Still going strong after 29 years of service

After celebrating her 29th anniversary as a volunteer for the American Red Cross during the summer, Muriel Ketay, 75, is still going strong.

She recently received the 2010 Shining Star Award presented by Horizon Bay Assisted Living Center for her volunteer service.

"Red Cross is my pride and joy," said Ketay, who started with the Red Cross as a blood service and disaster relief volunteer. "When they need me, they call me. They know I never say no."

Now, she is a helper for the babysitting training and volunteers in the office on Wednesday mornings. There are certain times of the year that are very busy, so she will spend more time in the office as needed, she said.

Originally from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Ketay and her husband, Robert, moved to Concord in 1980.

"When we moved here I didn't know anybody, I didn't know anything," said Ketay, who was interested in getting involved with the community. Someone passed her phone number to Doris Rogers, who at the time was an extension agent at Cabarrus County Cooperative Extension Service.

"She really got me into a lot of things," said Ketay. "She's the one that got me started with all this stuff."

Ketay volunteered with the extension service for many years, but left after Rogers retired.

For now, her focus is on the Red Cross.

Ketay helped set up and break down more annual meetings and volunteer recognition events than probably any other volunteer, said Nancy Litton, executive director at the Red Cross.

"With all the things being going on, I enjoy being a part of it," said Ketay. "When all the hurricanes came, I took part in all that. I help people."

Ketay is a regular volunteer at the VIP blood drive at First Presbyterian Church in Concord, said Litton. "Muriel is a jewel. She is dependable, committed and her heart is genuine with desire to help other people."

Ketay continues to volunteer with the Red Cross because she loves it so much. It's interesting to see how the way things change year to year, she said.

"I just got real involved in the Red Cross," said Ketay. "And every year I keep telling them I'm going to retire, and every year they keep saying, 'No, no, no.' Nancy said I have to stay there another 29 years."

Ketay received many awards for her volunteer service throughout the years, including outstanding administrative volunteer award, certificate of appreciation in support of disaster response for Hurricane Katrina, and special recognition for administrative support for health and safety services.

"Our community identifies Muriel with the Red Cross and we identify our Red Cross with Muriel," said Litton.

When she isn't at the Red Cross, Ketay spends her time with her husband. Since he retired from IBM in 1991 after 34 years of service as an engineer, he spends most of his time in the outdoors, she said. But she's always ready to say yes to any volunteer opportunities that come up.

"It's just a very rewarding experience, that's all I can say," said Ketay. "You do things for other people and not just yourself. You get involved. I've met a lot of people in all those years."

Ketay also volunteers at the Cabarrus County Senior Center every Friday. She lives with her husband in Concord.