When it comes to volunteer work, longtime gardener Stan Shisler’s roots run deep in the community.
Shisler, one of the community volunteers The Herald is highlighting in this issue to coincide with National Volunteer Week, has spent “hundreds of hours on the corners downtown — getting up early in the morning and coming back late at night,” some association members said, to help beautify the historic downtown business district by planting and tending to the flowers, shrubs and landscaping.
Shisler, 62, and his wife, Becci, have helped with the downtown beautification program since its inception in 2010. Becci Shisler now is the Ottawa Main Street Association’s program director.
“I stuck the first shovel in the ground on the corner by Keim Bakery on Third [and Main streets],” Stan Shisler, who now coordinates the beautification project, said of its start in 2010. “I’ve been gardening since the 1960s, and it’s something I love to do. ”
Shisler acknowledged he had spent hundreds of hours beautifying the downtown.
“It’s not drudgery when you enjoy doing it — except last August when it was so dry,” Shisler said, laughing. “I get a little melancholy in the fall when I know I won’t be as active [in the beautification project] during the winter until you start preparing for the spring.”
In the winter, Shisler said, he volunteers to shovel snow for a few elderly residents through an Ottawa-based East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp. program.
Shisler said he also has worked with Ottawa University football players to clean up several areas of the community as part of the university’s “fusion” program to get students involved in community service work.
No matter what volunteer work is needed, Shisler can be counted on to lend a helping hand, one Main Street association member said.
“He’s a kind-hearted man,” Helen Hood, the association’s historian, said. “If you need something done, no matter what it is, you can call Stan and he’ll be there. He’ll always take the time to help, even when he doesn’t have the time. If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
Shisler, owner of Stan’s Cleaning Service in Ottawa, is a wonderful gardener, Hood said, turning his own garden and yard into showpieces at his former residence on Cedar Street where his daughter now resides.
“I’m sure he’s spent a lot of nights working by headlights,” Hood said.
Shisler, who personally is responsible for four of the downtown corners, said he has taken hundreds of perennials from his gardens to plant on the corners downtown.
“We are looking for other volunteers to help with the corners, but I have grown so attached to them that they are like my kids now,” he said, chuckling. “So I would have to make sure they really want to do the work.”
Shisler said he puts his church first, family second and his volunteer civic work third.
The Shislers have 13 grandchildren, Stan Shisler said, adding that he and his wife love spending time with them.
“Some of the grandchildren helped me plant flowers yesterday,” Shisler said of one of the downtown corners.
Hood paused when she thought about Shisler’s contributions to the downtown beautification effort and other volunteer activities in the community.
“If I had to sum up Stan in one word, it would be, ‘Phenomenal,’” Hood said.