Rifle’s Neal keeps wheels in motion
Post Independent Staff
RIFLE ” When people ask Mickey Neal what she does for a living, she tells them.
“What do I do?” Neal asked, laughing. “I’m a professional volunteer.”
Neal has dedicated her entire life to helping others. She is the Meals on Wheels Coordinator, a part-time paid position. It’s something different for Neal, who usually doesn’t get paid for her time. But the position was a perfect fit for her.
Neal is 63, though she forgets sometimes.
“I almost said 53,” Neal laughed. “It’s like a time warp. You get to a point, where it’s not so important anymore.”
Neal moved to Rifle with her high school sweetheart from the class of 1960 at Golden High School in Golden. Neal and her husband, John, came out here in 2002, but have had strong ties to the area since Neal was a girl. Her parents owned a place in No Name.
“I’ve always loved Glenwood Springs,” Neal said. “That pool is excellent. I really like to be able to touch the bottom. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much.”
Neal is not afraid of the water anymore, but she used to be. Her daughter inspired her to snap out of it.
Neal’s daughter Stacy is a firefighter ” the fastest female firefighter in the country, in fact. Neal and her husband will go to see her compete in a televised race later this month.Sean Kelly 11/14/05 not really sure what firefighting has to do with learning to swim. Also, what is stacy fastest in, competing in?
“She was involved in every kind of sport you could imagine,” Neal said. “I would watch those girls in the pool ” When I was 39 I finally decided to do it, to learn how to swim.”
Once she started, she couldn’t stop. Neal trained with an instructor until she was lifeguard certified and certified to instruct. That’s how Neal became involved with the American Red Cross.
Neal began teaching water safety classes for the Red Cross and then wrote a book with her fellow volunteers. Today, Neal is still extremely involved with Red Cross. She and John went to Gulf Port, Miss., for two weeks to help Hurricane Katrina survivors.
“We were in the area where Katrina really hit,” Neal said. “We knew going into it that it wasn’t a vacation.”
Neal and her husband have taken a series of very intense medical training courses. They are members of the Community Emergency Response Team, a group in Grand Junction that trains retired people to help first responders. The skills they’ve fine-tuned in that organization made them valuable team members in the south.
Neal and her husband live at the top of Taughenbaugh Mesa in a log cabin with a wrap-around porch.
“It’s a dream ” having a log cabin,” Neal said. “We sit out there in the rocking chairs. We have visitors out there and take in the views. We can see to Silt in one direction and the Bookcliffs in the other. It’s 360 degrees.”
Neal and her husband spend a lot of time doing pencil art in a studio upstairs at their cabin.
“We have a drafting table,” Neal said. “We share that. I think he’s always been a closet artist.”
When the hospital was built at the bottom of the hill, Neal joked to her husband that he could just roll her down the hill to the hospital if anything went wrong.
“I was really excited when they built the hospital,” Neal said. “I ran down and grabbed my little green coat and said, ‘where do you want me?’ I’d never volunteered in a hospital before.”
She volunteered at the front desk for almost two years until she took up the post as the Meals on Wheels coordinator.
“So many times, you take a meal to the door and the person who answers tells you that she used to be a volunteer, that she used to deliver meals,” Neal said, her eyes welling up with tears. “That’s the good karma. I’m getting all worked up now. You know, they did it and now they’re getting meals.”
Neal said volunteer work is the most rewarding work she’s found and she hasn’t been a big fan of other career paths.
“Volunteering is great because it’s not job,” Neal said. “It’s a choice. It’s something you want to do.”
Contact Amanda Holt Miller at 625-3245 ext. 103
Name: Mickey Neal
How long in Garfield County: Three years
Occupation: Meals on Wheel coordinator
Favorite place in Garfield County: “We really like driving around all over the county. But one place I think everyone should visit, where we drag all of our guests, is Rifle Falls. In the winter it’s so beautiful, all frozen.”
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