‘It always makes you feel good if you do a good deed. You learned that in Boy Scouts’

National Volunteer Week a good time to salute those like 90-year-old retiree, Don Corydon, who keeps busy at suburban recycling center.

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In his younger days as a recycling volunteer, back when he was in his early 80’s, retired banker Don Corydon said he would climb atop this box of scrap paper to stomp it down. Now he lets others do the job.

Mark Brown

Don Corydon volunteers six mornings a week, six months a year at the Crete Lions Club Recycling Center, rising before dawn most days to operate the loading dock doors and help out as needed on the sorting floor.

During the warmer half of the year you can find him on the golf course instead, except on Saturdays and rainy days when he’s back on duty at the recycling center.

Corydon’s fellow Lions Club members can forgive him for slacking off a little during the summer. After all, he’s 90.

This is National Volunteer Week, when we’re supposed to honor the people who step up to donate their time and effort to making our communities better.

Many of those who answer the call to volunteerism are retirees like Corydon, who left a career in banking 25 years ago expecting to fill his time with travel and golf, eventually finding he needed something more.

For six years, he volunteered as a greeter in the emergency room at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, until his wife, Barbara, got sick and needed his full-time care for two years. 

After her death 10 years ago, Corydon decided he would volunteer at the recycling center.

“You can’t just sit around and say: ‘World, entertain me!’” he explained.

Corydon’s volunteer efforts were brought to my attention by the folks at Village Woods, the retirement community where he lives, and I jumped at the chance to meet him.

When I arrived, though, Corydon was under the impression I’d made the trip to Crete to learn about the finer points of suburban-style recycling.

He adjusted quickly when I clarified I was there to write about him, but not before I learned the recycling center has no use for Styrofoam or oversized pallets and that the recycling price of cardboard has dropped from $125/ton to $65/ton during the past five years because of “politics” with China or that Corydon can use a crutch to reach high enough to help the forklift operator dump a bucket of scrap steel into the receptacles out back and that “every nickel we make goes back into the community,” mostly for scholarships.

Dressed in his soiled Crete Lions Club sweatshirt and orange work gloves, Corydon didn’t look much like a retired banker, but I got the impression he may have been an unconventional banker at that.

I suppose I got that idea half way through him telling the story of the time he personally repossessed a tugboat from a delinquent commercial borrower by hiring a ship’s captain to assist him with smuggling it out of the harbor.

All the workers at the Crete recycling facility are volunteers, although occasionally someone is “volunteered” through the court system as a way of working off a community service requirement, Corydon says.

Corydon clearly enjoys the camaraderie among the men amidst the nonstop bustle of activity.

“It’s the socialization that counts,” he said.

Corydon says he has three principles that guide him in retirement: “Not to be a burden to my children,” to make things easy (to eliminate stress) and “to give back.”

“It always makes you feel good if you do a good deed. You learned that in Boy Scouts,” he said of the giving back part.

Corydon says he learned the lesson about keeping it simple way back in high school, carrying it through Beloit College as a track athlete and through the Army during the Korean War.

“You can’t put too much pressure on yourself,” he said. “Don’t try to do too many things.”

That doesn’t preclude golf, which is Corydon’s passion, as well as his other source of “socialization.” 

He’s been golfing with the same buddies since the mid-1990s, currently at Lincoln Oaks. He said he’s carded three holes-in-one through the years and typically shoots 95 but can reach the mid-80s when the heat of summer loosens up the old joints.

“If I’d known I was going to live this long, I probably would have gone to Florida,” Corydon said, although with his four sons and eight grandchildren still in the area, it didn’t sound like he wanted to be anywhere else.

Every community relies on people like Corydon to coach its youth sports teams, feed the homeless, help out at the nursing homes and animal shelters and perform other vital services.

Sure, they already are receiving the benefits of feeling good about themselves and all that “socialization,” but they should know that we appreciate them, too.

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