Life

Zolt still giving back at age 90

In 1975, actress Lynda Carter first played Wonder Woman on television.

In 2017, as Anne Zolt lives her daily life, she has picked up a nickname.

“They call me ‘Wonder Woman’” Zolt said.

She’s not acting.

She volunteers one day a week at Carrie Busey Elementary School, where she works with kindergartners.

She volunteers one day a week at the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, where she does whatever is needed.

“I like to feel useful,” she said.

She has a 15-minute exercise routine she is diligent about doing daily, and she attends an exercise class three of the days a week she isn’t volunteering.

“You have to keep moving,” Zolt said. “Sitting around watching TV doesn’t appeal to me.”

If she needs something at the local supermarket, Zolt walks the few blocks to Schnucks.

“I dread the day I slow down,” Zolt said. “I like to keep busy.”

After spending more than 36 years in Florida, the Chicago native moved to Savoy in 2016 to be closer to a daughter, Debbie Chew.

“I live with elderly people,” Zolt said.

She has a one-bedroom apartment at the Windsor of Savoy.

Her busy schedule is in contrast to many of the other residents.

“I look around and I am more active than anyone else,” Zolt said. “I guess I am a little unique in that respect.

“Because I do all this work at 90, it’s extra special. That’s my claim to fame.”

That’s right. Zolt is 90, and not slowing down.

While many Midwestern folks spend their retirement years in a warm climate, Zolt returned to the state where she was raised. She made the decision after her husband of 65 years, Morris, died in 2015.

She was living alone after her husband passed away and mentioned to her daughter she might like living in a group setting.

Debbie Chew suggested moving to Champaign County.

“She knew people who had lived at the Windsor and found me an apartment,” Zolt said.

“I don’t like routine all the time,” Zolt said. “I kind of like change.

“It was exciting, like starting a new life. It’s just one bedroom, but it’s enough for me. I don’t have to cook or clean, so I have a lot of free time.”

Zolt uses that time to her advantage and for the benefit of others.

She became immersed in activities shortly after her arrival. Within weeks, she sat in with the Windsor Warriors in a Trivia Contest at Champaign Central High School.

“A photographer was there and took a picture of my table,” Zolt said. “I was in the paper. People got to know me quickly.”

And she got to know the area and volunteer opportunities almost as fast.

She has now volunteered at both Carrie Busey and the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen for more than a year.

“I like kindergartners,” Zolt said. “They are so sweet, innocent, loving and truthful.

“They are eager to learn and haven’t learned any bad habits.”

The rewards are just as great, she said, at the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, where she appreciates the structure and said proudly, “I haven’t missed a week.”

All are welcome at the facility on North First Street.

“Anyone can get a free meal,” she said. “They don’t ask questions.

“Nobody should go hungry, and the place is probably cleaner than any restaurant in town. We clean everything (daily) and leave it spotless. We sanitize tables, chairs and the counters.

“The people are very appreciative and it makes me feel good.”

When Zolt arrives for her shift, she first helps makes 200-plus sandwiches that are bagged and distributed to patrons as they leave.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “They can have something for supper.”

Massive changes have been a part of Zolt’s life for decades.

She and her husband had been married about 28 years when they vacationed in Florida.

“Sort of on a whim, I said, ‘Why don’t we move to Florida?’” Zolt said.

“He said, ‘You take longer to pick out a sponge and then decide to move to Florida in five minutes.’”

They moved, establishing their first southern residence in St. Petersburg.

The following year, the former secretary made another change.

“I went back to school (at age 52) and got a degree in human services (from St. Petersburg Junior College),” Zolt said.

Most of all, she is thankful for the chance to contribute and be of assistance.

“I’m fortunate I have good health,” Zolt said.

She’s even trying to find some time for herself.

“I signed up for HBO,” Zolt said, “but I haven’t found anything good to watch.”

If that trend continues, it could mean more time for volunteer opportunities for the spry 90-year-old.

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