A soft-spoken servant

By: 
Walter Sprague

Walter Sprague

Art and Culture Reporter

 

When the chaplaincy program was closed at the honor camp due to funding cuts after the outbreak of COVID, that didn’t stop Person of the Year candidate Ken Pitlick, who was the chaplain. He said he would step back into the position of chaplain if the opportunity came up, but meanwhile he continues to help other people and has plenty to occupy his time, including running the BREAD office for the past five years. 

With the current financial crisis the nation finds itself in, donations to BREAD are a concern. However, Pitlick has not had to worry about that too much. Before Thanksgiving this year, semitrailers full of contributions from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived at many food banks throughout the region, including Newcastle. Pitlick said that sometimes the shelves can become a little bare, but because of donations such as that one, they’ve never been too hard up.

“The generosity of the people in the community has also been a big help,” Pitlick said, “They’ve been exceptionally generous with money donations so that we can buy the things that haven’t been donated.”

He said most of the financial help comes by word of mouth. Sometimes he’ll find a donation of goods sitting outside the door of the food pantry. He has been astonished at how generous the people of Weston County, and especially Newcastle, have always been. He never has to ask for donations, he said, but they’re always here. Pitlick said he has great pride in the people of Newcastle and gives them much credit for how well they take care of their community.

He also credits the staff who work with him for much of the success of the BREAD office. People such as Shirley Harder and Shirley Nelson are why it works so well, he said.

“It’s the entire staff,” Pitlick said, “They are so dependable. If they have to be gone for some reason, they always make sure that somebody knows about it, and they find a fill in. I can’t say enough about the volunteers.”

Pitlick’s position is as a volunteer, but he puts in close to four hours a day, most days that the food pantry is open, and sometimes even a little more. He guesses it is close to 16 hours a week that he is in the office.

Pitlick’s reputation is high in the community. Both Harder and Nelson say that he is an excellent person to work with.

“He is easygoing,” Nelson said, “He always asks your opinion about what he needs to do.”

“We like helping people,” Harder said, “And he makes it so easy for us to do that.”

“When he took over from (the previous director), he had some big shoes to fill,” Nelson said.

Both said that he has filled those shoes in a big way. That has helped them realize their greatest joy — helping people who have a need.

“I try not to judge anybody,” Pitlick commented, “I try to be as friendly as I can be. I try to take care of the needs as best as I can.”

Pitlick loves this town, he said, and the longer he is here, the more amazed he is at the people.

“Anybody that needs help,” he noted, “It seems there’s always somebody to make sure that needs are met.”

The generosity of the people in the community astounds him.

“That is the real success behind the BREAD office,” he said, “the people who give so freely, without even being asked.”

Pitlick also takes care of bookkeeping for the Newcastle Ministerial Association. What once felt like a temporary job feels more permanent now, he said. But he doesn’t mind.

“The main thing the association helps with right now,” he said, “is house payments if a family gets behind, or a utility bill. Sometimes a person comes through town and needs a place to stay. We’ll get them a hotel room, make sure they are fed, things like that.”

One of his favorite things is the Christmas Appeal program, which provides some financial help for needy families around Christmas time.

“I can’t tell you the exact figure yet, this year,” he said of the money raised this year. “But it was close to $5,000.”

Pitlick also visits shut-ins, usually on Fridays. While the Manor is closed to visitors, for the most part, he said, they are doing as well as they can under the circumstances. But the program there has strict federal guidelines, which affects how much the association can do.

However, Mondell Heights is not under the same strict government controls.

“Mondell Heights is more open,” he says, “Of course, they have also just changed ownership as well.”

One of the most significant needs of elderly shut-ins is connecting with others, Pitlick said. He said loneliness is one of the most frequent complaints he hears. So he tries to fill that need as well.

When he sees a need, when he finds somebody lacking what they should not be short of, Pitlick works to fill that void, but he considers it a loving duty to do so. He said that his most immense joy in life is when he hears a thank you. But with the rising grocery prices and other stresses of life, he also feels that more is needed and that there is always something that can be done. That makes him the perfect candidate for Person of the Year.

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