CLEARWATER — Alice Thalheimer plays the drums every Wednesday.
She volunteers once a week to help with The Rhythmic Arts Project, known as TRAP, at UPARC, also known as the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens.
"Being at UPARC is one of the highlights of my week," said Thalheimer, 80. "I tell my friends, we don't make music, but we make wonderful noise."
Whether it's music or noise, Thalheimer has had a big impact. She was named Drum Volunteer of the Year during UPARC's annual banquet last fall.
"Alice brings a magnetic personality and energy to the TRAP program," said John Stannard, president of Hammerax, a Clearwater company that sponsors the drumming awards and drum program at UPARC. "Her fire burns so brightly that UPARC clients can't help but progress in her presence."
Hammerax makes hybrid cymbals and other percussion instruments.
For the past 18 months, Thalheimer has spent three hours each Wednesday connecting with clients during three rehabilitative drum programs. But UPARC isn't her sole volunteer effort. Thalheimer, a widow with two adult children, has been helping in the community since moving to Clearwater in 1963.
In 1980, she was on the first committee to start the Haven of RCS, Religious Community Services' domestic violence shelter.
"We found a great need for a shelter in North Pinellas," she said. "The first place we had was a trailer."
Now Thalheimer serves on the advisory committee and the Haven not only offers shelter to anyone affected by domestic violence, but it also has 11 apartments available for transitional housing.
She has known Chris Warwick, director of the Haven, for 30-plus years. When she met him, Warwick worked as the Clearwater Police Department's first victim advocate.
"Alice was instrumental at that first meeting saying we needed to have a spouse abuse shelter in North Pinellas," Warwick said. "On the advisory committee, she helps chart where we're going. She's always there, pushing to get whatever we need."
Warwick says Thalheimer has a way of getting the uncomfortable topic of domestic violence out into the open.
Most agree that Thalheimer has a positive effect on the lives she touches — maybe nobody more so than the people she visits on her weekly Meals on Wheels route.
For 12 years, she has delivered prepared meals to people in need as part of the Clearwater Community Woman's Club outreach to the area. She and Marian Dunn, both among the club's founding members, received the honor of a certificate from the General Federated Woman's Club for 25-year membership in December 2008.
"I think it's important to give back, especially to an area that's been so good to me," Thalheimer said. "If people could give a few hours a week or month to an organization, they can do so much good.
"I know there are many people who do volunteer. Spiritually, it's what we're supposed to do. We're the hands and feet of God."
Because Thalheimer thinks that attention to spirituality is as important as attention to physical needs, she volunteers for Morton Plant's Pastoral Care program.
"Alice comes in once a week and I give her a list of new patients on specific floors," said staff chaplain Mian Hill, 33. "She talks with them, offers prayers and is probably the most energetic volunteer I have. Alice is passionate about seeing patients. She's a wonderful light in our hospital."
Thalheimer says she leaves the hospital feeling as if she's received strength.
She feels blessed to still be physically able to help others. She wants others to experience how good it feels to volunteer.
Sure she could bask in the sun or travel. But she prefers to play drums with UPARC clients. Watch people smile. And those who spend time with her understand.
"Alice adds enthusiasm, creativity, and a warmth of spirit to each drumming class," said Polly Stannard, wife of John Stannard, and also a UPARC volunteer. "Since her very first class over 18 months ago, she demonstrates a willingness to serve. She exemplifies the true nature of volunteerism."