Volunteer Nina Mathus: Gratitude is the Attitude

Nina Mathus has been part of the Noble Horizons volunteer community since the early 1980s when her mother came to live here. Back then, Nina worked a high-powered job in New York City and spent weekends in Salisbury at her husband’s family’s cottage on Twin Lakes. In the 1990s, her aunt came to reside at Noble as well.

“My first volunteer contribution to Noble was a decorated tree for the Festival of Trees when my mother first moved in. She was very happy at Noble and I wanted to give back to this community. I’ve been creating trees for the Festival ever since,” recounts Nina.

She cultivated her artistic side creating sets for a theatre company in New York City. “Whenever there’s something to create, my hand is up. I love to create and build,” she joyfully proclaims. That love of design and constructing has translated into many of Nina’s efforts. For the annual Auxiliary Fair Nina’s handiwork has been a fixture for over a decade. Each year she donates hand-painted ornaments to sell. “It’s hard work, but I love to give back and I even take requests from people who want a particular theme on the ornament,” gushes Nina. Another of her creations is the Children’s Corner at the Festival of Trees, a special place for young visitors filled with whimsy and color to match the Festival’s theme, which changes annually.

She built a float for Noble to glide through a parade in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Lakeville Hose Company. It depicted a pond and a boy fishing. She designed the installation of bird houses on the Noble campus to be auctioned for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Connecticut. “My joy is bringing pleasure to the Noble residents and the surrounding community,” reflects Nina.

Ask Nina about her favorite volunteer role, and the answer is swift and assured--assuming the identity of Mrs. Claus, a role she reprises each year at the Festival of Trees. When you meet Nina you know this was the role she was born to play and given her jolly and joyous approach to life, she seems to rehearse for it all year long. “Being Mrs. Claus and seeing the enjoyment in the eyes of the visiting groups isn’t volunteering. I’m the one receiving the gift. I get back so much more than I give,” reflects Nina. It also promotes quick thinking when she has to answer questions such as, “How do you get the chimney soot stains out of your husband’s outfit?”

These tireless and longstanding efforts garnered her the Resident Volunteer Award, given to the person who has impacted the community through his or her volunteer efforts.

Creative and altruistic pursuits are clearly habit forming for Nina. For over 20 years she served in the Noble Auxiliary, first generating publicity and then as vice president and president. Fifteen years ago, she brought those volunteer efforts in-house when she and her husband John became cottagers.

After John’s death nine years ago, Nina downsized to a smaller cottage and has continued to help improve the life of her cottage neighbors. In 2018, she and other cottagers founded a welcoming committee for new residents and together they host monthly social gatherings. “As I’ve grown older the volunteer work I do has become more cottage oriented. I want to make things better and let people know that whatever your physical limitations, you can still be involved.”

Case in point is a regular outdoor croquet game that she founded, which became quite popular through the spring and summer. When the weather turned cold, she suggested bringing croquet indoors to the community room, where play continued through the winter.

Nina also participates in the regular classes held at Noble for residents and the local community. “Caroline (Burchfield) brings us wonderful offerings that are intellectually stimulating and provide meaningful social interactions. I’ve taken every class offered.”

She is clearly content with her decision to retire to a Noble cottage. “Mom was so happy here. There really was no other choice. As a cottager,we’re supported here with the help we need to stay independent. The grounds are beautiful--I have cherry blossoms and forsythia outside my window and a garden for flowers. Noble has become our family’s last home,” Nina reflects.

This grateful attitude is part of Nina’s desire to serve her Noble neighbors and improve their lives. While she’s clearly left an indelible mark on the community over the past two decades, it’s also clear that she’s not done giving just yet.

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