Ever-ready volunteer tends to many tasks
Paul Eliason, of Princeton, may be retired, but he shows nary a sign of slowing down. A man of few words with a boyish grin, he’s one of Princeton’s vital volunteers.
The lively worker can be found at the Catholic Charities Senior Dining site five days a week, scraping plates and emptying the trash during midday meals. He also collects cardboard there and then breaks down, folds and otherwise consolidates it. It is stored in a closet, and on the second weekend of the month, Eliason totes it to the Girl Scouts’ recycling bin in the Shopko parking lot. He estimated that the current stack would make two carloads.
Eliason said with a smile, “I could fit it in one load if I had a truck.”
Senior Dining coordinator Brigitte Johnson said about him, “He does just about anything you ask.”
Several agree he is a skilled, resourceful handyman as well, always fixing things and helping however he can. Besides the plate scraping and cardboard collecting, Eliason is one of the people who goes around to the local grocery stores collecting nearly expired food for distribution. Six days a week, he collects and delivers the bread, baked goods and other items to the Princeton Pantry food shelf and to the seniors’ dining hall.
The 89-year-old said he has lived in Princeton for 40 years. Eliason is a Marine veteran who was stationed during the Korean War in Korea, where he was assigned to motor-pool duty and often drove as a chauffeur. Though not after dark, he drives around Princeton for various activities, such as the Community Table dinner, visits with friends at Elim, bread collection, cardboard recycling and other errands.
Many people observe the volunteer’s extra help around the complex where he lives, The Oaks Apartments. The property manager and residents say he steps in wherever needed and gives rides to those who must get to the doctor, the food shelf, the store and other appointments. Eliason takes out trash and recycling, salts the driveway and sidewalk in bad weather, brushes snow off parked cars and usually checks at night to be sure all the doors are locked and lights are turned off.
He serves as the caller at nearly every bingo game at the Oaks, so the manager said he never gets to win any money. He is also known for helping be a good party host; on days when there is a celebration planned, he goes to the room and sets tables, washes dishes and makes sure everything is ready for the party.
Before he retired, Eliason said he worked in many different jobs including as a block-laying mason, a cement finisher and as a logger who felled trees. He doesn’t fish anymore, but when he did, he enjoyed trying to catch pan fish.
He said he doesn’t feel like his volunteer activities are really much work. He just likes to stay active and help.