Wilder donor Vi Hertog’s childhood during the Great Depression inspires a life of giving
Throughout her adult life, Violet Hertog has helped others wherever and however she could. When Violet, better known as Vi, and her late husband John lived in Seattle, she volunteered in food pantries. In cities like Mandan and Jamestown, ND and Duluth, she collected food for people in need. In Woodbury, she volunteered for Meals on Wheels.
Later in life, Vi and John established an endowment at Wilder to benefit older adults who use services through Wilder. And she hasn’t stopped giving. “I always wanted to do something to help other people if I could,” says Vi, now 95 and living in Maplewood. “I knew there were people who had helped us when we were growing up. If I can give some of that back, that’s what I’d like to do.”
Despite hardships in the Great Depression, Vi never felt she went without
Vi was born in Saint Paul in 1927, two years before the Great Depression began. Her father died when she was 3, leaving her mother to raise Vi and three older children on her own. Vi’s mother lost the family’s home, and they moved to a rental property next door to Vi’s grandmother. Her mother found what work she could, and the family managed with her income and welfare, plus a web of support from family and strangers.
One Thanksgiving, the family didn’t have any money for a special meal, but a woman brought them a basket of food. “Otherwise we would not have had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner… This lady, she was just like an angel,” Vi says.
Vi helps others in the way she had received support
College was out of reach for Vi even though she had earned a scholarship, but she insisted that John finish his degree in engineering at the University of Minnesota before they married in 1950. John worked for the railroad, and Vi maintained the family’s home and raised six children while moving frequently for John’s career.
Wherever the family lived, Vi found ways to support others by volunteering at food pantries, Meals on Wheels and other opportunities. She found a place to volunteer every Thanksgiving in honor of the woman who had brought her family food when they were in need.
Gifts to Wilder were inspired by John’s mother
Vi was introduced to Wilder through her mother-in-law, who volunteered at a Wilder program that provided meals to people in downtown Saint Paul in the 1970s. The idea of giving to Wilder grew after Vi’s mother-in-law died.
In 2015, John and Vi created a named endowment to benefit Wilder’s services for older adults that would receive additional funding as part of their estate plan. After John passed away, Vi continued donating annually to Wilder.
In addition to support for Healthy Aging and Caregiving Services, she donates to the Wilder Child Development Center, which provides high quality early childhood education in the Frogtown neighborhood. “It’s just something that I like to do,” Vi says. “If I can help somebody else, I’m happy I can do that. I feel blessed.”