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Avid volunteer gets creative during COVID-19

When a global pandemic gets in the way of your volunteering, what do you do? If you are like Mandy Petersen, administrative assistant II for South Dakota Operations, you get creative.

Mandy knew that the nonprofit organizations she supported through her volunteer efforts before the pandemic still needed her help, even though she wasn’t able to be there in person. So, she started thinking outside the box for ways she could still give back to those in need, while socially distanced, and accrue her volunteer hours.

Determined to find a way

Volunteering is very important to Mandy. She has participated in The Wellmark Foundation’s BluesCare GivingSM program since joining Wellmark in 2018. According to her, she wasn't going to let a global pandemic get in the way of her being able to designate additional dollars to nonprofits she cares about.

Mandy realized the new volunteering ideas were likely going to take up more of her time, but that didn’t bother her. Volunteering is something that brought her joy and she was determined to find a way to make it all happen. She realized that since she was working from home, she could use her former commute time and her lunch break to volunteer.

One of the organizations that benefitted from Mandy’s creativeness is called LifeScape. The nonprofit organization provides a wide range of services for children and adults who have disabilities and medical rehabilitation needs. When stricter COVID-19 restrictions locked everything down, Mandy reached out to the volunteer coordinator to discuss other “out-of-the-box” volunteering opportunities.

Together, they came up with the idea of having Mandy bake goodies once a week for a group of women who live together in a home supported by LifeScape because “these are the things you don’t do when on a restricted budget,” explains Mandy. When delivering the yummy treats, the ladies were so excited and so appreciative of her kindness and generosity.

“I received so many thank you notes and cards in the mail from these wonderful ladies,” Mandy said. “It warms my heart! I love the feeling I get when I volunteer. I think I benefit more by giving my time to others than they receive from whatever I’m doing for them.”

Taking on new responsibilities

In addition to her baking talents, Mandy also worked with the volunteer coordinator to help wrap presents around the holidays. She would pull into the parking lot at LifeScape and the volunteer coordinator would fill her car up with the gifts that needed to be wrapped.

Mandy also put in a lot of volunteer hours assisting her daughter’s cheer team. She helped with keeping track of their budget, creating fun graphics and motivational messages, and purchasing and assembling gift bags for the cheerleaders, coaches and bus drivers for each competition. According to Petersen, “with the year being so different for the athletes, as well, they really looked forward to these little gifts at each competition.”

Mandy felt like she still had more to give. So, she reached out to the Harrisburg high school to see if they would allow her to pick up litter around the campus. Mandy was able to accrue volunteer hours by spending her lunch hour, and sometimes her commute time, picking up trash around the Harrisburg high school campus.

Through Mandy’s creativity, strong desire to help others, and giving her time and talents, she accrued 246.25 hours of Personal Volunteer Time in 2020. That equated to $10,000 that Mandy was able to designate to eligible nonprofits of her choice through BluesCare Giving’s personal volunteer time benefit. Mandy designated her BluesCare Giving dollars to the school district for student activities.

"It doesn't cost a lot to give your time"

Mandy hopes she can max out her personal volunteer time again in 2021. “Working from home has made my ability to volunteer during a pandemic a little easier,” she said. “I didn’t have more time, I just got more creative. If everyone had a little compassion for others and did something good for someone else, could you imagine the ripple effect? It doesn’t cost a lot to give your time.”

Even though 2020 was a challenging year in so many ways, many wonderful things have happened as a result. “I’m so thankful that The Wellmark Foundation matches my volunteer hours with a donation,” she said. “If every employee took advantage of this opportunity, the impact on our communities would be incredible.”

To find out if your nonprofit organization is eligible for the BluesCare Giving program, contact Send Email.