‘There’s a lot of need for volunteers’: Couple enjoys meeting people, staying busy while volunteering

Published 3:46 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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Some people play more golf when they retire. Others return to school to take a few classes. Mary and Bill Daly wanted to volunteer.

So they started with Meals on the Go.

Both Dalys volunteer at St. Theodore Catholic Church’s Loaves and Fishes, at the church’s fish fries and as ushers, and also volunteer at food drives for United Way of Freeborn County as well as at the Armory, deliver meals through Meals on the Go through Mayo Clinic Health System and worked at last year’s county fair. They’ll also cook for funerals.

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Though they’ve volunteered to do the fish fries for 20 years, the couple started volunteering more following Mary’s retirement five years ago.

“It’s something to do, something to keep us busy,” Bill said, adding there was joy in helping others.

A big reason they enjoy it so much: the people they meet.

Mary, a former optical manager at the Shopko in Austin for 32 years, was asked if she would volunteer for Loaves and Fishes, a program that typically draws around 150 people.

And every Monday, she and Bill will work to create a meal with a protein, a salad, a vegetable and a dessert. They’ll also volunteer to help with Thanksgiving and Easter meals.

“We get to where we know these people,” she said.

Working with people for so long, she realized many people needed help and were hurting financially.

For Bill, who worked as a manager at the former Albert Lea Shopko optical store, working with and talking to people was something he had lots of experience with. And it was something he missed doing.

“I can’t sit around,” he said. “I just got to be up and doing something.

“Winter times are really tough cause I’m not outside doing things.”

Being outgoing and having an interest in cooking made volunteer work at kitchens a natural fit. In fact, Bill still works as a judge with the Kansas City Barbecue Society, and he enjoys watching cooking competitions.

His volunteer work made him realize he had a need to help others, and until recently he didn’t realize the local need. 

“There are a lot of people here that it’s hard to believe that Albert Lea actually has that many people that are in need of food,” Mary said. “Some of our people that we’ve known in the past have been homeless.”  

It also wasn’t unusual to see people who attend the free meal to visit the food bank, and said she felt lucky for what she has.

Besides learning to cook in volume, volunteering has helped Mary hone her grant-writing skills as well. And when she’s not filling out forms, she could be planning and shopping for the next meal.

Bill encouraged anyone with the time to try volunteering, especially in something they’re passionate about.

“There’s a lot of need for volunteers,” he said. “I know Cindy [Bodensteiner] up at Meals on the Go is always looking for volunteers to help deliver meals, and that only takes about an hour.”

Mary’s advice: Go for it.

“We really enjoy it,” she said. “Bill and I, we spend a lot of time up here at St. Theodore’s. We have met a lot of wonderful people doing this, and it is really rewarding.”

On a typical week, the couple will spend 20 hours of their time volunteering.