DOING GOD’S WORK — Charlan Priel is pictured, turning her Hike 4 Hunger money to Jeanne Frank at Sprague Brook Park. Priel raised more than $800, to help the Southern Tier Food Pantry and community kitchen.
SPRINGVILLE — At 71 years old, Bliss resident Charlan Priel has been urged by many to retire and put up her feet. Several years ago, Priel’s own mother told her that it was time to sit back and relax.
But the former Springville resident and Springville-Griffith Institute graduate said that she is simply not ready to stop doing God’s work.
Priel spent several years in Tonawanda, before her parents, Joseph and Ruth Maul, moved their growing family to the Southtowns. While her mother worked as a bus driver for the S-GI School District and her father sold TVs for a living, Priel said her parents still found time to teach their children the importance of reaching out to others.
“Through my parents, God gave me the desire to love and help,” Priel said. “They gave a lot of their time, just like I’m doing.”
Priel and her husband Ron have their hands full, with the 100 rabbits that live on the couple’s farm. Together, they raised a family and have been rewarded by seeing their children grow and follow in their parents’ footsteps.
Saying she never forgot or forsook the values her parents stressed, Priel continued to look for ways to help other people. She spent many years volunteering at the Arcade Christian Community Care Center and later started a Warsaw clothing store called Hands and Hearts Together.
“I wanted to do it for mental patients,” she said, “to break that stigma.”
During Priel’s time at the Arcade ministry, she was asked about her life’s mission. “I told them simply that it was the Beatitudes,” she said.
“Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and take care of sick people. It just blossomed from there.”
Priel has also spent nearly 40 years volunteering for Knights of Columbus Bingo at The Pines of Machias. She also volunteers for the Springville auction, loading, unloading and helping to sort the auction items.
HELPING OTHERS — Charlan Priel is pictured with her first place award for raising the most money for the Trading Post’s Hike 4 Hunger. Photos provided by Linette Crelly.
Several years ago, Priel brought her mother to the Springville Trading Post, to take advantage of its free food offerings. While she was there, “I told them that I wanted to help them,” she said.
The Trading Post held its first Hike 4 Hunger in 2010, with Priel as the driving force. That year, she single-handedly raised $300 to help the hungry. In 2012, that number increased to $500. That year, she dedicated the walk to her recently-deceased mother.
On May 19, Priel raised $854, during what has become an annual hike.
She credited the parishioners of both the East Arcade and the Arcade St. Mary’s Roman Catholic churches, for helping her reach that monetary mark. “On Sundays after church, I would stop people and ask them to help me feed the hungry,” she said.
Hike 4 Hunger was held in Sprague Brook Park. Participants could choose to hike either 1 or 3 miles, depending on their skill levels.
“I always walk a lot,” said Priel, who has always walked the 3 miles. “I am walking, constantly.”
The Springville post acknowledged Priel as its No. 1 donor and awarded her with a certificate, in recognition of her accomplishments.
Despite her zeal to help others and her determination to continue her parents’ values by giving to those less fortunate, Priel experienced what could have been a setback, prior to this spring’s hike.
“I have sugar diabetes and, last winter, I lost feeling in my feet,” she said. “The doctor said, ‘We’re going to have to amputate your feet.’ I said, ‘No you’re not. I have a hike coming up.’”
Priel said that she did a lot of praying for the feeling to return to her limbs, last winter. The arrival of warm weather also brought sensation back into her feet, and Priel was able to once again participate in Hike 4 Hunger.
The volunteer said that she hopes other people in the community will look inside themselves to see what they can do, to help others. “I want to encourage people to use what they have,” she said. “If they can’t walk, they can contribute toward helping someone else.”
Priel said that she was disappointed that so few individuals showed up, to participate in this year’s Hike 4 Hunger, but said that a sermon she recently heard at church kept her motivated.
“Jesus was going out and preaching and, if no one accepted him, he told his disciples to brush off their sandals and move on,” she said. “I just kept that in mind and kept going.
“I’m doing God’s work,” she added, explaining why she loves to help other people. “I don’t go out and evangelize but, by helping someone else, I’m doing God’s work.”
The volunteer and a crew also maintain the gardens at the two St. Mary’s churches. “I’m Jesus’ gardener,” she said. “I’m planting flowers for all to enjoy.”
Although Ruth Maul, Priel’s mother, who died at age 94, remained active throughout her life, she urged her daughter to slow down and take some time for herself.
“Retire? No,” Priel said. “I don’t need a rocking chair. I’m just going to keep plugging along.”
Saying that she is praying that she will still have the use of her feet, next spring, Priel said that her goal is to continue raising money for the hungry, during Springville’s Hike 4 Hunger.
She added that her ultimate wish would be to see a branch of the Trading Post open, near her Bliss home. “I would love to do that,” she said. “Yes, that is my goal.”
To volunteer at the Springville Trading Post, call 592-4455 or visit www.fellowshiphill.org
. Next year’s Hike 4 Hunger will be held on May 18 at Sprague Brook Park.