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Throughout the month of April, communities across the United States celebrate National Volunteer Month, recognizing the collective impact volunteers have in their community. 
Since the 1970’s, April draws the support and endorsement of the President and Congress, governors, mayors and municipal leaders, as well as corporate and community groups across the country.

In our backyard of Itasca County and its surrounding communities, volunteers are essential to United Way of 1000 Lakes’ work to advance the common good and are vital to the success of our non-profit community. Volunteer opportunities are as varied as the people that make up our volunteer force.  

From our board rooms to our class rooms, thousands give back each year through United Way and its member agencies, reaching far into the communities they serve. Volunteers read to children, deliver meals, build ramps, give rides, clean parks, and so much more.

Each year in honor of Nation Volunteer Week, April 23-29, United Way casts a light on individuals and programs who have made significant impacts in their communities. Seven nominees were recognized with Volunteer Spotlight Awards, including:

Gary Heinzer gives back to support those experiencing homeless.
Grace House’s mission is to provide safe, temporary shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness, and connect them to community resources, and Gary Heinzer has provided all of this and more. 

He has volunteered a total of 1,105 hours in the past two years and has excelled in his role as the overnight on-site volunteer where he made each guest feel safe and comfortable. Gary shows compassion and lends an ear to any guest that needs it, and continually expresses humility at the Grace House and to everyone who walks through their doors.  

Jessica Mohn, Volunteer Coordinator at Grace House, reflected on Gary’s work. “It is great to have Gary as a volunteer, he is a great addition and understands our mission and the work we do at Grace House.  He is willing to help out and listen to our guests.”

Evelyn Fielding is dedicated to ending sexual violence.
Known for being the longest serving volunteer at Support Within Reach, Evelyn volunteers 40 hours a month in various roles, mainly involving the updating of the organization’s website.

Every 98 seconds, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Support Within Reach is one of the United Way funded programs that strives to reduce the impact and harm of sexual violence for families and individuals in the communities they serve. 

Evelyn not only assists with the website, but she also donates her time for community outreach events, editing documents, and answering phones. Evelyn is well deserving of this award for her willingness to help and her dedication to bringing awareness throughout the Itasca Area. 

Roberta Truempler is helping senior’s stay active and healthy.
Roberta Truempler has said to be one of the few people who actually gets excited about working with the ElderCircle database, and excels with her strengths and skills when working with client needs and services. 

ElderCircle is an agency that helps to empower seniors with options to maintain their independence for as long as possible, along with providing resources to their loved ones and caregivers. Approximately 5,000 community members utilize ElderCircle programs like medical transportation, home and respite care, grocery services, and lawn care, each year.

Roberta fits the mold of an ElderCircle volunteer perfectly where she is readily available to work hard for their cause.  Her welcoming demeanor and kind heart make her a vital asset to the organization. And because accuracy is such a critical aspect of client and donor data, the value of Roberta’s attention to detail and thoroughness is beyond measure.  
“We simply would not have client and donor information so readily available without Roberta’s work,” said Lisa Randall, ElderCircle staff member. “She’s the ideal combination of a delight to have in the office, who serves ElderCircle in a special and unique way.”

Bigfork “lunch buddies” are mentoring children in our schools.
A program offered by Bridges Kinship Mentoring, “lunch buddies” are adults from the business and retirement community who meet with second grade students over lunch and a fun educational activity at schools every other week. Volunteers form positive relationships with the students that participate and impacts lives with all who are involved. 

“It is so fun to see volunteers run into older students in the lunch room,” said program coordinator Rich Marcis. He said that the positive relationships created early on have a lasting effect. “The kids stop by to say hi or hug their old lunch buddy.” 

Some of the volunteers this year are new, but some have been participating for as long as ten years. Current volunteers serving Bigfork School include: Al Gustaveson, Barb Bialon, Bonnie Cole, Carole Aronson, Connie Remmers, Dale Fuhrman, Janice Haley, Krini Alampi, LeeAnn Baker, Lorraine Fuhrman, Mary Ann Starnes, Sandy Lyytinen, and Sue Williams. Each of these volunteers instills a love for reading into each of the students they encounter and remains a support system to them after the program has ended. 

Baylie Norris and Hannah Erickson are exercising their voices for youth issues.
Through the United Way Promise Fellow program in the Greenway High School, Baylie Norris and Hannah Erickson recently earned a seat on the Minnesota Youth Council (MYC). As youth members, they serve with adults members from congressional districts across the state to advance Policy, Community Development and Education.

Through volunteerism with MYC’s Community Outreach & Development Committee, a youth-driven philanthropy process to award funding to projects impacting teen substance abuse, and have become knowledgeable about statewide issues that affect youth, both socially and economically.  

They go above and beyond the goals of positive citizenship and active participation at the Greenway High School and their community.

National Volunteer month is a great time to get involved and give back. Here are several ways individuals can take an active role at the United Way and in their community.

  • Help with United Way fundraising efforts to ensure people get the help they need. 
  • Get involved with United Way. Help guide goals, strategies and investments. 
  • Serve as an AmeriCorps through United Way's Promise Fellow program for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year.
  • Invite friends and family to lend a hand on June 21st for United Way’s community-wide Day of Action. 

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at United Way, call 999-7570 or visit

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