A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gay Middendorf, 82, is a volunteer at Point/Arc — and she does it all because of love and friendship

By Andy Furman

Her friends called it a surprise.

Gay Middendorf called it a blessing.

In fact, Middendorf says it was better than a paycheck – how would she know

Gay Middendorf hasn’t received a paycheck for 30-plus years serving as a Volunteer at The Point/Arc.

Gay Middendorf — when she first met Judi Gerding

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said, holding back tears of joy after here friends and co-workers here surprised her with a party and lunch on St. Patrick’s Day.

Gay Middendorf’s title – and salary – hasn’t changed in some 39 years.

“I’ve seen so many miracles here on Pike Street,” said the 82-year-old volunteer, “that I thought would never come to fruition.”

Last year, The Point/Arc celebrated anniversary number 50 – Middendorf has celebrated 40.

The Point/Arc was founded in 1972 by a group of parents fighting for the educational rights of their children, who were diagnosed with an intellectual and developmental (I/DD) disability. The mission – to help people with disabilities achieve their highest potential educationally, socially, residentially and vocationally.

So how did Middendorf arrive at the non-profit organization on Pike Street?

Judi Gerding – President and Founder of The Point/Arc – and Gay were classmates at Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills.

“Gay was from Kenton County; I was from Campbell County,” Gerding said. “We weren’t in the same home room, but we certainly got to know one another.”

Both members of the Class of 1958 at NDA – Middendorf said the friendship grew because, “Judi was always there when I most needed her.

“She’s the kind of person that once you’re her friend, well, she doesn’t forget you. We became forever friends.”

When Middendorf was injured in a major car wreck, Gerding showed up every week with homemade cookies or lipstick or some other treat,” Middendorf remembered.

Gerding was there for her friend – again – when Middendorf was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“Once, when Judi stopped by, I said, ‘Judi, if I ever get well and don’t die from this, I am coming down to The Point, and I am going to help you.’”

Middendorf was true to her word.

Gay Middendorf

“You get so much happiness when you see what The Point/Arc and their staff does,” she said. “I have gone to dances where there might be 200 people there with their parents. They have basketball, bowling and movie nights – and special trips. I’ve seen staff take them to church. I mean, they truly have a full life and I think that’s wonderful.”

“She’s our biggest cheerleader,” said Gerding. “She’s probably saved The Point more than $300,000 with her work.”

Yet Middendorf said she’s gained more than she has given through her countless hours of volunteer work.

“It changes your heart forever,” she said of her work. “I’ve gotten so much more out of The Point and became a better person for it.”

Gay Middendorf usually works two-to-three-days-a-week at The Point.

“I’m available when needed,” she said, “first and above all, I try to help Judi. I think I would be lying if I didn’t say that.”

Ilene Gayle Middendorf is thinking about retiring – but do not bet on it.

She’s still waiting for her first paycheck.

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