– Bethesda is increasingly opening up to the community after more than two years of pandemic restrictions.
And with more openness to the public, the need has arisen to rebuild the corps of volunteers throughout the aged care facility system.
Mary Hanson, a recently retired teacher and new volunteer coordinator, said volunteers can help in many ways. Some even helped out during the pandemic by decorating trees and keeping the grounds beautiful because the public couldn’t come in.
Hanson illustrated her need for volunteers during a nursing home activity at Bethesda Grand. About 30 people had gathered around tables for a back to school party. A small group of activists were there to help.
They heard some school related jokes, real moans. An example – Student: “Would you ever punish me for something I didn’t do?” Teacher: “Of course not.” Student: “Well, well, because I didn’t do my homework.”
They said the Pledge of Allegiance and played a trivia game that had each table racing to think of a school-related word for each letter of the alphabet. Some tables held six or eight people; others had more.
“We need volunteers to help,” Hanson said as she watched.
“We could do smaller tables” and give more individual attention, she said. For activities at a memorial station, the goal is to have an almost 1:1 ratio between residents and volunteers.
Some things volunteers can do for residents:
* Offer rides to church on Sundays.
* Bring pets to visit.
* Share musical talents.
* Assistance with activities such as bingo calls or games.
* Read to residents who are visually impaired or help them write letters.
“There are endless volunteers we can use,” said Hanson.
A more urgent need is volunteers for Bethesda’s 125th anniversary celebrations on September 25.
Hanson said she hopes to have enough volunteers on hand so everyone can work a short shift, maybe an hour, so they can also attend the celebration.
The story goes on
Bethesda is a nonprofit organization that provides care ranging from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing. It also offers a fitness club, home health care, adult day care and outpatient or short term therapy.
In addition to a large campus in Willmar, Bethesda has facilities in New London and Olivia. Volunteers are needed in all facilities. Chief development officer Caroline Chan said Bethesda is able to hire enough people to care for residents, but volunteers add the “extra sprinkles” to improve their quality of life.
“Our mission can only flourish with more hands,” Chan said.
Many volunteers at their facilities have a connection to Bethesda, they said.
Some of them even live there. Nursing home residents Birdie and Donald Urban, 92 and nearly 95, volunteered to fill in the envelopes for the 125th anniversary invitations. They also wipe bingo cards and chips after a game, among other volunteer activities.
“We have to do something to pass the time,” Birdie Urban said. During their afternoon stroll in the hallways, they stopped to chat. They also enjoy being outside when the weather permits.
The two have been married for 67 years, Birdie said. She has worked as a nurse’s assistant at several community facilities, including the former Bethesda Heritage for 19 years. Donald Urban is a veteran and was a farmer.
Hanson said she meets with volunteers before they start and she offers coffee and treats. Volunteers must provide some personal information, be fingerprinted and undergo a background check.
“We have these guidelines in place to protect everyone,” she said. Schools and other organizations that have volunteers helping vulnerable populations have similar policies.
For more information about volunteers and a link to an online volunteer form, go to
and click on “Volunteering”.
Contact Hanson at 320-235-0240 or