LIVINGSTON -- When Elfriede Zipprian received a phone call from the Polk County Chamber of Commerce recently, she was not expecting it. The call was to inform her of winning one a 2015 Community Service Award.
The award will be presented during the 79th annual Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet which will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Polk County Commerce Center.
"I was surprised," Zipprian said. "There are so many people who do so much more, or at least I feel like they are doing a lot more than I do."
There are many reasons the Onalaska resident of 17 years should not have been as shocked as she was.
Zipprian does an extensive amount of work with the Lions Club and she is an individual member of the chamber of commerce.
"With the Lions Eye Bank, I go out and do presentations on what a corneal transplant is all about," Zipprian said about her work with the Lions Eye Bank of Texas. "I tell them how they collect the cornea, how long they last before they can be transplanted and that type of stuff. I am a greeter for the Lions Club and on the Chair Committee. Lately, I have been sending emails to notify everyone of meetings and to keep communication with them."
Her work with the Lions extends beyond the local level to district and state. Zipprian can be found at many Livingston High School athletic events at the concession stand with the Lions Club. She works with the Texas Lions Children's Camp as well. As a greeter, she welcomes members and visitors to weekly meetings and events.
"I moved here 17 years ago to East Texas and I have been involved in everything since then."
Though not originally from Texas, Zipprian moved to Polk County from Angleton.
Growing up, a small south German village of Pfeffenhausen is where she called home. It is located in the hops growing region of Bavaria.
She met and married her husband in the European country while he was stationed there.
As a youth, Zipprian overcame obstacles and avoided one of the worst regimes in world history. Family informed her how to evade Nazis, something she had to do because of a physical condition.
"I was blonde and blue eyed, but I was also crippled. I was hidden away, because the thing I remember is my grandmother telling me one of the neighbors was an informant. She said, 'if you see them, don't walk, kind of skip' — like kids do. Whenever they came into town, I was hidden away. From what I learned later on, they took all the crippled children and they experimented with them to see if the problem could be fixed. If not, they were killed. It wasn't a good time, but I survived. I have tried to forget it and live for today."
Service is not something new to her, as her work as a registered nurse at Freeport Community Hospital and the VA Hospital in Houston would suggest. Soon after, she became a member of the medical team at Dow Chemical. It is something, she says, that never left her.
"I was a nurse, so I enjoy helping people. After I retired, I decided I could help more, so that is what I am doing. I enjoy being around people, meeting new people, and seeing what they are doing. I always called myself an old busybody.
"I have taken up Zumba this past February, because I had hip replacement, so I have to stay active all the time or I will wind up in a wheelchair. When the classes were offered, I thought I would try it out."
She has also purchased a pontoon boat for her "down time."
"It had been in the water six hours when I got it. It has been so good to me, because I don't know that much about boats. I grew up in the mountains, so the water is something totally different."
Last year, Zipprian was awarded at the banquet as the senior ambassador of the year. Her task is to help bring in new business to the county and attend ribbon cuttings, welcoming those who arrive.
Zipprian said the help she brings others is something she would do without the awards and something she would encourage to do others to do.
"It means a great deal to me and it makes me want to do more. I am very happy about it. I want to thank the people of Polk County; they have been so nice. They always say newcomers are kind of ignored, but everyone has always been so nice and pleasant to me. They have been welcoming and that is the reason I want to do more."
Tickets to the awards banquet are available at the chamber office for $30. No tickets will be sold at the door.