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Rock County has most volunteers in region

Blue Mound Area Theatre volunteers Karen Buss (left) and Charlie Berzins make and box up popcorn at a recent event at the Palace Theatre. BMAT volunteers served 12,159 people in 2022, according to a recent volunteer report. Contributed Photo
Blue Mound Area Theatre volunteers Karen Buss (left) and Charlie Berzins make and box up popcorn at a recent event at the Palace Theatre. BMAT volunteers served 12,159 people in 2022, according to a recent volunteer report. Contributed Photo
Mavis Fodness

Rock County boasts 563 volunteers, according to the recently released A.C.E. of SW Minnesota annual report.

“I am really honored to work with all the volunteers of Rock County,” said program manager Linda Wenzel.

“We have the best group in the whole state of Minnesota.”

Wenzel presented the report to commissioners Aug. 27.

Volunteers will be honored Sept. 7 at the annual appreciation dinner in Luverne.

“The Senior RSVP program is thriving,” she said. “Volunteers bring years of experience through every aspect of their diverse careers, hobbies and accomplishments.”

In 2022, the 563 local volunteers completed 49,566 hours, the highest amount recorded in the past five years.

The hours are the second-highest in the six-county region that includes Rock, Nobles, Murray, Cottonwood, Redwood, Lyon and Lincoln.

Redwood County topped the volunteer hours with 50,919.

Cumulatively, the counties tallied 2,337 volunteers who gave 256,034 hours to various organizations.

Using the Minnesota value of volunteer time ($34.47 per hour), the volunteers donated more than $8.8 million in service time.

Locally, volunteers contribute more than $1.3 million ($29.95 per hour) in labor savings to area organizations, Wenzel said.

The Top 10 volunteer sites in Rock County, the number of volunteers, (hours donated by those volunteers) and the number of people served at that site include:

•ATLAS/Redeemed Remnants 58 (4,830) 23,277.

•Grace Quilters 17 (3,969) 292.

•Rock County Historical Society 35 (3,248) 3,524.

•Sanford Luverne Medical Center 41 (2,646) 7,203.

•LLS Meal Site at Generations 46 (2,070) 4,667.

•Friendly Visiting Rock Co. 24 (1,994) 219 volunteers.

•St. Catherine’s Sewing Center 10 (1,694) 382.

•St. John Lutheran Church 11 (1,612) 259.

•Blue Mound Area Theatre 28 (1,414) 12,159.

There are 62 volunteer sites in Rock County.

Volunteers can be of any age.

In Rock County, volunteers’ ages range from 11 to 95.

In the annual report, only the numbers and hours worked by those volunteers ages 55 and older are included.

While organizations benefit from volunteer hours, the volunteers also receive an important benefit.

“It provides an opportunity to meet new people and keep their mind and body engaged in developing and learning new skills,” Wenzel said. “Their quality of life will be enriched by active participation in community service, and Rock County will benefit by their willingness to share their time and talents.”


Palace Theatre wouldn’t function without volunteers

Wenzel said the site most impacted by local volunteers is the Palace Theatre, which is managed by the Blue Mound Area Theatre or BMAT.

In 2022, the number of people served topped 12,159 (some duplication due to multiple visits).

“Volunteers do everything at the Palace,” said manager Shawn Kinsinger. “From making the popcorn, stocking the soda coolers and taking tickets, to cleaning after the events, the Palace could not function without the volunteers.”

The BMAT board operates the Palace for the city of Luverne.

Kinsinger and Mary Carroll with the Palace Box Office are the only paid employees.

Twenty-eight volunteers assisted with events in 2022.

“Without volunteers, the Palace simply would not be open to the public,” Kinsinger said.

“The fact that the Palace has operated on the spirit of volunteerism for decades says a lot about our community.”


Volunteers sought for home-delivered meals

While the number of hours volunteers gave in 2022 climbed to the highest amount since 2018, the number of volunteers in 2022 declined by 27 individuals from the five-year high in 2021.

The impact of fewer volunteers impacts the senior nutrition program, which has some gaps in the delivery of weekday meals.

“There’s a challenge to complete home-delivered meals,” she said. “Churches have been organizing, but then have some people not show up.”

As a result, Wenzel is organizing a list of volunteers who could fill in at the last minute.

“We need a short list to be able to make that flow,” she said.


A.C.E. is not just volunteers

Volunteering is one aspect of the Advocate Connect Educate (A.C.E.) program.

Wenzel also oversees the self-supporting services, caregiver services, SW MN Dementia Network, health and wellness programing and medical equipment rental.

The health and wellness programing expanded outside of Luverne and continues to do so in 2023, Wenzel said.

SAIL or Stay Active and Independent for Life now take place in Hills, Beaver Creek, Magnolia and Hardwick.

For more information about A.C.E. volunteering, programming or adding volunteer sites, contact Wenzel, 507-283-5064 or