Volunteer Spotlight: Bill Silk



Summertime is for parties, vacations, time with family and friends and above all: COOK OUTS! Martha’s Choice Marketplace is no exception, and this summer, just a few weeks ago, the community of volunteers was buzzing as the cook out unfolded. Among the chattering group of folks, burgers in hand, was the man who made it all possible, Bill.

Bill is awesome.

Not just because he organized the cookout, is a regular volunteer and always has a warm and welcoming “hello” for anyone who crosses his path, Bill is awesome because he radiates that kind of “pay-it-forward” love of neighbor that makes everybody around him want to be better. When I asked him what motivates him to volunteerism he shared, “I was very fortunate in life, God has been good to me: wonderful wife, beautiful family, I feel like I am obligated to pay back.” And he does. With a joy that is almost tangible. He’s a jokester, and enjoys getting a rise out of pantry staff, Patrick and Eli and other volunteers at Martha’s.

A long-time parishioner of St. Paul’s Parish, where Martha’s Choice Marketplace and Catholic Social Services of Montco is located, Bill knew about the pantry for many years, long before it became a choice model. He said that the switch to “choice” last summer was really the decision point for him. “I thought it was a great idea,” he recalls, “It gives the clients a chance to pick out their own food. It gives them a little more of a sense of themselves.” So last November, only a few months after the transition to a choice market pantry, Bill found himself a cog in the well-oiled machine of daily pantry operation. Almost a year later, he is an old pro, but still feels that same excitement to be involved as he did back in the fall. “I see now that everyone wants to help each other…all for one cause. All the volunteers are so great. And when people come through the departments I can see they are very appreciative. When people say ‘thank you for your help’ it makes it all so worthwhile. This is how I feel about everybody there, everyone is wonderful.”

But this isn’t Mr. Silk’s first rodeo, people. Bill is no stranger to volunteerism. With over 15 years under his belt working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters he has sponsored four children during that time, taking them out to ball games, parks, and tons of other great outings, which no doubt left those four kids changed for the better. On top of that, and his work at the pantry, Bill is also involved with the Boy Scouts of America. He’s been with the Scouts for about three years now and is the Assistant Scout Master at Epiphany of Our Lord Church in Plymouth Meeting. A former Boy Scout himself, he’s the Practical Skills Instructor teaching everything from electrical work to table manners! A lost art, but necessary for impressing the ladies, he jokes! “I always tease ‘em: So you can put a tent up in 10 minutes? Girls don’t wanna hear that! They wanna know if you can open their door and pull out their chair for them!” He chuckles.

At 70 years young, Bill is enjoying retirement after 42 years in HVAC (he retired at the tender age of 64 and hasn’t slowed down since!). He worked hard, in all kinds of weather, averaging about 600 homes a year. His work ethic from his days in HVAC has most certainly carried over into his total dedication to the volunteerism he shares with Martha’s Choice Marketplace today.

He could not say enough about the staff at Martha’s and Catholic Social Services, and went on about how much he appreciated the volunteers. This is what impressed me most about listening to Bill during our interview: he spent a large majority of his time singing the praises of the people in his life—his wonderful, beautiful wife of 43 years, Barbara; his daughter Alexis that he could not be more proud of; and of course his two beautiful grandchildren who light up his life, his friends at the pantry, and God, to whom he gave all the credit. This man is full of gratitude.

For Patrick Walsh, the manager of the pantry, when the idea of honoring a volunteer every month with a Spotlight Column came up, Bill was the obvious first choice. His commitment, unwavering positivity, sense of humor and appreciation for others makes him a joy to work with. Of all the thing that make Bill so extraordinary, what is most impressive of all is that Bill is always pointing the spotlight off himself and onto others. This is more of that amazing “pay-it-forward” quality that I first noticed in Bill as I got to know him. He is a man with a true servant’s heart, who is always looking out to the other, ready to help, listen, or share a joke with.

Oh…did I mention he does a killer Elvis impersonation?

But you’re gonna have to visit the pantry to get a glimpse of that! Hope to see you there to meet Bill and the other incredible volunteers at Martha’s Choice Marketplace.