Darla Klaas spent much of her life in northern Illinois.
But when her husband got a job in the Milwaukee area in the 1980s, Brookfield became her new home. Since then, she's embraced the community, and the community has embraced her back.
And many people rely on her every day.
For the past 14 years she has run the county-sponsored meal program at the Brookfield Senior Center that gives seniors the opportunity to eat a hot lunch at the center or have a meal delivered to their home.
Klaas coordinates all the meals, helps organize them for the drivers, is responsible for setting their schedules and arranges for mealtime entertainment.
She supervises 58 volunteers, including the 23 drivers.
Above all, she looks out for the 500 seniors in the Brookfield/Elm Grove area who are registered at the center.
She feels a connection with the seniors and wants to do more than just feed them a nutritious meal.
"You feel almost like family here, and you try to help them in all aspects of life," Klaas said. "I have personally benefited in a lot of ways - if nothing else to cherish each day."
Klaas noted, though, she can't do this alone.
"We could not do this without our beloved volunteers," she said.
Skip Oldenburg, however, said Klaas deserves plenty of credit.
"Without her, none of this would be possible," the volunteer driver said. "She's the best."
Klaas' involvement in the city goes beyond her day job.
For the past 10 years, she has played Mrs. Claus during the Brookfield tree-lighting ceremony.
She also sings in the Brookfield Civic Chorus and will perform at the chorus' Christmas Concert on Dec. 18 at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.
Nonetheless, her passion remains helping and serving the elderly.
"I love what I do," Klaas said. "I feel like this is my calling. I'm in my element."
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JUST THE FACTS
NAME: Darla Klaas
NOTED FOR: Heads meal program at the Brookfield Senior Center
PEARLS OF WISDOM: "I've learned you don't have to sweat the small stuff and how to be grateful for each day."
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