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Jefferson Award Winner: Debbie Van Deurzen

Eau Claire (WQOW) — Our latest Jefferson Award winner retired from her career in finance last year and jumped feet-first into her next venture at the Community Table in Eau Claire.

Debbie Van Deurzen said she answered the call to serve after a conversation with her former employer.

“He said: ‘Everyone tries to figure out why we are here. What is our purpose? Is this what I am here for?’ He said you need to understand that your purpose is not to work in an office, it was not to sit behind a computer, it wasn’t to answer the phone, you’re here because you help people,” Debbie recalls.

She’s carried that message forward. Over the last year, she’s done a little bit of everything at the Community Table, from organizing the non-profit’s database to meal planning.

“Even when she’s doing something tough like making a recipe work and winging it when we don’t have all the ingredients, she just has a great time and makes sure everyone else here does too,” said Marie Schug, the volunteer coordinator for the Community Table.

Debbie said her main passion since volunteering is educating children on healthy eating.

Debbie helped create the Meal in a Jar program

“I was a single mom for a lot of years of my life and stretching the dollar, trying to figure out where your next meal is going to come from is really hard,” Debbie said.

So she helped start the Community Table’s meal in a jar program.

“She actually led the entire program, teaching the kids about the nutrition and the resources in Eau Claire for finding food,” Schug said.

“We’re trying to educate the kids about nutrition. Do you ever read the back of your label, do you know what all those vitamins and minerals mean? They absorb that information eagerly,” Debbie said. “It’s amazing what you can put in and they’ll tell you that it’s delicious.”

Through the program, the students help assemble the meals in a jar and then take one home with a recipe, so they can make it themselves.

“If you can help plant a few seeds when they’re young hopefully when they’re in high school, college, they can be like ‘Didn’t one time someone tell me to look for this on the back of a label?” Debbie added.

Debbie admits her retirement hasn’t been as restful as she originally anticipated, but adds her new endeavor has been fulfilling.

“I have a really fun time when I’m here working with them, I don’t care what we’re working on. I kind of miss them when I’m not here. So that’s a good thing.” Debbie said.

To learn more about volunteering at the Community Table, click here.

If you know a volunteer making a difference in our area, click here to nominate them.

Stephen Kelley

Stephen Kelley joined the News 18 team in August 2006. He is currently the Executive Producer.

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