His hands are for helping

By Amanda Lauer | For The Compass | February 5, 2015

Bill Aykens, Menasha parish handyman, does whatever is needed

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]MENASHA — As a member of St. Mary Parish and parent of four children who graduated from St. Mary grade school and St. Mary Central High School, Bill Aykens knows about school volunteering.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Bill Aykens (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Bill Aykens (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

Through the years he served a term on the school board and mentored students at the high school when they were building a small electric racecar. However, he never forced himself to volunteer more even though he wanted to.

He’s made up for that in the years since. Aykens, who graduated from Xavier High School in Appleton in 1964, has an associate degree in applied science and spent 10 years as an electronics technician in Illinois. He worked for his family’s business, Memorial Florist & Greenhouses in Appleton, and spent the last 17 years of his working career as a buyer for Plexus Corp. His wife, Jean, passed away in 2005 and he worked at Plexus until 2009.

“It was about the time that I wanted to retire but health conditions forced me into it anyway,” noted Aykens. “I had the time and needed something to do so I just started out helping at St. Mary’s wherever I could.”

He began volunteering on the buildings and grounds committee. “I started as chairman,” he said. “They’re pretty good at talking me into things.”

Starting small was what Aykens did and it has grown from there. “I’ve always been a little bit handy. Not great but enough to … fix things around my house,” he said. “When little things came up at church, mainly through the buildings and grounds committee — it’s a wonderful group of people that are involved in that — we’d go and we’d see things that needed to be done. I’m pretty good at seeing things that need to be done. If it’s something I could handle, I just did it.”

Aykens noticed that the paintings and a statue in the church needed to be spruced up. “All of our paintings are being redone: the Stations of the Cross and the St. Joseph and St. Mary pictures at the front of the church. We got that started through our committee.”

The parish is working with the Hang Up Gallery of Fine Art in Neenah to restore the art. “The picture of Mary had some chips in the paint. The Joseph picture needed to be stretched and touched up a little,” said Aykens. “As we delved into it, it needed to be re-backed — it was falling apart. We did quite a bit of fundraising through the parish and the business manager for this project.”

Every Monday, Aykens helps clean the church and he’s part of the crew of people who put up the Christmas decorations each year.

At least once a week Aykens is at the church lending a hand where needed. “It depends how I’m feeling. That’s the nice thing about this. Most things aren’t critical. You can come and do them as you please.” Aykens has fibromyalgia, which makes him tired and causes widespread body pain, plus some other health issues. Sometimes it’s impossible for him to be there but he does his best to get there when he can.

Having projects to work on at church gives Aykens something to look forward to each week because he enjoys the work and he enjoys the people that he works with. “The staff at St. Mary’s is just awesome. Our buildings and grounds committee was focusing on just the church and last year we changed it to include the school. It’s for both St. John’s and St. Mary’s. I focus here but if a need comes I go over to St. John’s and help.”

Parishes could use help from all their members, said Aykens. He wonders if people won’t step forward if they are not asked directly. “A lot of times we think, ‘What could I do?’ Just start small and let it grow. That’s the way you get to meet people in the parish.”

Even if a person doesn’t have talents to offer, he said, “there’s an endless number of things you can do.”

“Don’t be afraid because there’s a need that could be as simple as stuffing envelopes. If you’ve got certain talents, mention them. Everybody has something,” added Aykens. “The most important thing is prayers. If that’s all you can do, that’s fine but don’t be afraid, that’s the big thing. Don’t wait to be asked.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Bill Aykens

Parish: St. Mary, Menasha

Age: 69

Favorite saint: Joseph

Words to live by: “Jesus I trust in you.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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