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Luke volunteer "knits" life of service

  • Published
  • By Mary Jo May
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Red Cross volunteer Betty Grenig, 88, recently received the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Volunteer Excellence Award at a ceremony here from Col. Hank Reed, 56th Fighter Wing vice commander.

After six wars and 70 years of helping thousands of military members, she keeps on giving.

"Betty started her volunteering days by knitting socks and scarves for the troops during WWII and has been a dependable Red Cross volunteer since 1939," said Barb Barborak, TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration Flight located at the 56th Medical Group medical facility.

Prior to her volunteer work, she was an office worker, known in those days as a "Girl Friday," Mrs. Grenig said.

"I worked 20 years for a Scottsdale veterinary clinic handling the front office before I started volunteering at Williams Air Force Base in 1962," she said. "I managed the Red Cross operation there until it closed in 1993."

She relocated to Luke where she has been a volunteer for the past 15 years.

"In addition to bringing us delicious brownies each week, she is a faithful and smiling volunteer for the 56th Medical Group," Mrs. Barborak said. "She meticulously maintains more than a thousand TRICARE program file folders. She is a role model to everyone and she is what volunteering is all about."

Driving from her home in Scottsdale every Thursday, Mrs. Grenig performs administrative duties to include filing and shredding discarded documents containing patient health information.

"I like helping everyone," Mrs. Grenig said. "If I can keep someone here from having to work late, then I feel that I have greatly contributed. I like being with my friends here and I consider them family."

Mrs. Grenig said she was saddened by the closure of Williams and is concerned about Luke's future.

"I have real concerns when communities complain about the jet noise and encroachment," she said. "I tell everyone that jet noise is the sound of freedom!"

She said she remembered when foreign pilots were trained at Williams. It brought back fond memories when she and her husband had assignments in Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Her husband, retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Grenig, died six years ago. Their son and daughter have successful careers and are living in the Midwest.

"Luke is my family now," she said.

Mrs. Grenig talked about all the changes that have taken place at the Luke medical facility.

"A good friend of mine was born at the Luke hospital and now it's not a hospital but a clinic," she said. "I recently met the new medical group commander, Col. Mark Holland, and his wife. They are charming people."

Mrs. Grenig spends much of her time in service to others. She has made small stuffed pillows for the Phoenix Children's Hospital and homeless shelters.

"Betty is a very independent, active, sharp and opinionated woman with a big heart," Mrs. Barborak said. "Even at 88, she still works out at a local fitness center three times a week."

In response to being honored, along with other Luke volunteers during the recognition ceremony, Mrs. Grenig advised to, "Just do it! Don't complain, because there is always someone worse off than you."