Jackie and Pete Reny have made it a habit to give back to others during their 28 years together — sometimes with meals, and sometimes with wheels.

Jackie Reny, 62, worked as a hospice volunteer for the last five years and often makes and delivers meals for friends and community members in need. Her husband Pete, 72, a former railroad employee, said he volunteers some of his time with the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad.

“I get more out of being a volunteer than I give,” said Jackie Reny during an interview at their Vassalboro home, where they also own an antique car business. “I always meet people that inspire me. I learn something from every client that I visit with.”

Reny is a volunteer with Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area, a nonprofit that, according to its website, provides non-medical support to people in Central Maine during their final stages of life.

The organization’s executive director, Sue Roy, called Reny “a wonderful woman” who thinks outside of the box to help clients.

“She has more energy than anybody I know,” Roy said of Reny. “We would not be in business without our volunteers.”

“She has the ability to take the grumpiest, and most cantankerous, and find a way to crack the shell,” Pete Reny said about his wife, smiling.

The couple, who say they met through a shared interest in old cars, have also used their antique automobile business to give back. When they discovered that an old Ford Model T in their collection previously belonged to a young family friend’s grandfather, they sold it to him for a dollar.

“This Model T was in the garage, and I was at the hospital, I had some heart issues and I got home and I said to Jackie, ‘you know if anything happens to me, I want to make sure Tyler gets that car,'” Pete Reny recounted. “And she said, ‘why do you want to wait? Why don’t you give it to him now?’ I said, ‘OK, we’ll do that.'”

Along with the hospice work, Jackie Reny makes a point to make and deliver meals for friends during difficult times such as illness.

She explained that her mother would often welcome people to their home for holiday meals when they didn’t have anywhere else to go.

“Feeding is something that I learned from my mother – and something that always brings me great joy,” Reny said.

Pete Reny said he and his wife now have a tradition of sometimes anonymously picking up the bill for strangers when they go out to eat at restaurants.

“Thank god I’ve got a dollar more than we need, and I’m glad to share that with people,” he said about their efforts to give back. “Money won’t buy you another minute on this earth. You’ve got to help people – especially when they don’t expect it.”

Along with membership in the local Elks Club and Grange, Jackie Reny said she sometimes helps out a neighbor, Dave Anderson, who distributes furniture to veterans. “He is an unsung hero, that man,” she said of Anderson.

Jackie Reny said the hardest part of volunteering for her is learning when to say no. She has to take “a little break” from volunteering right now, saying “you just have to step back and take a breath” while citing several factors including her daughter being impacted by Hurricane Florence. Reny said her daughter “lost everything” when the storm swept through the Carolinas and that family and friends have already stepped up to help out.

“You give, it comes back,” Jackie Reny said. “And it can be in the littlest thing, and it means the most.”

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