National Volunteer Week, April 18 - 24, 2021, annually recognizes the power of volunteers to be a force for good in the world. Each year, United Way presents a select few outstanding volunteers with Volunteer of the Year Awards in appreciation of their service to Itasca-area communities.
This year, more than ever, volunteers have shown how essential they are to the wellbeing of our community. From volunteers who stepped up to address emergent issues such as increased food insecurity to those who helped area nonprofits continue delivering their services in difficult circumstances, the Itasca region would not have gotten through the pandemic without the work and selflessness of those who gave their time and talent to help their neighbors. The volunteers spotlighted here have shown up again and again to help our community, bringing light to a dark time for many.
Alan Anderberg received a United Way Volunteer of the Year Award for his unwavering commitment to furthering Itasca County Habitat for Humanity’s mission.
Anderberg’s journey with Habitat began six years ago, following the loss of his wife to cancer. Following her death, Anderberg chose to attend a church service honoring those lost. However, Anderberg misremembered the date and turned up a day early, finding himself at a regular service at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church. There, he learned that Camp Hiawatha, a summer camp affiliated with the church, was in need of volunteers to help spruce up the camp. Anderberg signed up and joined a group of volunteers in painting the camp, where he met Jim Willford, frequent Habitat volunteer and current board member, who invited him to join a group of volunteers working on a Habitat Home Preservation project. Thinking that the project sounded like a good opportunity to meet people, learn new skills, and stay busy, Anderberg agreed to join in, not knowing at the time how much of an impact he would come to have on Habitat’s work.
Since that first experience six years ago, Anderberg has become a staple of Habitat’s construction sites, having helped build seven homes as well as working on Home Preservation and Day of Action projects. Over the years, Anderberg has contributed 753 hours of volunteer work to Habitat - a number that will likely continue to grow as Habitat continues to complete construction and home preservation projects. Over the past year, when Habitat found their volunteer pool depleted due to COVID-19, Anderberg continued showing up to the job site, playing a significant role in helping the organization complete housing projects during the crisis.
“Alan is one of the volunteers we can always count on,” says Jamie Mjolsness, Habitat’s Executive Director. “He always finds time to spend on our build sites no matter how busy he is. I couldn’t imagine getting the last house done without him. During the pandemic volunteers were scarce, and Alan became indispensable in pursuing our mission.”
Anderberg’s commitment to bettering his community goes beyond his involvement with Habitat - he also serves on the St. Andrew’s Church council, mentors local youth, and fosters dogs. Having had no home construction experience when began volunteering with Habitat, Anderberg has gained knowledge and skills over his time with the organization, which he now uses to help friends, family, and other nonprofit organizations to complete construction and repair projects.
Last year, United Way, along with its partners at CEDA, Habitat for Humanity, and the City of Coleraine, chose to move ahead with its annual Day of Action activities, completing revitalization projects at homes, public spaces, and buildings in downtown Coleraine throughout the summer.
Mary Troumbly, a Coleraine resident, took a keen interest in the summer’s projects. Having spent several years on Coleraine’s city council, Troumbly is no stranger to public service. Throughout the summer, Troumbly went above and beyond in improving downtown Coleraine. She showed up to every Day of Action volunteer session, and even went downtown on her own time to complete painting projects.
Troumbly took on a leadership role, often recruiting friends and acquaintances to join her in refurbishing buildings on the city’s main street. She also worked as a liaison between the nonprofit organizations planning the projects and the local businesses involved, advising business owners on paint colors and helping plan and schedule projects.
“Troumbly became a driving force behind the revitalization of downtown Coleraine,” says United Way Executive Director Kim Brink Smith. “Troumbly’s knowledge of and sense of pride in her city exemplifies what it means to take an active role in bettering one’s community.”
Alan Anderberg and Mary Troumbly are just two of the many volunteers whose time and dedication have helped our community get through the challenges we’ve faced over the past year. As the Itasca area proceeds to recover from the health and economic crisis, volunteer efforts will continue to play a significant role in our community’s wellbeing. To find out how you can get involved, visit Bonfire, the Itasca area’s online volunteer portal, at volunteer.uwlakes.org.