Verla Redger of Hillsboro was 51 years old when she began her first job Nov. 1, 1979, in the dietary department of Parkside Homes in Hillsboro.
Little did she know that her outstanding work ethic would garnish accolades from the state — but it did.
Redger was chosen as the recipient of the Kansas 2010 Outstanding Older Worker Award.
Sponsored by Kansas Department of Commerce Workforce Services, nominees must demonstrate outstanding qualities of leadership, dedication, and commitment. They also must be 55 years old or older, a resident of Kansas, and work at least 20 hours a week in paid employment.
When the manager of adult and youth services Susan Weidenbach called and said Redger had won, Redger was elated.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Redger said. “It can’t be me. There are others here at Parkside who are more deserving.”
The unassuming and bubbly woman isn’t quite sure what all of the fuss is about. She’s never had this much attention before.
Redger was a farmer’s daughter, and lived on the family farm northwest of Durham. She lived the farm life, helping her parents with the chores — bucking hay and milking cows — developing a strong work ethic.
Later, Redger cleaned homes and helped care for others before she was hired by Parkside Homes.
The 82-year-old works six hours a day, five days a week, loving every minute of it and seeing no reason to slow down.
“God has a lot to do with it,” Redger said with a smile. “Living on a farm most of my life made me strong.”
A healthy person, Redger said she stays healthy by being busy.
While most people can’t wait to retire, Redger looks forward to coming to work.
“I love working in the kitchen,” she said.
Her supervisor, Bob Sprowls, is proud to have her as an employee.
Redger has been one of the most consistent and dependable employees Parkside has had, Sprowls said. She regularly earns weekly perfect attendance bonuses, awarded to those who are not late or absent from a scheduled shift.
Besides her work ethic, Sprowls said Redger has a love of life, comparable to or better than someone half her age.
“(Every day) Verla comes to work with a friendly greeting and a smile for everyone she meets,” he said. “She models perseverance through hard times and quality workmanship to our younger employees.”
“I’ve always had an upbeat personality and sense of humor,” Redger said. “I got that from my mother.”
Redger started as a dishwasher with a sink of water and dish soap. These days, washing dishes means rinsing utensils and plates and placing them in an automatic washer.
“I still love washing dishes,” she said.
Besides a couple of breaks throughout the day, Redger is on her feet during her shift, which doesn’t seem to bother her. She still has a spring in her step and walks as if she is on a mission.
When she’s not working, she enjoys visiting friends and family, often going out to eat with them. She used to embroider and she may pick it up again, when she has more time.
Redger enjoys reading novels with historical facts and reading inspirational stories, but she dismisses being an inspiration to others.
“She’s our cheerleader in the kitchen,” Sprowls said.
“I’m just lucky. The Lord has blessed me,” Redger said.
Redger’s friend, Alfrieda Funk, will drive the two of them to Topeka on Thursday so Redger can accept her award.
A ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by a luncheon at Topeka Zoological Park, 635 S.W. Gate Boulevard.