Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the special National Volunteer Week spread in the April 10, 2019, edition of the Northfield News.
Patrick (Packy) and Karen Mader both credit their parents for modeling and teaching the value of volunteering and giving back to others. The lessons learned during their youth have been a cornerstone in living lives filled with happiness and service to the Northfield community.
Packy, who grew up with six siblings on a farm, says that his parents didn’t have much in the material sense, but they had other types of wealth. “They were ‘rich in friends,’ and they always found room for one more at the table,” he recalls, “or found ways to give to those who had need.”
Karen fondly recalls her parents being active “beyond their family.” They were coaching, teaching, leading Campfire Girls, or supporting other organizations in which their children were involved.
Prior to retirement, Karen and Packy worked helping others. Karen served as a nurse, and Packy taught elementary schoolchildren. They also made time to volunteer. When their children were at home, they would go as a family to deliver Meals on Wheels and assist elderly neighbors. “We thought it was important for our children to engage with people outside their comfortable social circle and experience the two-way gift of even brief interactions,” says Karen.
Packy coached baseball and soccer for 14 years, was a Scout leader, and a led faith-formation classes in his church. Karen taught Sunday school, was an active school volunteer during her children’s formative years and involved in church-related services that reach out to the community. Now that they have moved into retirement, they are finding new opportunities to continue helping others.
Karen believes that there is no end to the volunteer opportunities available to suit any personality type. She prefers one-on-one involvement, while Packy’s teaching background makes him comfortable working with groups. With her nursing training, Karen has served on St. Dominic’s Health Ministry committee for 20 years, has been a Bethel Befriender volunteer for 15 years, coordinates two Bethel blood drives annually, and is a hospice volunteer as well as a trained facilitator for advanced-care planning. Karen’s interest in preventing gun violence prompted her training to facilitate Be Smart gun safety classes for adults.
Packy is active at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church as one of the coordinators for the Thanksgiving meal project through the Community Action Center of Northfield. He serves on the hospitality and environmental committees and is a lector. Recently, he was appointed to a long-term volunteer at-large position on the Minnesota Judicial Selection Commission.
The Maders are open to situations and opportunities to connect with others. Sometimes these encounters are brief and sometimes these connections become enduring relationships over an extended period of time. Regardless, they always feel enriched by the growth that comes through life’s challenges outside of themselves.
Packy and Karen have a sustained commitment to “pay it forward.” They learned it during their own childhoods, taught their children, and along the way they have become important and positive role models for others. When asked what prompts them to volunteer, they replied, “We are motivated to volunteer because we hope to contribute to and build a thoughtful, caring and engaged community.”