NEWINGTON – After a life of service, retired nun Sister Dorothy Strelchun continues to brighten the lives of everyone she meets.
The 77-year-old Newington resident begins her day much like anyone else, at home. It’s there she becomes Meadow View Elderly Housing’s fairy godmother. Having lived in the affordable senior housing community since it opened in 2012, she has transformed the building into a cheerful home for her 35 neighbors.
Property Administrator Beverly Damato is thankful to have a volunteer just as dedicated as she is to residents’ happiness. The complex is located on the grounds behind the Newington Senior & Disabled Center.
“She’s our outreach worker,” says Damato, whose busy schedule ranges from responding to resident health issues and broken appliances to planning birthday parties and a fifth anniversary luncheon this June.
A wide range of responsibilities doesn’t leave much room for delivering flowers to each unit and planting a handicapped-accessible herb garden off the back patio. This is Strelchun’s area of expertise. Her kindness and quiet ambition has not gone unnoticed by anyone who steps foot on the property.
Most recently she collected opinions from her neighbors on what they love about where they live. Responses were posted beside their photographs in the main recreation room where they play Bingo and cards. Painted birdhouses hang among Strelchun’s attractive display, showcasing “A Bird’s Eye View of Meadow View.”
She rescued the wooden crafts from a local J. Crew store planning to toss out its own display.
Frequent visits to Trader Joe’s allow her semi-fresh flowers that have passed the store’s sell-by-date and are offered to Strelchun free-of-charge. She returns with a car full of blossoms and distributes them to lucky residents.
Miniature roses are just popping up in Meadow View’s backyard.
“You can’t say no to Sister Dorothy,” Damato points out. “She gets these half-hearted flowers and by the time we’re done with them we have big, beautiful blooms. She comes up with all these nifty ideas and we all get to reap the benefits of her hard work.”
Like stringing fresh basil along the fence on the back patio, making the herb easily accessible to those who would otherwise risk a fall bending down to pick it from the ground.
“It’s been a wonderful experience being here,” Strelchun says. “I like the engagement with everyone. I just don’t see myself sitting upstairs in the apartment watching TV all day.”
A graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Britain, she spent over 20 years serving immigrants at the Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Resettlement Office in Hartford. She also volunteered at the former Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain until the facility closed in June 2015. The need for English language teaching never went away, so Strelchun continues three mornings a week inside St. Mark’s Church on West Main Street. Right now she’s working with both Spanish and Arabic speakers from Puerto Rico, Mexico and Yemen.
“It’s very difficult for them; I have a lot of admiration,” says Strelchun, who also pays visits to nursing homes across the city to cheer up sick patients.
But when she’s not teaching conversational English or bringing a smile to a weary face, Strelchun is making her own home a happy place to live.
“Sister Dorothy brings something so entirely special to our building,” Damato says. “It makes you feel so proud of where you are. We’re so fortunate to have her.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.