creek Advancement Association