Helping out: Westminster member pitches in when he can

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2003

There is something special about schoolteachers, no matter what grade levels or categories of teaching they teach. They just don't know how to retire properly.

Take Howie Strey, for instance.

He moved to Austin in 1957 and taught chemistry and science at Austin High for 36 years. During that time, he also coached basketball and baseball.

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Strey retired from teaching in 1993, but did not stop working. Having been a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Austin for 25 years, he now sits on the board of their Deacons Committee with other committed volunteers, namely Duane Olsen, Mike Meier, Tommy Lerum, Kenny Dippell and Howard Nepp.

Even though a church has paid employees -- pastor, secretary and custodian -- there is a lot left to be done by volunteers. For a church to function well, it needs every able-bodied member's skills and talents to be applied. There is a men's group and a women's group at Westminster. The aim of those organizations, simply put, is Christian ministry within the church as well as outreach in the community.

One of the seasonal things Strey does is put up a large Christmas tree in the community room, and also the manger scene, which through the holidays can be viewed in the Westminster church lobby.

Since they needed better storage facilities for the seasonal decorations, he helped build some shelves in the basement.

Strey is also the one who puts together a breakfast for the men, their wives and other guests. And then there are those special events when the office staff needs help with decorating for an hour or two.

Joann Winslow does great volunteer work, decorating and numerous other tasks around the church, Strey said.

"Other than that, we do it as it comes," Strey said. "We had a little trouble keeping a custodian, so I've had to come in and mow and stuff like that. I also hauled in some black dirt and filled in holes in some places and such."

A special function of the Deacons Committee is to contact shut-ins and hospitalized to show their concern.

"That's part of the Church," Strey said. "You're concerned for your fellow man. That's part of it."

The church is one of several organizations that benefit from Strey's volunteer spirit. Still keeping in touch with youth, he is in his own words a "volunteer on call" for part-time work as Teen Court coordinator.

Strey is also a member of the local Rotary Club and Izaak Walton League.

Each of these organizations is known for their involvement with humanity and environment issues. In Izaak Walton's, Strey has a part in putting on the January game feed, which is one of the club's many people-oriented programs.

What motivates Howie Strey to stretch out in all directions to volunteer?

"I think we have that kind of responsibility to make sure that things get done," he said. "I like the people of Westminster. I enjoy the sermons and the Sunday services, the men's club and the activities that go on there. I think we're an active group that tries to do some good."

Nini Johnson can be reached by e-mail at