Beat the winter blues by volunteering


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The holiday season is here and while many are excited to receive gifts, others are giving the gift of service.

A local volunteer says giving her time feels better than any gift she’s received.

If the cold weather and snow have you feeling down, Penny Weckman has just the task to pick you up — volunteering.

“It’s the best thing. It’s like, when you’re having a bad day and you come, and by the time you leave your day is all turned around,” Weckman said.

But Weckman isn’t alone on her volunteering journey.

“Murphy is an 11-year-old yellow lab and we rescued him when he was about 6-months-old, and he is our family member and he loves coming to work. It’s his favorite time,” Weckman said.

Twice a week the two of them visit Sanford Health Hospital staff and patients, offering everyone some time to relax with the friendly, furry, volunteer of the month.

“When you have a pet in there they just seem to relax a little bit and even if it’s a 30 second to forget about what’s going on or what’s happening, that’s all they really need,” Weckman said.

Director of volunteer services and retail management at Sanford Health, Nona Bixler, says it’s not just about helping others. It’s about lifting your own spirits, too.

“I hear it all year long, but I think it’s I get more back than I give. So I think that’s probably why it’s so important,” Bixler said.

Before sitting down for our interview, Bixler herself just finished volunteering at a local organization in Sioux Falls — the good deed not only helped people in need, but her too.

“That was probably the highlight of my day today,” Bixler said.

And even if you feel too busy to volunteer your time this holiday season, experts say volunteers are needed year round.

“There’s places throughout our community. Calling the helpline center at 2-1-1, they have a ton of opportunities for people to volunteer. Here at Sanford we ask for a little bit more of a commitment, but we do have a 3 to 4 hour shift and it’s just twice a month,” Bixler said.

“It’s just time. It’s an easy thing to really carve out, because everybody thinks they’re really, really busy but it really doesn’t take that much,” Weckman said.

A meaningful job, with a paycheck that some might even consider priceless.

Weckman says there is a certification process dogs must go through before being eligible to volunteer. For more information, click here.

To see a list of other volunteer opportunities at Sanford Health, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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