Someone You Should Know: Love of volunteering

Menno's Roberta Stoebner is this week's "Someone You Should Know."
Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 4:56 PM CDT
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MENNO, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Earlier this year, Roberta Stoebner thought she, along with her daughter and granddaughter, was going to visit her husband Doug, who’s a resident at Menno-Olivet Care Center.

“I didn’t suspect anything. When we get into the building, Chrissy Fergen, the director of nursing, says, ‘Roberta and Julie, good to see you. Doug’s down in the dining room. There’s a program going on there.’ So we walk down there, and the dining room doors are closed. And then when they get opened, the people go, ‘Surprise!’”

The surprise — Roberta was the South Dakota Health Care Association Adult Volunteer of the Year.

“How surprised was I? On the scale of 1 to 10, I would say 100,” said Roberta.

For the retired teacher, volunteering here was a natural move since she was coming in anyway to visit Doug.

“I asked her if she wanted to come and volunteer at the nursing home. And she got tears in her eyes, and she said, ‘Are you kidding me? I can actually do that?’” said Linda Neuharth.

“Working with people of all ages, but you know, the elderly. I know when I was teenager, I really felt most comfortable around them,” said Roberta.

“She’s not a volunteer. She’s a family member, and she goes out of her way to make everyone feel like family,” said Cheri Knittel.

It didn’t take long for Doug to see this was a good fit for his wife of 47 years.

“And he goes, ‘You’ve found the perfect job for volunteering because it’s one where you can visit, or talk, and you can sing.’ And he was 1,000% right. It’s a place where I can talk, and I can sing,” said Roberta.

And be around her husband more, who has also been an inspiration.

“He has outlived his life expectation because he was diagnosed with brain cancer back in 2006. We were told the average person has 18 months to two years with the type of brain cancer he has. Because it’s treatable, but not curable. Well, that’s been 17 years,” said Roberta.

Roberta will keep volunteering as long as she can, and she has a message, as well.

“I just hope when the day comes, when I need nursing home care, that there will be people who will still volunteer. And don’t forget those who can’t live on their own anymore. I’m not paid with money, but with smiles and hugs,” said Roberta.