LaRae Plessing knows the meaning of hard work.
“I was a farm wife for 47 year and we did a lot of hog confinements and everything out on the farm,” she said. “I was always interested in working on that, and I guess that is how I learned how to do a lot of that kind of work. If we didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done.”
After living and working alongside her husband on their farm near Uehling for most of her life, she has chosen to spend her retirement as a volunteer with Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity by helping the organization build homes for local families three days a week.
“I like to do that kind of work, I love working with my hands and being outside,” she said.
Plessing was born and raised in Dodge County, growing up on a farm east of Winslow before marrying her husband Marvin and spending her adult life living and working on their farm before retiring in 2006.
Following her retirement Plessing began her decade long relationship with Habitat like many other people who volunteer for the organization, by signing up to help on a one-day build through her insurance company Thrivent Financial.
“That’s how I got started, because I am a Thrivent member and I decided I would help that day,” she said. “While we were working they said, ‘you don’t have to just work on this house, we have three others’, and that was the end of my vacation.”
Since that day over 11 years ago, Plessing has dedicated herself to volunteering with Habitat by assisting in the construction of numerous homes as often as she can. Usually every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday each week.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Joy McKay, executive director of Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity, said. “She probably could build a house on her own at this point, because she has been involved with nearly everything we’ve done.”
Although Plessing insists that there is no way she could build a home by herself, her experiences on the construction site have allowed her to learn a lot of different skills involved with building a home.
“I learned how to do molding, door trim, baseboards and all sorts of stuff,” she said. “One thing I have learned is how to use power nailers and when we started we didn’t use them either until the last few years. But that is really a time saver, if you have the right tools it is a lot easier.”
Even when not on the construction site, Plessing isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and do the simple things that need to be done at Habitat, according to McKay.
“She is not a person to just sit around and not do anything, even when she is not on the construction site she is always doing something else,” McKay said. “In the summer she will show up and get the lawn mower out and mow our lawn.”
Along with learning how to put up siding and use a nail gun, her volunteer work has also been a learning experience in working with new people on daily and yearly basis.
“That was different for me, being a farm wife I worked with my husband and family and we didn’t have outside help like that,” she said. “That was a learning experience because some people just stand there and watch you, and some people want to work and dig right in.”
“I had a little difficulty at first, and I might have been a little bossy at first,” Plessing said. “I said you can’t just stand there you have to work, that is why you are here.”
According to McKay, it is Plessing’s dedication to hard work and service that has kept her volunteering all these years.
“She has worked hard her whole life, so she just wants to keep working hard,” McKay said. “We really appreciate her continued effort and willingness to help.”
McKay also appreciates Plessing’s continued dedication to volunteering at Habitat because the organization has seen fewer numbers of long term volunteers over the past few years.
“We don’t get quite as many of those long term consistent volunteers anymore,” she said. “That used to be a lot more common where people would retire and come volunteer and show up everyday year after year, and that kind of has not been the case so much anymore.”
Plessing has also noticed the drop in long term volunteers.
“We can’t seem to get younger ones to participate in that,” she said. “I guess when they retire at 67 they’re retired, they aren’t going to work anymore unless they get paid. I guess us old people are dumb that way, we keep working.”
Although Plessing’s children have some concern about their mother’s strenuous volunteerism, she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“I’m 77 years old and I still like to get up on the roof and work but my kids are a little concerned about that, they think I should stay down,” she said. “But I still have to get up on a ladder, I can’t do much without having a ladder because I’m not very tall.”
Along with volunteering at Habitat, Plessing also like to keep busy by way of bicycle rides, walking, and crocheting prayer shawls for the First Lutheran Church Prayer Shawl Ministry.
The Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity has a variety of volunteer opportunities available, for more information visit their website fremonthabitat.org or call their office at 402-721-8771.