This month, we asked our readers to submit replies to the following...

Describe your most satisfying volunteer activity.

I voluntarily write news articles for our local newspaper. Writing articles requires me to search for the facts, so I learn something new through each article. We have a small staff at our local newspaper and I enjoy the thought that I am helping them get their job accomplished.

Since I am a volunteer, I write according to my schedule, eliminating the pressure to meet a deadline. My articles are written anonymously, so it is fun for me to hear people discussing a Mouse River Journal article I have written, with them unsuspecting that I am the author.

Sharon St. Aubin, member of Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative


I was a member of a Lions Club that went to our local nursing home annually to make and serve pancakes as part of a supper for its residents. We brought our electric griddles and set up in the residents’ dining room so they could watch and interact with us as we greeted them while cooking pancakes. Nursing home kitchen staff provided the pancake batter and remaining portion of the meal.

The staff told us how the residents looked forward to this activity each year and it showed on the residents’ faces. Most arrived extra early to be able to watch us set up and even “mess up.” Many smiled and laughed as they obviously welcomed the change in routine. The waft of cooking pancakes filled the air through the efforts of amateur cooks.

It was hard to tell who enjoyed the event more, the residents or the volunteer Lions working at the event. It was an exceptionally rewarding event for all – except maybe for the nursing home staff who had to put up with us and help clean our mess afterward!

Curt Kost, member of KEM Electric Cooperative


As an 80-plus-year-old woman who has raised seven children and milked countless numbers of cows, quilting at church on Tuesday afternoons with older fun-filled ladies is a joyful time.

We turn donated throwaway clothing into warm quilts, which are given to people in need. Some gals cut blocks which are taken home and sewn into 60x80 quilt tops. One faithful lady sews year-round. Two pin together tops. Batting is provided by Thrivent members, and sheets are used for the backs. The gal who is more than 90 years old is the expert here. The quilts are passed on to the two ladies who sew everything together. Finally, they go to the last table to be tied with knots.

All the while, we are sharing, reminiscing and joking. It has been stated, “What is said and heard here, stays here.” Coffee time is at 3 p.m. to relax tired bodies, plus more sharing, laughter and sometimes sad news. Then it is back to our places until cleanup time at 4:30 p.m.

The finished quilts, some years more than 100, are donated to area hospital swing beds, Anne Carlsen Center, local food pantries, home fire victims, Orphan Grain Train, benefit silent auctions, high school graduates, Lutheran World Relief and Bible camp quilt auctions.

God has blessed us with bodies/minds that still function and time to turn unwanted into warmth. This warms my heart and soul.

Donna Murray, member of Capital Electric Cooperative


My most satisfying volunteer activity always involves teaching children. Any time I can teach a child, whether how to know Jesus as their savior or how to cook or bake, I feel a deep well of satisfaction in me. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the “light come on” in little ones’ faces as they understand what God says about a spiritual matter or as they take the finished, baked product out of the oven.

I volunteer for our church’s vacation Bible school each year, teaching Bible stories, fixing food, answering questions and giving my testimony. I volunteer to babysit and enjoy reading to the little ones and listening to them tell their tales. In years past, I loved telling stories to the kids – Bible stories, missionary stories and stories of heroes.

I also home educated our five children in the five R’s: reading, ’riting, ’rithmetic, responsibility and religion. Our children are the future of our nation, the “cream of the crop,” and I feel investing in them in any positive way is time well-spent and will be rewarded - maybe not immediately, but unequivocally eventually.

Cathy Barnes, member of Slope Electric Cooperative


Just one year ago, I had the opportunity to go to Houston, Texas, and help with hurricane relief. Even six months after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, there were many people not able to return to their homes. We were able to help one veteran sort through piles of belongings still outside his gutted home.

The emotional strain as well as physical strain needed the touch of a caring hand. The grateful tears of a single mother who had to work full time was more than payment for us cleaning her house, with hopes of her moving back soon.

The variety of those I worked alongside made this volunteer experience special also. They included Mennonite families from Indiana, a youth group from Georgia and a friend who has lived in Houston for 40 years, but never knew the way she could help her neighbors.

Sore muscles from hard physical labor were a thankful reminder of how good it feels to literally lend a hand.

Priscilla Backstrom, member of Northern Plains Electric Cooperative


With eight young children, living in rural North Dakota, I did not have a great deal of free time. However, from a young age, my siblings and I were taught to do what we could for others, and for the church. My husband, Tom, and I wanted to instill the same value in our children, so I volunteered for the position to clean the church. At least once a month, I would gather the buckets, mops, cleaning supplies, and the kids, and we would drive to the church for a Saturday of cleaning.

One year, it rained for three straight days and nights, right before one of the most important Sundays of the year, Easter Sunday. I knew there was no possible way to drive the dirt roads leading to the church without getting stuck in the mud. With mops and buckets in hand, my oldest daughters and I struck out on foot for a three-mile trek to clean the church the day before Easter Sunday. We polished the altar and pews, and scrubbed and waxed the floors. The church was spotless.

The next morning, the rain let up and the sun made a grand appearance. We were eager to get to the church on time. It was worth the blisters on my knees, for the thrill of seeing the surprised looks on the parishioners’ faces when they walked through the front door of the country church and saw that they would worship, that Easter Sunday, in a shiny, clean, church. It was a glorious day.

Eva Rettig


A recent study from Mayo Clinic (May 18, 2017), reports that volunteering can benefit your health in many ways, including staying physically fit and active, reducing the risk of depression, decreasing stress levels, teaching valuable skills and may even help you live longer. This is not new information. The bottom line is that volunteering is good for your health.

For many of us in small communities, volunteering is second nature. We likely refer to it as “helping out,” “pitching in” or “stepping up to the plate.” Small communities rely on everyone to survive and thrive. When I look back on the number of volunteer activities that I have done over the years, I can say that my experiences have been many and varied. I’m sure many can relate. Perhaps it was volunteering with the local EMS, the church festival, the summer jamboree, bake sales and medical benefits, the local co-op or library. It seems it’s the way of life in North Dakota.

My most meaningful volunteer experience wasn’t something I did for someone else. It was someone else doing something for me. About a dozen years ago, I became ill and was hospitalized for many days. It is not something I like to think about, but I’ll never forget the action of one hospital volunteer when she came into my room and placed a bouquet of fresh flowers on the windowsill. While research shows that her volunteer activity will likely benefit her overall health, it was that one small act that made all the difference in the world to me.

Susan Schmitt, member of Slope Electric Cooperative


One of the great community events in Dickinson is the annual Mardi Gras organized by the Catholic schools at the end of January. This year’s Mardi Gras is in its 55th year. The event would not take place without the hundreds of talented volunteers from the community, from all walks of life.

Planning for this annual event begins within weeks of the last Mardi Gras. There is fun and food for everyone, including three home-cooked meals to be feasted upon each of the days. Food includes deep-fried turkey, roast, ham, fried chicken, Alaskan fish, sausage with sauerkraut and dumplings, potatoes, vegetables, salads, relishes and homemade pies, cakes and bars. The midway has games for all ages. Craft booths can be found and many businesses donate items to be auctioned. This truly is a community event that can be enjoyed by all.

I first volunteered for the Mardi Gras in 1971, while pregnant with our daughter. I can’t claim a title of saying I worked all 47 of those years, but there were many. I eventually became the person in charge of purchasing all the groceries for the meals each day, holding that position for seven or eight years. Working with so many people was enjoyable and you got to know people you hadn’t met before. It is satisfying to be part of this big event and amazing how the Mardi Gras can take place when we all work together to make it happen.

Come join in the fun and maybe even volunteer.

Leona Knopik, member of Roughrider Electric Cooperative


At first I said, “I’m sorry, I’m too busy. I can’t now.” An older member had asked if I would keep the American Legion Auxiliary going. “If no one does, it will die!”

After I retired, my answer kept haunting me, because I know how worthy this organization is. My father and husband were in the U.S. Army, and father-in-law in the U.S. Navy. I came to realize, “Why not see if there is still any local interest?” Fifteen ladies initially expressed interest. Our first meeting was April 17, 2018. Without a group behind any volunteer, nothing happens.

 With the American Legion Auxiliary’s cooperation and enthusiasm, we boxed and sent homemade goodies and candy to the North Dakota Veterans Home in Lisbon. Next, the Auxiliary members set out poppy jars among local businesses to collect funds for veterans. The community supported this cause very well. After Memorial Day services, we served a community dinner, and a Veterans Day supper Nov. 11. The Auxiliary’s mission is to keep active with ongoing ideas and projects, including care packages for veterans and soldiers away from home.

“Service, Not Self” is a motto of the American Legion Auxiliary. It’s in this spirit that Parshall’s organization has been renewed.

Joyce Waldock, member of Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative


Born into a musical family, I am compelled to carry on my musical lifestyle. My father and mother instilled this activity into 11 of us kids, appreciating music in many forms. Whether it is singing, playing an instrument or appreciating the joys of listening, we knew that a day would never end without a song.

I currently have the privilege to play piano, organ and lead music at our St. Mary’s Church in Golva. Also, I toot the trumpet and play taps for military events and various other occasions. This volunteer service gives me a complete happy heart, as I extend a talent God bestowed on me.

Mary Lee Schmitz, member of Goldenwest Electric Cooperative


The most reward was volunteering for Oreo’s Animal Rescue, since the rescue began. I’ve raised kittens that had been left by their mother or owners, nurturing them until they were ready for new homes. I helped rehabilitate puppies or dogs who were left in bad situations, earning their trust and bringing them back to health and hopefully finding them loving homes who will understand them.

It is hard to turn away people with situations. We all try to do what we can. We love them and let them go, then make room for the next one in need. It is rewarding when someone tells you how much they love the animal they adopted and that you fostered.

Jean Hofer, member of Roughrider Electric Cooperative


I have volunteered many times over the years. Sometimes not of my own choosing, like when my son spoke up in front of a group, yelling out, “My mom wants to be a Cub Scout den leader” or the infamous, “My mom will bring treats for the whole team.” But the one l remember most was getting involved with a food co-op. The idea originated in Arizona and was slowly spreading to other states. Surplus produce, along with purchased meats, formed a package that included enough meat for one meal and then a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

To take advantage of this deal, individuals paid $15 and proof of some type of community service of their choice. My choice was to volunteer at the main distribution point. Big trucks loaded with boxes would lumber into the parking lot at 6 a.m. and we would start unloading and organizing the boxes of food as quickly as possible to prepare for individual site pickups, beginning at around 8 a.m. Some of the larger orders were prepared for pickup as well. Boxes were taken by other volunteers to local sites and even some surrounding towns for individual pickup. Cooperation was the key, and it only took a short time before we were all on first-name basis, sharing stories and laughter.

Cleaning up took until about noon, but some days I felt I just hadn’t had enough of the fun, so I would reach out to one of the local sites to help organize the boxes of produce, and then stand at the tables to hand out the portions. Getting the opportunity to interact with the people participating in the co-op was the highlight of my day, along with doing something good for others.

Nel Summers, member of Verendrye Electric Cooperative


“Go to the nursing home” came the voice one day, and I recognized it as God speaking. I only wished he had told me what to do once I got there! But now, six adventure-filled years later, I realize that simply being there is what matters.

Nursing home residents can expect and hope for visits from family members. They can expect the facility employees to give them care and attention. But when someone with no agenda but love shows up, wonderful things can happen for them and for me.

It might be arms flung out for a hug they’ve been longing for. It might be merrily singing old favorite songs together. It might be a game of Scrabble or cards. It might be holding a gnarled hand as you pray together. It might be arm wrestling (OK, she beat me, but I made her work for it!). It might be the opportunity to introduce someone to Jesus just before they step into eternity. It might be watching in awe the tenderness of a CNA who oozes affection for his/her charges.

Every time I go, it is with the intention of giving something – a smile, encouragement, a Bible verse, a push of a wheelchair, a hug, a sparkly bracelet, a prayer, a song. But I am the one who receives so much that my heart is bursting each time I go there. We really do need each other.

Mari Lou Uecker, member of Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative


The most fulfilling and fun volunteering I do is to go to the Tioga nursing home and play the piano for the residents. Whether it’s gospel music or jazz, they always seem to enjoy it. I always say you don’t have to be a professional pianist. You only have to be willing. I have two “gigs” on St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day to play for them!

Char Hodenfield, member of Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative


For many years, my favorite volunteer activities centered around young people and were family-oriented.

Under Father Charles Heidt, our parish at St. Anthony’s in Donnybrook had a CD and CYO classes in our parish hall classrooms on Wednesday evenings. We teachers were parents and went along with our children. It was soul-satisfying and worthwhile.

Also as a longtime 4-H leader, we enjoyed educating and sharing learning experiences with our young people. We leaders were trained to present information to the members. We at times met in the school or at the various homes in the evenings. It was such a pleasure seeing the members mature and receive awards.

Betty Steinberger, member of Verendrye Electric Cooperative


My wife, Lindy, and I are flood survivors from the 2011 Souris River flood in Minot. We were very lucky to get back into our damaged home one year to the day the sirens blew to tell us the river had been breached.

We got back into our home through the help of family, friends and people we had not known. We felt luckier than most and I wanted to try to find a way to “pay it forward.”

I became a case manager for what was called “RAFT” or resource area flood team. As case managers, we were to help flood survivors work their way through the maze of all the financial programs that were available to help them get their lives together and to get back into their homes.

Toward the end of our work, we found out that FEMA was going to allow the people who were living in FEMA trailers to purchase them. Most of these people were living in what had become a mobile or manufactured home court.

The state of North Dakota helped them with low-interest loans to purchase trailers, but they still needed funds to make the deposit for the lot rent, utility deposits and to be able to do some cosmetic work on the trailers to make them look more like a standard trailer home.

We were able to help them find the extra finances they needed. One client, a woman with bright red hair, came in to get her check for the extras. When I gave her the check, she hugged me and started to jump up and down and she said, “I am some 50 years old and the only thing I ever owned was an old car. Now I have a home.” At that moment, I felt I had found a small way to “pay it forward.”

Bob Saunders, member of Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative


MARCH: What’s one of the best products made in North Dakota?

Deadline for submission: Feb. 15


APRIL: Is there a health care professional who you feel deserves special recognition? Tell us about him or her!

Deadline for submission: March 11