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Volunteers Across the Years

Today wraps up National Volunteer Week, a whole week when volunteers across the country are recognized for their dedicated service. National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. The News Tribune teamed up with United Way of Greater Duluth Volunteer Center again this year to recognize local volunteers. This year we’re highlighting volunteers of different age groups. No matter where you’re at in life, you can find a meaningful volunteer opportunity to fit your interests, skills and availability. Read these volunteers’ stories and get inspired to find a volunteer opportunity that is right for you! To find out more about volunteer opportunities in the Twin Ports, go to or call Liz Pawlik at (218) 726-4898.

Isaiah and Julius Salinas

Isaiah and Julius Salinas spend time together volunteering as scuba divers at Great Lakes Aquarium. The father/son duo from Esko volunteers at least twice a month together. Isaiah, a senior at Lincoln High School in Esko, has volunteered with the aquarium for almost two years. Julius, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics consultant at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School in Cloquet, has volunteered at the aquarium for five years.

Here’s more about Isaiah and Julius:

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer at the aquarium?

Both: It was a great opportunity to participate in one of our hobbies and help out the GLA at the same time.

Q: Did you two scuba dive before volunteering?

Isaiah: We started when I was 10 and did it as a new adventure and then continued it as recreation.

Julius: We weren’t aware of the opportunity at the GLA until we started the scuba class.

Q: What do you like best about volunteering at the GLA?

Isaiah: Feeding and playing with the fish; waving to the kids when we’re in the tank.

Julius: Doing something with my son that we both like and that helps other people out.

Q: What is one thing you would like others to know about your volunteer experience?

Isaiah: It’s fun, challenging and exciting.

Julius: I think it’s a great way for me to interact with my son and help to instill life skills and expose him to potential career options.

Q: Do you volunteer elsewhere?

Isaiah: We have a section of highway in Esko that we clean. We also fly as crew members on “Miss Mitchell,” the commemorative Air Force’s B-25 Mitchell World War II Vintage Bomber based at the South St. Paul, Minn., airport. We’ve flown together to air shows in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Canada.

Julius: Ruby’s Pantry, Boy Scouts of America and Knights of Columbus. I also dive (at the aquarium) with one of my students from school. He just recently became certified through our dive program that we started at school.

Q: With your busy schedules, how and why do you make the time to volunteer regularly?

Isaiah: We just do it and it’s satisfying.

Julius: We put ourselves on the schedule and commit to being there. People rely on us to do our part, and we don’t want to let them down. It’s the challenge and adventure that make it satisfying.

Dorothy Beck

Dorothy Beck retired from St. Luke’s business office in 1984 and started volunteering in 1986. Beck volunteers at the Building A information desk on the St. Luke’s campus. Her duties are greeting and directing people and answering their questions. According to Beck, her most enjoyable part of volunteering was when she was a messenger. This allowed her special time to meet other volunteers and employees and to give directions to people she encountered along her route. “Dorothy is a past president of St. Luke’s Volunteer Service Guild, serving from 1997 to 1999. For many years she was the top seller for the Guild’s See’s candy fundraiser,” noted Mary Matlack, director of Volunteer Services at St. Luke’s. Beck was born in Willmar, Minn., and lived in New London, Minn., before moving to Duluth in 1939. She was married for 59 years to Donald W. Beck and became a widow in November 2010. She has three children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her hobbies include knitting, crocheting and spending time at the cabin on Whiteface Point. There were many years when she enjoyed swimming and camping. It may surprise anyone to know that she keeps a daily journal and has a file with notes from 40 or more trips she has taken. Beck has many other activities that keep her busy. She is a member of Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, where she helps with the newsletter and other projects. She has delivered meals to homes and served in the soup kitchen at the Damiano Center for 12 years. She is Past Matron and a 65-year member of the Order of Easter Star, Past Worthy High Priestess of White Shrine of Jerusalem and Past President of American Legion Auxiliary – Unit 28. Thank you, Dorothy, for your time and talents in assisting patients, families and visitors to St. Luke’s.

Ron Meyer

Ron Meyer, a lifelong resident of Duluth, volunteers at Lincoln Park Center. He has been volunteering there, preparing taxes through AARPs TaxAide Foundation, since 1996. Recognized as the 2008 Outstanding Senior Volunteer Male for St. Louis County, Meyer has been a longtime asset to the organization and to the community.

Here’s more about Meyer:

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer with AARP?

A: First of all, I was getting ready to retire and I was worried about what to do. I answered an ad in AARP about preparing taxes. They called and trained me. I did taxes for one year on paper. The next year they brought in the computer and I went to South Dakota for three days of training. I couldn’t escape after that. I helped AARP transition to computers. I started with one site and I eventually expanded to 78 sites in northern Minnesota preparing taxes on computers, who take care of about 23,000 clients each year.

Q: How often do you volunteer, and how many clients do you see?

A: There are eight of us preparing taxes at our site, which is open three days a week. Each day we help about 12 clients. Two of us prepare taxes, and one person checks the work and e-files the return. At our site we take care of about 400 clients per year.

Q: Did you have a background in tax preparation before beginning volunteering?

A: No and yes. I had attended the University of Minnesota Duluth and taxes were part of the business administration classes. I was actually having my own taxes prepared by an accountant. The first year TaxAide had a computer program, I had my taxes prepared by a certified public accountant and then I checked it on our computer and found I had $440 more refund due than he had calculated.

Q: Can you describe one way you believe your service affects the community?

A: We bring several thousand dollars of tax refunds into the city. We do it without a charge. We’re competing with the large national preparers where the money they charge goes out of town. The money we save our clients stays in town where it’s added to the local economy.

Q: What do you like best about your volunteer experience?

A: I feel really good about helping these people. A lot of them don’t have the knowledge to prepare their own taxes. We prepare taxes for everyone. Then there are some people that only have $4,000-5,000 of income, and I feel really good about getting them their maximum refunds. That is what it’s all about — helping others.

Luke Morcomb

Luke Morcomb, a 31-year old Duluth resident, is pursuing his master’s degree in social work at the University of Minnesota Duluth and working with youth at YMCA Harbor Highlands and on the Street Outreach team with Lutheran Social Service. Even with his busy schedule, Luke finds time to serve as a volunteer for Mentor Duluth. Luke has been mentoring Matthias, 13, since June. He enjoys the opportunity to introduce youth to new activities and appreciates Matthias’ easy-going attitude.

Here’s more about Morcomb:

Q: Why did you decide to be a mentor?

A: I’ve been working with youth for about five to six years now and I tend to get along with youth and dogs better than adults. First of all, I see the need for positive adult role models in people’s lives in order for them to grow up and be successful. There is the need for adults to mentor youth and I like doing childlike activities, so this gives me an excuse to do that kind of stuff. Mostly, it’s just fun. When I asked Matthias what he thought of mentoring, we were in agreement — it’s fun!

Q: How do you find time to be a mentor?

A: I guess I just do. I’m single, that helps! In all seriousness, when you go into a field like mine, opportunities to volunteer often present themselves. When I have time, I go ahead and do it.

Q: What activities do you and Matthias do together?

A: I do things I would do anyway and it’s easy to bring Matthias along. He’s pretty much down for anything. Matthias and I enjoy hiking, exploring Chester Creek, going to hockey games and going out for ice cream. We’ve even volunteered at Loaves & Fishes together. It’s fun sharing stuff that I feel like is becoming lost, like berry picking, woodworking or hunting for diamond willow. Technology is slowly replacing that stuff. This year, I plan on harvesting berries and canning jam with Matthias. This is something that I learned from my grandma because I lived right down the street from her growing up.

Q: Why did you two decide to volunteer at Loaves & Fishes?

A: Matthias and I built bunk beds because they have a shortage of beds. He’s such an easy-going kid that if I suggest anything, he’s like, “Yeah, let’s do it!” I explained to him that Loaves & Fishes is a place to go for people experiencing homelessness, and I told him that he should feel really good about himself because he did a really good thing.

Sara Walsh

Sara Walsh is a junior at Harbor City International School in Duluth. She likes to spend time with her cats, Sphynx and Cairo, and she loves to read and write. Walsh stays involved by volunteering with Animal Allies and with her school’s National Honor Society. She was selected by Harbor City staff to be recognized for her volunteer work during National Volunteer Week 2014. Kate Minor, homework lab and tutor coordinator at Harbor City, said, “I suggested you feature Sara because I had the pleasure of doing a mock interview with her and I was blown away. She talked a lot about her volunteer experiences during the interview. She came right to mind when you asked for a student to recognize.”

Here’s more about Walsh:

Q: How did you get involved in volunteerism?

A: My first volunteering experience was in my freshman year of high school when I took a day off to clean up the creeks of Duluth. It was hard to believe all of the trash people threw into some of the steep hillsides leading down to the creeks, and seeing all the trash get hauled away knowing I had aided in the cleanup was a powerful way of showing how much impact a little work can do in this world. After that, I was always looking out for new volunteer opportunities, and the NHS group at my school helped to connect me to more.

Q: Where do you volunteer?

A: I volunteer at Animal Allies. I go there about twice a month on Sunday mornings. I also volunteer with National Honor Society. We do service projects often. Last year we helped paint a mural at Little Treasures Childcare Center. We are getting together a blood drive for this month. In the fall, we did a clothing drive and my family donated about 500 items.

Q: When did you start volunteering with Animal Allies?

A: I started last summer in August. I volunteer about six hours a month there.

Q: Why did you get started volunteering at Animal Allies?

A: Three years ago my cat died. My family was really sad and we weren’t sure we could get another cat. We went to the shelter and found two cats for our family. Our house has been happy since then. I want others to find that, so their homes can be happy, too.

Q: What do you like most about volunteering with Animal Allies?

A: To be honest, I really love the cats the most, even when they’re cranky in the early mornings. Cats at the shelter, especially the older ones, can be stuck there for a while before finding the right family, so I’m more than happy to take time out of my day to give them enough love to hold them over until they’re finally adopted.

Q: What do you like most about volunteering with Harbor City’s National Honor Society?

A: It’s always fun getting together with a group of friends to hang out for an afternoon and aiding the community while you have fun is an added bonus.

Q: Why do you make the time to regularly volunteer?

A: When you’re in school, it’s hard to keep an active lifestyle. Going into college and real life, I want to keep moving forward and being active.

Gwyn Morgenstern

Gwyn Morgenstern is a 9-year-old student at Lowell Elementary School in Duluth who enjoys spending time volunteering. She volunteers at Lowell Elementary, with Girl Scouts and with her family at Lake Superior Zoo and Animal Allies. Christie Blommel, Reading Corps member at Lowell Elementary School, commented on Gwyn’s volunteerism: “Gwyn has volunteered at Lowell over the past several years. Recently, she has volunteered for the Tomato Man Project, Young Authors and Jump for Heart. Also, she regularly volunteers at the Lake Superior Zoo and Animal Allies. Without student/parent volunteers and others, many community opportunities offered and available simply would not be utilized. Volunteers like Gwyn ensure that perfectly good resources for students and their families do not go to waste.

Here’s more about Gwyn:

Q: Why do you volunteer?

A: It’s important to me because other people who are less fortunate than me may need help. I like helping so others don’t have to work alone.

Q: How do you make time to volunteer?

A: Right now, I just have school and I’m in Girl Scouts. That’s why it’s so easy to volunteer.

Q: How long have you been volunteering?

A: I started volunteering when I was 3 years old. I remember going to the zoo and feeding animals. Now I help by also taking the animals for walks.

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer the places you do?

A: I volunteered for the Tomato Man Project with my parents. I wanted to volunteer for Young Authors because my Grandpa’s a poet and I am good at poetry like him. Since I like to jump rope, it was easy to help out with Jump for Heart.

Q: What do you like best about volunteering?

A: When I am done helping, I feel really accomplished and I like it.

Q: How do you think your volunteer service affects the community?

A: It helps other people have less work to do so they can focus on bigger problems. Plus, I really like giving my time.

Cliffs Connect

Cliffs Women Connect volunteered in February at Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank helping with the Buddy Backpack program and mailings. Sandy Karnowski, district manager of public affairs for Cliffs in Minnesota, and other members of Cliffs Women Connect, took the time to answer some questions about their experience. 

Here’s more about Cliffs Women Connect and their volunteerism:

Q: What is Cliffs?

Sandy Karnowski: Cliffs Natural Resources is the largest iron ore producer in the United States. Here in Minnesota, we operate three iron ore mines. Cliffs has full ownership of United Taconite, which is in Eveleth and Forbes, and Northshore Mining, which is in Babbitt and Silver Bay. We are the managing agent and share ownership with two partners at Hibbing Taconite in Hibbing. We also have a Duluth office that provides services to the operations and a majority of the volunteers here today work out of that office.

Q: What inspired you to get a group together to volunteer?

Karnowski: This is part of Cliffs Women Connect, which is a group that the company started last year. It’s a Cliffs-wide group, so there are regional Cliffs Women Connect groups at all of our operating locations. This one in particular is specific to Minnesota. Our group focuses on providing an environment to encourage our female employees’ development through professional development, networking and outreach. With Cliffs Women Connect, part of our outreach efforts was this volunteer opportunity. Cliffs Women Connect also sponsored volunteer activities for the Buddy Backpack program through the United Way in Northeastern Minnesota.

Q: Can you explain what you did for your project with Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank?

Karnowski: We reached out to see what we could do for United Way and the Buddy Backpack Program seemed to be a good fit. Our group put together food kits for children in the area in need. My understanding is that there are children who on the weekends don’t have access to the food that they would at school, so they’ll have access to this food on the weekends. I think it was a pretty rewarding experience for us.

Q: What did you pack in the backpacks?

Susan Shold: Milk, applesauce, different kinds of fruit, cereal, tuna fish, soup, vegetables and crackers; stuff that is interesting for children to eat, but that good for them nutritionally.

Q: What was your favorite part of coming together as a group?

Shannon Studden: There was a big mix of people in the room and everybody was working together for the same thing. It’s nice to be with people interested in helping out with that.

Shold: As I was packing the backpacks, I was thinking about the kids who were going to receive them and that really meant a lot to me. It was really great knowing that they were going to have this food and without this effort, they may not have anything to eat. It’s very meaningful.

Megan Hanson: One other thing that was rewarding was when we completed the task there was a round of applause and it was like we were cheering for those that started the program and worked hard to get the program going. That was a neat moment.

Q: Do you complete other volunteer projects as a group?

Karnowski: Cliffs overall does a lot of volunteer efforts for Habitat for Humanity and Grandma’s Marathon. The operations do a lot of things for the food banks in town and different activities. For Cliffs Women Connect, we did help distribute some information about Advocates for Family Peace, which is a group that helps people in domestic violence situations. Cliffs Women Connect is certainly looking for a lot of different opportunities, so we can get out and make a difference in the community. This is just one of many, we hope.