B y Derek Liebig
When Jared DeRusha says he doesn’t mind doing dishes, he actually means it.
A senior at Whitehall, DeRusha has been volunteering his time at the Skene Manor for the past three years.
His duties have ranged from waiting tables to decorating the venerable estate, no easy task when you consider the Skene Manor typically has three Christmas trees, including one that’s 12 feet tall, within its corridors during the holidays.
And of course, he also does dishes.
“They call me the fastest dish washer in town,” DeRusha joked Friday afternoon.
DeRusha was recognized for his volunteerism Friday afternoon at the Skene Manor, an honor that made him feel a little uncomfortable.
“I didn’t really want the attention,” he said. “I was a little nervous about it.”
Roughly six feet tall with a runner’s physique, DeRusha said he began volunteering at the Skene Manor several years ago after a friend who worked at the estate found a new job creating a need for someone to wash dishes.
It didn’t hurt that he only lives several doors down from the manor on Mountain Street.
Every weekend while many of his peers are sleeping or playing video games, DeRusha spends several hours waiting tables, washing dishes or showing guests around the expansive spaces within Whitehall’s most famous building.
The position takes some serious time management skills, especially when you consider DeRusha is a member of the indoor and outdoor track and cross country teams and a dedicated student.
“It takes some juggling back and forth,” he said.
He admits it isn’t always easy, especially when he has to clean dishes after one of the Skene Manor’s monthly dinners, which have been know to attract upwards of 60 people.
“Its four hours non-stop of doing dishes,” he said “You suck it up and just do it.”
Although unpaid, the experience has been extremely rewarding.
DeRusha has forged relationships with many of the regular guests at the Skene Manor and knows them by name.
“It’s taught me a lot of things…respect and manners. Before I came here I was a punk,” he said. “Helping other people, you get that good feeling.”
“He’s a wonderful young man. He’s kind, very dedicated and never says no. There’s nothing below him; he’s always asking what else he can do,” said Whitehall Skene Manor Preservation, Inc. president Catherine Manuel.
Because the Skene Manor doesn’t have a paid staff, they rely heavily on volunteers like DeRusha.
Although members of the National Honor Society at Whitehall High School lend their assistance, DeRusha admits many of his peers don’t understand the importance of volunteering.
“I hope they realize they value of helping these people,” he said.
DeRusha, an honor student himself, will join the Navy in the fall and says he will miss the time he spends at the Skene Manor.
“I know everybody. I have fun here. I’m going to miss the people and being up here.”
He said he plans on coming back and visiting with everyone when he’s on leave to see if they still remember him.
Chances are nobody’s going to forget him or what he’s done.
“He’s a fine young man to represent the youth of Whitehall,” said Manuel. “We’re going to miss him next year.”
And one heck of a dish washer.