Retirement has been anything but boring for LUAG volunteer Frank E. Podleiszek. Frank returned to his hometown of Bethlehem in 1988 after an early retirement from teaching music at the Morrisville Borough School District in Bucks County. Instead of enjoying some well-earned peace and quiet, Frank uses his newfound free time to get involved in the local community. And boy did he get involved.
Frank became active in St. John’s Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church, founded in 1910 by immigrants from a region of modern day Slovenia, and served on various committees in the community. He served as the Chair for St. John’s Windish Church’s 100th Anniversary Celebration and was instrumental is fund-raising over $70,000 USD for the Church. For the City of Bethlehem’s 250th Anniversary Celebration, Frank was instrumental in making the Slovenian contingent the largest ethnic representation in the Opening 250th Anniversary Parade and was involved in thirteen different activities throughout the Celebration. One such activity was the “Bethlehem Sings” 1,000 Voices Choir Concert at Stabler Arena, where he was solely responsible for all ticket sales. He even served as “Town Crier” for several episodes.
St. Luke’s University Health Network was another beneficiary of Frank’s retirement. In total, Frank has volunteered for over 2,700 hours at St. Luke’s Hospital. Those hours were dedicated to serving as Assistant Director and Soloist for the St. Luke’s Singers, the only hospital-based choir in Eastern Pennsylvania. Once again Frank handled ticket sales, this time totaling over $200,000 USD.
Other organizations that can claim Frank as a volunteer over the years are Musikfest (24 years of service), Bethlehem Friends of Music (board member for six years and four years as president), South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center (board member for three years), The Greater Bethlehem Council of Churches (vice-president), the South Bethlehem Historical Society, and St. Johns Chancel Players (co-founder).
Today, Frank still hasn’t scaled back his volunteer activities. He’s been involved in the Ethnic Christmas Tree Display at Comfort Suites for the past 25 years and serves as director of the carol-singing at the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, remains active in the Bethlehem/Murska Sobota Sister Cities Association (he even served as their first president), sings with the Musikfest Chorus, docents at the Lehigh University Art Galleries (he’s volunteered a whopping 2,366 hours), and currently services as Archivist for St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church.
Frank has received various awards throughout his life for his volunteer service, such as the Freedom to Volunteer Award presented by Lisa Boscola for Northampton County (1997), Edwin H. Frey Award presented by the Greater Bethlehem Area Council of Churches (1998), and the Special Volunteer Award presented by Lehigh University Art Galleries, WAEB, Gebhardt’s, and the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley. He has even had an official day named after him, proclaimed by then-Mayor Donald Cunningham on May 18, 1998.
The LUAG Team is lucky to be able to count Frank as one of our most dedicated volunteers. Stop in and see him on Thursdays from 11am – 2pm. If you’re lucky, he might even tell you about his love for Christmas, his time as a student at Penn State, or his large collection of European toys.