Dick and Evelyn Koprowski
On the last Thursday of the month for more than 30 years, as well as any fifth Saturdays, Holy Trinity parishioners Dick and Evelyn Koprowski have been in charge of cooking the daily meal at Marian House soup kitchen. What’s more, the pair spends three days a week driving around to local grocery stores to pick up food donations for the soup kitchen. All told, it adds up to a huge commitment, but the Koprowskis show no signs of slowing down.
“If you retire and just sit back and do nothing, then you might as well call it quits in life,” said Dick Koprowski, a retired engineer. “We like to stay active. That keeps us moving; we have aches and pains but we keep going.”
Dick and Evelyn met in the early 1970s Oak Brook, Illinois, when both of them were working for Xerox Corporation. The couple married in 1976 and, after a decade of moving around the country due to job changes and transfers, settled in Colorado Springs in fall 1987, where they quickly got involved at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
“It was a nice, friendly, warm Hispanic community,” Dick recalled. “Father Francis Colon was the priest at that time. Almost as soon as we walked in the door, they were looking for coordinators for the Marian House, and Evelyn stepped up.”
Evelyn, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was a valuable addition to the group of volunteers because she was bilingual.
At that time, the soup kitchen was located in an old Victorian house that had served as a convent for the Sisters of Loreto who staffed St. Mary’s High School. The kitchen was cramped and had no air conditioning, meaning that volunteers worked in sweltering temperatures during the summer months.
“We used to call it the human car wash,” Evelyn said. “By 10 a.m., you were totally drenched.”
Nonetheless, the Koprowskis remained faithful volunteers. Over the next two decades, Evelyn became a volunteer driver, using a box truck to collect food donations from grocery stores. She also coordinated a partnership with Black Forest Lutheran Church and Holy Trinity Parish to form a team of volunteers, with each church contributing roughly 15 members.
When Dick retired in 2007, he also became a volunteer driver, but only after being trained by Evelyn.
"I showed him the ropes,” Evelyn joked. “Let me tell you, it’s not easy training male drivers. We’ll leave it at that.”
About the time that Dick retired, Catholic Charities began raising funds to build a new, state-of-the-art soup kitchen, and the Koprowskis played a significant role. Not only were they major donors themselves, as members of the capital campaign committee, they spent many hours meeting with other prospective donors to explain why the soup kitchen was an asset to the community.
“The community came together to build that wonderful structure,” Evelyn said. “We went to houses and presented ourselves as members of the community who wanted to see this flourish. You’d be surprised how people opened their hearts and how comfortable we were talking to them.”
Seeing the project come to fruition in 2008 was deeply satisfying, they said.
“The transition from a 100-year-old house to what we have now made a tremendous difference,” Dick said. “It has air conditioning, more cooking apparatus and a nice family dining room.”
In 2015, the couple were among the first donors to join the Catholic Legacy Society, which consists of people who have included a parish, school, or other diocesan entity in their estate planning. The Koprowskis have designated both the soup kitchen and Holy Trinity Parish as beneficiaries of their estate.
“We wanted to make sure they would be sustained in the future,” Evelyn said. “We always say, ‘You can’t get buried with it, so leave it for something that will be of monumental value.’”
“We encourage people to be doers and believers,” Dick added. “The Church has been there for us, and it’s our turn to give to the Church.”
In 2016, the Koprowskis were finalists for Catholic Charities USA’s Volunteer of the Year award. In their nomination of the pair, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado noted that, “It can be difficult to find a couple who does it all in the name of serving God, but the Koprowskis live their calling to serve all of God’s creatures every day, and they do it in a humble and unassuming way.”
“Dick and Evelyn love everybody they encounter – that is what stands out to me,” said Andy Barton, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. “They are modern-day Good Samaritans. And they are such hard workers. Dick is a Catholic Charities Board member, and I call him frequently to touch base about some issue or item of board business. Inevitably, he is doing some sort of Catholic Charities work when I reach him, regardless of the time of day. He and Evelyn are either on a truck, picking up food donations, at Marian House helping with a meal, helping with a parish ambassador event, or any number of other jobs -- all in service to our poor and vulnerable. They are beautiful individuals and a powerhouse team!”
Evelyn said that, while she appreciates the recognition she and Dick have received over the years, it is the gratitude of Marian House clients that means the most.
“When they come up and say ‘thank you,’ you’ve done God’s work,” she said. “We can’t say no to him -- we just can’t say no.”