Dulce Jean Birkby Scholarship and Cissy’s Rhubarb Sauce

Evelyn Birkby

I had a wonderful visitor the other day. Elise Chapman is this year’s recipient of the Dulcie Jean Birkby Scholarship.

Several years ago I wrote about the origins of the scholarship. It had its beginnings with our daughter Dulcie Jean’s four pennies. When she was four years old, we took her to Omaha for Christmas shopping.

We gave her a little money to buy a gift for her brother. She picked out a bright red car, and had four pennies in change.

A Salvation Army volunteer ringing a bell near the store entrance smiled at us as we left. "What’s she doing?" Dulcie Jean asked.

We explained that the lady was collecting money to buy food and gifts for children who did not have much for Christmas. Dulcie Jean dropped her four pennies into the Salvation Army kettle.

A year later, Dulcie Jean died from the effects of a sudden illness. We found several pennies in her little red purse. "Do you think we could use these to start a fund in memory of Dulcie Jean?" I asked Robert, and he agreed.

We put the pennies in a canning jar that we kept on a cupboard shelf next to the plates and saucers so that we would see it every day. Whenever we had coins in our pockets or a dollar or two to spare, we put the money in the jar. When it was full, we took it to the bank and established Dulcie Jean’s Four Penny Fund.

Decades have passed since Dulcie Jean gave her four pennies to the Salvation Army. Over time, the fund in her name has grown to the point that we can a give a college grant each year to help a deserving Sidney High School girl.

I always look forward to this Sidney High School assembly. It fills me with faith in our young people and hope for the future. It also warms my heart to know that Dulcie Jean’s example of love and thoughtfulness continues.

Robert and I thoroughly enjoyed the contact we had with the high school students when we made the presentations. A few years ago we decided to bring some humor to the event by shuffling down the aisle with our canes and singing "Here we come a-shufflin’, shufflin’, shuffling." After the presentation, everyone sang as we shuffled back to our seats.

Another year I used my cell phone to take selfie photo with the senior class in the background.

I was not able to attend this year. My son Bob, who was visiting me from Seattle, represented our family at the awards ceremony. He reminded the class of my three rules of life. Always be positive. Take take care of your brain by continuing to learn and by avoiding drugs and alcohol. Finally, drink lots of milk. Then he presented the scholarship to Elise Chapman.

Soon after the assembly, she came to visit me. I was so happy to meet her and hear about her plans for the future. It was a highlight of my spring.

Elise told me that she will be attending the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, to study international diplomacy and minor in Russian.

She explained that her interest in those subjects began when she was fourteen and sent a letter to Barack Obama to share some concerns. The White House contacted her to tell her the president was giving a speech in Des Moines in a few weeks and that the president would like to meet her and her family.

When they met backstage, the president told her he had read her letter and appreciated it being handwritten. He wished her well and encouraged her to achieve all she could.

The summers of her sophomore and junior years she found programs that sent her to Ghana and Morocco for service projects. With her widening view of global affairs, she looked for a school that would allow her to follow her interest in having a positive impact on the world. Georgetown University seems ideal to challenge her and help her grow.

We are so pleased that our scholarship to Elise will help in some small way to continue her education. I look forward to hearing more from her as she goes forward.




This is rhubarb season. Cissy Voyles, one of my caregivers, makes a delicious rhubarb sauce that is easy to prepare and will brighten any meal.


Cissy’s Rhubarb Sauce


4 cups diced fresh rhubarb

1 ½ cup water

½ cup granulated sugar

1 3-ounce package strawberry Jell-O


Combine rhubarb, water, and sugar to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let simmer 5 minutes, or until rhubarb is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in strawberry Jell-O. Let cool.

Very good served over ice cream, pound cake, or eaten alone like applesauce. Refrigerate extra until time to serve.

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