SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) –Many organizations across KELOLAND rely on volunteers, including area hospitals.
In tonight’s Your Money Matters, the important role volunteers play at Sanford Health and one man who’s answered the call to volunteer for 30 years.
“Volunteers just really help with making a welcoming environment,” Sanford Health volunteer coordinator Bekah Aisenbrey said. “It’s a big campus, so a lot of our volunteers help them find their way around.”
No one knows his way around Sanford quite like Don Gaarder.
“I’ve got it pretty well figured out,” Gaarder said.
That’s because the 89-year-old has been walking these halls for 30 years, volunteering his time to help make sure your trip to the doctor is a little less stressful.
“I tell people where to go, but I do it nicely,” Gaarder said.
He even continued volunteering during the pandemic after he was vaccinated. KELOLAND News caught up with him in 2021 when he was helping direct traffic during a vaccination clinic.
“He’s given over 2,100 hours,” Aisenbrey said. “He makes it his job to come here every time and makes sure we know if he’s not going to make it and makes sure there’s pride in what they do and take pride in their community.”
A commitment to helping people Don has held all his life.
“I was a pastor for 30 years,” Gaarder said. “I just enjoy being with people and enjoy helping them.”
It’s why he’s continually volunteered all his life, first in Pierre where he began volunteering for Sanford and several other organizations, receiving the volunteer of the year award in Pierre/Ft. Pierre back in 2010. But this year Sanford Health recognized his 30 years of service with the Sanford Spirit of Volunteerism award.
“When I get done with 30 years of service I will be 90 years old,” Gaarder said.
While he’s still enjoying his retirement with some of the pastimes you’d expect…
“…golfing is just relaxing and a joy,” Gaarder said.
…even his hole-in-one last month doesn’t compare to the pride and fulfillment he has found in volunteering every week for the past three decades of his retirement.
“I appreciate the opportunity to keep doing what I’m doing; I might not quit at 90, we’ll see,” Gaarder said.
When he’s not volunteering or golfing, he is visiting his wife at the Good Samaritan Society in Sioux Falls every day. They will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary this August.
Don is one of 350 volunteers at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, if you’d like to learn more about volunteering at a health system in your community, you can apply online.