Nearing 90, Habitat Volunteer Still Going Strong

May Wallace

Photo by: Gary Allen, Newberg Graphic

When May Wallace, nearing 90 years old and standing just under 5 feet tall, says she helps Habit for Humanity build houses, you might assume she handles some light filing and office work for the organization. You’d be wrong.

Rain or shine, every Thursday, the retired former minister can be found on a home construction site in Newberg, handling the tools, painting and doing clean-up work. She also sees to it that the other eight to 10 volunteers have a donated noon meal to keep them going.

Wallace is in her 13th year with the local branch of the national organization that provides affordable housing for those with lower incomes. She started in 1995 and helped for 10 years before taking a break. She resumed two years ago and among other duties welcomes new volunteers and shows them the ropes on site. During the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. work shift she runs errands for the construction supervisor and each day sets up and breaks down the lunch provided for the group.

“She’s really an inspiration to all of us,” says Newberg Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Rick Rogers. “She’s really just amazing.”

But Wallace doesn’t see her volunteer work as anything special. “It keeps me busy, keeps me going,” she says.

Wallace graduated from Cascade College in 1949. Her records have since been transferred to the university, making her a George Fox alumna. Her connection is even stronger, however. She earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Western Evangelical Seminary in 1958 and, with an additional course, it became a Master of Divinity in 1972.

WES merged with George Fox to become George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 1996, the same year Wallace was named the seminary’s alumnus of the year. “I’m proud to tell people I’m a George Fox graduate, but I’ve never spent a day in class there,” she says.

She moved to Newberg in 1978 and currently lives in an apartment complex near the George Fox campus. The move followed a career in ministry – and in helping others. After pastoring for five years in Smyrna, Iowa, her home state, Wallace served in a similar capacity for 15 years at a Friends church in Agnew, Wash., followed by 10 years at Reedwood Friends Church in Portland. She also spent 16 years as director of the Lambert House, which provides adult daycare services.

To keep her days filled now, Wallace finds ways to help others – mostly at nearby Friendsview Retirement Community – whether it’s assisting with some light bookkeeping, helping clean up after meals, giving rides to the doctor or store, or just chatting with residents who need a friend.