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Diana Volchko seeks to live by the golden rule

October 24, 2011

Each year, a number of women are chosen by the Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club for Career Women’s Week. The criteria used for choosing these women are based not only on their professional efforts, but also on the contributions they have made to community and family.
The club was founded in 1930, originally known as Punxsutawney Business & Professional Women’s Club. Sept. 8, 1998, the club name was changed and incorporated as a non-profit organization under the name of Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club, with objectives to promote growth and respect of women in the workplace; improve self-esteem in all careers; educate women; and support community projects.

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The testament, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” is something that Diana Volchko, one of this year’s Career Women of the Week, has lived by her entire life, and after working at a machine company for a number of years, she decided to pursue a career that illustrated that statement to heart.

She began working at a job helping an elderly woman, Lillian Cook, or as her friends and family called her, “Peachy.” Volchko became a very committed caretaker for Peachy, and more importantly, a very good friend, cooking meals and helping with tasks she could no longer do on her own.

“Maybe it was because by this time, all of her children had gotten married and left the house, but because of her nurturing ways, Diana fell in love with Peachy,” Volchko’s daughter-in-law, Stacy, who married Diana’s son Scott, said. “She thought of her as a friend and also as family. In Peachy, she found her niche, her purpose in life.”

When Volchko would prepare a meal at home, she would always prepare an extra plate for Peachy.

Volchko took care of Peachy until the day she passed away. Because those close to her knew that Volchko was saddened by the death of her friend, they thought she would retire because her husband, Joe, had recently retired.

No one would have thought any less of Volchko had she retired, but she could not retire her need for caring for others.

From there, Volchko began working for Voices for Independence (VFI), a non-profit, consumer-driven organization that provides independent living support and services, where she has served for the past four years.

Since 1993, VFI has empowered people with disabilities to take control of their lives and become active members of the community.

“The organization provides independence to people,” said Volchko, who works with individuals and for four years, has been paired with Kathy Waterfalls, who suffered injuries in a tragic accident that put her in a wheelchair and affected her speech.

But with Volchko’s help and support, Waterfalls can now walk without the wheelchair and perform many day-to-day tasks, including washing her clothes.

Much like with Peachy, Volchko has become good friends with Waterfalls, and she treats her family as if it were her own.

Volchko said she developed her strong work ethic from her parents, Gerald and Joyce Dennison. Her father worked at the Punxsy Beef House for a number of years, and her mother worked as a waitress.

“My dad was my hero, and my mom was a real hard worker,” Volchko said. It was also from her parents that she learned that it takes hard work to support a family.

Another strong woman that Volchko looked up to was her grandmother, Hazel Dennsion, who worked as a waitress until she was in her 80s.

As far as her own family, Volchko said, “Since I was an only child, I decided to have five kids of my own:” Bill Volchko, Tammy Painter, Lisa Johnston, Joe “Tater” Volchko and Scottie Volchko, whom she taught “to love one another, help others as much as possible and be honest.”

In addition to her own children, Volchko — who also has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — often used to host Fresh Air Children at her home when her own children were younger. Her kindness to the neighborhood kids also created a setting in which her house quickly became the place were all the kids wanted to be.

Volchko said she’s never cared much for money or material things, but rather for caring and helping the people around her.

She said she once befriended a man who lived in a run-down trailer. Every Thanksgiving, Volchko would have her husband pick up the man so he could have Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

When asked what she does in her spare time, her husband of 51 years, Joe, chimed in, “She doesn’t have any spare time.” The couple has been together so long, they tend to finish each others sentences.

After graduating from high school in Crucible, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she met Joe when he was working for the railroad company, and she was working for the federal aviation agency.

They visited Punxsy when they were living in Washington, and, “Joe loved it, and we’ve been here ever since,” she said.

On the off chance that Volchko has some spare time, she likes to feed birds, but she spends most of that time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Volchko’s advice for the young women of today is to “do your own thing.”

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