In the New North End of Burlington, there's a busy woman. She's known for her tasty treats and a certain moniker.
"Ducky! Call me Ducky," she said.
It's a nickname she's always had. After Ducky Donath was born, a doctor friend teased her mom about the newborn's looks. A nurse interjected, "'She's not ugly, she's just ducky,'" Ducky explained.
It never ruffled her feathers. She wears the title proudly.
Her kitchen is an 8' by 10' oasis.
"I love it," she said.
The New Jersey native came to Burlington with her husband, Frank, over five decades ago. After the longtime teacher and mother of three retired, she wanted to keep busy.
Reporter Joe Carroll: What do you get out of volunteering?
Ducky Donath: I guess it's selfish. I feel good.
Today, she's prepping food for the Respite House in Williston. It's a facility for people nearing the end of their life.
Joe Carroll: Is it depressing?
Ducky Donath: Oh no, oh no, it's a happy place.
Every Tuesday for the last 20 years she has cooked for the residents. This week it lands on Christmas Day. And every Dec. 25 her family volunteers, too.
"Yeah, I do some of the grunt work for her," husband Frank said.
Ducky buys all the food herself. She has no clue how much money she's spent through the years. Today, she's cooking over 50 meals for 11 residents and their families.
"But it's much smaller than my kitchen, isn't it?!"
She jokes and commands; there's no doubt who's in charge in the kitchen.
"Everybody getting along? Take this over there," she ordered.
For an outsider, it's hard to comprehend this is a happy place. But sometimes images speak for themselves. Gene White from Montpelier has been here since May. Today, some of his family traveled all the way from Tennessee to be with him.
"It's awesome we could have everybody here this year," Gene said.
Gene is well aware of Ducky's drive.
Gene White: If you weren't married, you know where we would be???
Ducky Donath: Oh where, tell me!
There's no stopping the 81-year-old.
"I'm forever grateful to find Vermont," Ducky said.
Dick Swanson volunteers, too.
"I love her," he said of Ducky.
It's mutual respect and gratitude. A heaping helping of generosity showing what a person can do to help out her community, one mouth at a time.
"This one's a doll," Ducky said. "Happy people... happy people."
Ducky strongly suggested we mention the other organization near and dear to her-- the Sara Holbrook Community Center for Children.
And if you were wondering, Ducky's given name is Joan.
PO Box 4508