Volunteers are often considered the lifeblood of non-profit organizations. Their contribution is also invaluable in nursing homes. One Sioux Falls man who was spending so much time at Avera Prince of Peace Retirement Community, they made it official and gave him an identification badge.
82 year old volunteer Marv Bjerke is known around the Avera Prince of Peace Retirement Community as the "Popcorn Man". He starts popping and the residents start rolling in to the activities room. He joined the ranks of volunteer extraordinaire just a little over a month ago after his wife Fran had a stroke. She got weaker and he says he no longer could take care of her. He says he was lucky to get her in at Prince of Peace in long-term care.
Marv says, "It makes me feel good to do this. If I'm making popcorn Fran comes in and watches. It gives her something to do so that's good."
It's not just the popcorn that makes him so popular. He is here every single day, most of the day. He does what's ever asked of him. That's why they also call him "Marvelous Marv".
Avera Prince of Peace Activities and Volunteer Coordinator Mary Meister says, "He is the type of person that just shines. He can sense if someone needs a little attention and he's there for them. I always wonder if we are asking too much of him and he says heaven no. It's not work, I love to be here and I love every minute of it."
As if making popcorn weren't enough he also brings something from home for "show and tell". The day we were there he brought Fran's old Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. He says he likes seeing her face light up when she recognizes the dolls and brings back fond memories for her.
Marv says, "I find all kinds of things to do. I push the residents around to the break room or dining room, those sorts of things. Also the pay is good. You know the thank yous from the residents and staff. I'm emotional. I'm sorry."
Mary Meister says, "Our volunteers aren't just volunteers, they are friends of the residents and it's so valuable."
Marv says he was fortunate to have retired at the age of 55 and take Fran around the world on 16 different cruises. Those days are gone, but he still values every moment with her in sickness and in health.
If you are interested in volunteering, Avera Prince of Peace would be happy to accommodate. Call (605) 322-5600