Written by JACK CARLE Sentinel Sports Editor
Saturday, 22 March 2014 08:08
In his 13 years as the parish administrator for St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Don Neifer has been able to get a lot of things done with the help of the parish community.
|Don Neifer at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
''I have always had a heart for helping other folks; somebody who hasn't had the opportunities I have had,'' Neifer said.
''There is so much need in the community and of course a lot of that would come into the church office,'' he added.
A humble man, Neifer plans to retire on March 30, but that doesn't mean he will be giving up all his volunteer and advocacy work.
He said the decision to retire shocked a lot of people, but it's time to step aside and to be able to say no for a while.
The 1966 Otsego High School graduate plans to continue to work with the church, the American Cancer Society, Bridge Hospice, Coalition of Care for Wood County, and Wood Lane Industries.
"I'm just really looking forward to when I do volunteer, I can give myself to that volunteer, as opposed to trying to fit it in between my real job and my family,'' Neifer said.
''This job became a lot of night meetings, weekends, whenever somebody wanted me to be here, I would be here,'' he added.
Neifer, who grew up on a farm near Weston, said his parents were active members of St. Mark's and they were part of getting the current church building on South College Avenue started.
After high school, Neifer attended Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., and then served in the U.S. Army.
After being discharged, Neifer worked in sales for Kmart. He then returned to Bowling Green and worked for Cain's Potato Chips for 16 years.
After Cain's closed, Neifer did home improvement work for eight years.
''One day I was painting ceilings off an 18-foot scaffolding, and the next day I had an office at the church,'' he said. ''It was a big transition.''
At St. Mark's, Neifer was in charge of the building and grounds for the 35,000-square-foot facility. He also had financial and personnel responsibilities.
''Technically anything that had to do with the business of the church was mine,'' Neifer said.
''I had done so many things, it just kind of fit,'' he added.
Over time, Neifer and the parish reached out to help the community.
''I was taking care of the pastor's discretionary fund ... so I got to know a lot of community folks - The Link and those kinds of people, because they would send me people, and we would talk about needs,'' Neifer said.
He then was asked to stand in for the pastor for Home Aid, which is now the homeless coalition and ''it kind of snowballed from there,'' Neifer said. ''All of a sudden I was connected with all the agencies and all the folks in town.
''Folks got to know that I was a guy who could get them directed to different places ... being able to connect folks; just evolved.''
The community involvement was important for the church, Neifer said.
''Ultimately we come here to worship and be filled, but then we are sent out into the world to make a difference in Christ's name. That's what St. Mark's is all about,'' Neifer said. ''We even do that through our building, we share and care.
''We have a lot of folks in and out of this building who see what we believe in. That's not being about ourselves, that's being about others.''
Neifer said the dedicated staff at St. Mark's also played a major role in all the projects.
Leaving St. Mark's will definitely be emotional, Neifer said.
''I know I made a difference, especially through the (American) Cancer Society,'' he added. ''I don't sit around and think about that, but I would certainly like to think that efforts from all these folks I have been a part of, we have made, collectively, a difference.''
Neifer and his wife are looking forward to traveling around the United States.
''We have a couple of major trips planned. Some of them to see some friends who have moved away, and have asked us to come down. So we've divided up the states,'' he said.
An open house for Neifer is planned for March 30 from 1 to 3 p.m. at St. Mark's.
Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 11:31