The Gift of Mentoring

Twenty years ago I found the theatre. As an introverted young person I never would have thought I would love it as much as I did. Something inside me comes alive when entering a theatre to do work, to create something that engages both the audience and the actors and the crew. It feels meaningful to be a part of something that can impact peoples’ emotions and their perceptions of their relationships, their world, and of themselves.

I was fortunate enough to begin volunteering in community theatre at the age of 14, thanks to a wonderful mentor of mine, Linda Anderson. Linda coached me in roles, drove me to rehearsals, registered me for directing competitions and gave constant encouragement and feedback. It was a gift to develop a love for community theatre. It brings people out of their varied everyday lives and lets them collaborate and create in a way that most day-to-day events don’t allow.

What I’ve come to learn through my volunteer experience is that every young person, shy and introverted or otherwise, has some gift of talent and passion within them. A few of them discover theirs at a young age – cooking with their mom, hunting with their dad, playing baseball with their friends after school. But many haven’t. Maybe their passion is programming robots, raising chickens, editing film, serving people in their community – and maybe they have never had the opportunity to try those things, or to even consider trying them.

Today I get to work with some of the most inspiring people I have met. They’re not artists in the traditional sense – creating visual art or performing – but staff and volunteers in the 4-H program who use creativity and ingenuity to create a community of mentors, sponsors and leaders who all work to give young people the opportunity to find the talent they already have and learn to use it to become life-long learners and leaders.

Linda coached me in the art of theatre and showed me how practicing art teaches us transferable skills like collaboration, leadership, expression, compromise, diligence, exploration, evaluation and self-awareness. I thought she was only sharing her love of theatre with me, but I now realize she taught me even more about the power that mentors have to tear down the barriers that youth envision around them, and open a world of opportunities, options and choice.

To find an organization to mentor youth or otherwise positively impact our community, call the Volunteer Network of Clay County at 262-IVOL (4865) or go online at

by Bonnie Dalager, Volunteer Network of Clay County Committee

Reprinted with permission from the Spencer Daily Reporter.

Volunteering, It Works For Me

By Bill Kersting, Clay County Volunteer Network Board Member

A fellow by the name of Tom Brokaw once said, “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot harder to make a difference.” While the relative truth of that statement can vary from one individual to another, we know from experience that when we volunteer, we make a difference in the life of someone with a need. At the same time, we benefit immensely ourselves. Allow me to explain.

I’ve had several opportunities to volunteer since retiring a year ago. One involves providing a form of respite care to a gentleman who has suffered a stroke. Spending about four hours a week with “Ralph” makes it possible for his wife to have a break from care giving and maintain vital contacts with friends in the community.

The other assignment I have is with an elderly dialysis patient who occasionally needs transportation to a clinic in another county. “Tom” has a regular driver, but every now and then he needs someone as a substitute or alternate driver. That’s where I come in.

Both gentlemen are fun to be with and are always grateful for the time we spend together. My impression of the visits is that I come away considerably more blessed than if I had passed up the chance to volunteer.

If it weren’t for Ralph, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have been privileged to view hawks and eagles as we drive along on numerous county back roads. We are on the lookout for deer, too, and spot them watching us from a safe distance. What fun seeing them glide through the brush as they realize we have been observing them! About two weeks ago, we came upon several river otters on a frozen farm pond. What a kick!

Tom spent many years as an over-the-road trucker. His twice-weekly treks for four-hour stints undergoing dialysis are a necessary interruption to an otherwise pleasant lifestyle at an independent living facility. His positive attitude is nothing short of inspiring! I learn patience and tolerance from him. Since his daily routine is typically pretty predictable, the round-trip for dialysis is an outing for Tom – a chance to see someone new and converse about the good old days. And I’m the beneficiary of his storytelling!

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve enjoyed every minute of retirement. At the same time, I wouldn’t give up my time with Ralph and Tom for anything. I recommend everyone consider where they can make a difference in another’s life. The opportunities are endless. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. Think about it, pray about it, and get connected!

To begin the process, it is as easy as calling the Volunteer Network of Clay County at 262-IVOL (4865) or going online at

Originally published December 13, 2012 in the Spencer Daily Reporter.  Re-published with permission.

Volunteer Network Announced to Clay County

Today, the Spencer Daily Reporter has an article announcing the Volunteer Network of Clay County and it’s “Commitment to Serve”.  You can find the full article here.  Here’s a copy of the supplemented information about how the Volunteer Network can help your organization or group:

How can the Volunteer Network help your club?

– Post your volunteer needs on the Volunteer Network web site ( and in the weekly column.

– The Volunteer Network can identify projects for your organization to do as a group, or for you to do as individuals.

How can you help?:

– Sign up to be a volunteer

– Serve on the start-up team. Many of the members will also become board members.

– Let the Volunteer Network staff know about your organizations’ volunteer needs

– Support the Volunteer Network financially

– Raise awareness of the Volunteer Network by telling others about it


– For more information, contact Susan Howe or Mary Steele at 262-8858.