Wilder Volunteers:  Making an Impact

Wilder Foundation appreciates the hard work of all its volunteers.  Whether its delivering meals to seniors, teaching computer classes to immigrant communities or mentoring young people to become leaders, Wilder Foundation's volunteers make an impact in the lives of our community every day.  Here are some of their stories.

Bill and Kit Burch: A Lifetime of Service

Bill and Kit Burch are the kind of people you could visit with for hours. They can recall the tiniest details about their fascinating life together, making their stories rich with wisdom, humor and compassion. With a chuckle, Kit remembers what happened the day of their first date almost 70 years prior: “Bill was hurt during football practice and we were supposed to meet at a dance later. Naturally, I wondered about my plans for the evening.”
Part of their life story is an unwavering commitment to service. Bill and Kit have been volunteering in one form or another for more than 30 years. For the past 25 years they have volunteered with Wilder’s Meals on Wheels program, delivering meals to seniors with limited mobility. Bill and Kit were there when Wilder’s Meals on Wheels program began in 1989. The Foundation took on the service from House of Hope Church where Bill and Kit attended and volunteered. They continued to deliver meals through Wilder’s program and have been at it ever since.
“Honestly, you get more than you give,” says Kit about what has kept them going as volunteers over the years. Bill adds, “One of our favorite stops is a high rise apartment building. Though we only deliver two meals there, we’ve gotten to know many of the people who live in the building. Both of us like connecting with people—over time you get acquainted with them and we enjoy that.”
Meals on Wheels is a vital community service in Minnesota where freezing temperatures and icy conditions make it difficult for older adults to get around safely. Undaunted by poor conditions, Kit straps spikes onto her shoes in the winter months to make sure she can grip the icy sidewalks and stairs. “People are so grateful for the meal delivery, especially when the weather is bad. Those are the days you feel like you’ve done something meaningful and it doesn’t hurt you a bit.” 
The Burches encourage others to volunteer however they can, even if just to lend a helping hand to a neighbor or friend. “Push yourself to try something new and you may find you really enjoy it,” says Kit. “Bill and I are thankful that we’ve been able to help others—it’s important to us to reach out however we can.”
While Bill and Kit are hanging up the delivery bags and homemade shoe spikes for Meals on Wheels, they aren’t slowing down a bit. At time of this writing they are celebrating their 68th wedding anniversary in Aspen, Colorado, enjoying the annual summer music festival.
It is impossible to sum up 25 years of volunteer service to those in need of a hot meal and a friendly visit. Bill and Kit graciously accepted Sandy Kiernat Community Service Award from Wilder in 2013, but no award or recognition can fully capture the impact they’ve had throughout their lifetime of service. “Bill and Kit are a special breed of volunteers. I will truly miss their dedication to our Meals on Wheels clients,” says Meals on Wheels manager Alease Moore.
On behalf of everyone at Wilder, we thank Bill, Kit and all of our wonderful volunteers for making a difference in the community every day.
Volunteering with Meals on Wheels is a great way to make a difference with just a few hours a week. Routes typically take an hour or less and our schedule allows volunteers to help out however often they would like. To learn how you can make a difference as a Meals on Wheels volunteer, call 651-280-2500 or visit the Wilder Meals on Wheels website.

Featured Volunteer: Jessica Masterman


In 2012, Jessica Masterman graduated with a master's degree in marine science from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. Upon returning to the U.S. in August of 2013, she was thrilled to land a volunteer opportunity as the Head Aquarium Caretaker at the Wilder Childhood Development Center (CDC). That is when Jessica became known as "The Fish Lady."

For Jessica, her volunteer experience with Wilder has allowed her to utilize her expertise in marine science while keeping her aquatic skills sharp. "I perform regular water quality testing and add various supplements to the aquarium in order to have the best water conditions that will give us the happiest and healthiest fish," she said.

Jessica has enjoyed learning about the care of the particular species of fish kept at the CDC and is also helping plan for the future. "I am excited to help plan for the growth of our fish community by adding several new species." In addition to her duties maintaining the aquarium, Jessica has also had the opportunity to interact with the employees and children in the center. "I feel so fortunate to be given the chance to know so many wonderful people. The employees and amazing boys and girls have made my time at Wilder a truly delightful experience," she said.

Jessica is a wonderful example of putting your skills to great use as a volunteer. Through this work, she has been able to share her expertise in marine science, benefiting the Wilder Foundation while also expanding her own knowledge base. Wilder offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities to fit all types of interests. If you have skills you would like to share with the Foundation, please contact Austine Vaughn, Volunteer Manager at 651-280-2460 or austine.vaughn@wilder.org.

Featured Intern: Chalonne Wilson

chalonne-wilson.jpgTalk with Chalonne Wilson for just a few minutes and it becomes evident that she is wise beyond her years. She is personally dedicated to social change and began volunteering at a young age. In fact, she learned about Wilder's critical work in the community as a former Homeless Study volunteer.

Last October, the recent University of Minnesota graduate connected with the organization again. She began a 10-month internship with Community Initiatives in the Wilder Center for Communities (WCC). Chalonne was matched with Wilder through Public Allies, an AmeriCorps youth leadership program that pairs 25 socially conscious young adults with nonprofits each year.

Since joining the WCC team, Chalonne has been involved with many projects such as the Capacity to Care and Youth Leadership Initiatives. She has particularly enjoyed working with the African-American Babies Coalition project, an initiative dedicated to improving early childhood development in the African-American community. As outreach efforts for the program kicked off, Chalonne provided input about utilizing social media to make information more accessible and relevant to younger audiences.

In addition to feeling a personal connection to the work she is doing at Wilder, Chalonne values the relationship she has developed with her supervisor, the WCC Manager of Community Initiatives, Kirsten Johnson. "When Kirsten gives me a project to work on, she connects me with the people and resources I need to get it done," Chalonne said. "She checks in with me regularly and gives me honest feedback; she makes me feel respected and appreciated."

Kirsten values what Chalonne brings to the organization as well--especially her passion and innovative ideas. "Chalonne is excited to learn and gain new skills, but you'd hardly know that was what she was up to, as she is very capably building relationships in the community and managing the details of multiple projects." Kirsten said. "I knew from the moment I met her that I'd be lucky to have her as an intern, and perhaps someday as a Wilder staff member!"

Chalonne believes her experience at Wilder has provided her with hands-on skills that will ensure her success in future positions. When her internship ends in July, she will be well prepared for what comes next including attending graduate school and hopefully a career in the public health sector. But she would happily continue working at Wilder. "I can see myself doing this for the rest my life," Chalonne said. "Giving back to my community and transforming the lives of others... and doing that at Wilder... that would be a dream come true."

For information about internships at the Foundation, please contact us at volunteers@wilder.org.


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