Plattsburg woman helps the homeless


Dorothy Ditmars has found a unique way to lend a helping hand

Plattsburg resident Dorothy Ditmars. Becky Black | The Leader

Dorothy Ditmars of Plattsburg likes to help people. And at 82 years young, she believes a little hard work goes a long way to bring light into someone’s life.

In 2007 at a United Methodist Women’s meeting a member of the group proposed making candles for the homeless out of recycled cat food cans and old candles. Dorothy says she said to herself enthusiastically, “I can do that.”

More than 1,300 candles later, she is certainly doing that.

For the past five years people have been bringing Dorothy cat food or tuna cans along with their old candles.

“Sometimes you have a little bit of wax left in the bottom of the jar, I can use that,” said Dorothy. “I sit in the same pew every Sunday, out of habit, and I never know what will be waiting in my seat,” she said smiling at the sacks and boxes in her living room.

The project’s process is slow and lengthy. She melts down the candles until she gets a larger cooker full. Then she pours the wax into the recycled cans and waits for just the right time to put the wicks into the hardening wax. After the candles set, she cleans them up and adds a label which contains the Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 2:9 – her favorite.

“I added the verse labels last year. I figured it couldn’t hurt,” said Dorothy.

The “they” she speaks of are the sojourners (or homeless people) that come to the Grand Avenue Temple in downtown Kansas City.

Last year Dorothy had 453 candles ready for delivery in the fall. Fellow Broadway United Methodist Church member Bob McCush delivered the candles to the Temple for her. The candles are used for light in the homeless camps and are often placed under a grate to warm soup or beans. The Temple tells Dorothy that the sojourners living under the bridges or in the homeless camps take several of her candles each week.

“They do a lot of good work at Grand Avenue Temple. Our church youth go down there sometimes and help,” said Dorothy of Grand Avenue’s mission to work with the sojourners. The temple has set up a ’boutique’ for the homeless to shop in and Dorothy’s candles are there during the fall and winter months for them.

“I set my goal to make 500 candles this year. I hope to have them ready for delivery by September or October.”

If you have a donation of clean cat food or tuna cans, or old candles, contact the Broadway United Methodist Church at 816-539-3246.

Dorothy has lived in the Plattsburg area for 63 years, but grew up in St. Joseph. She spent 36 years working for the Newby Brothers and D-Tone before retiring.

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