When Joan Rodman, avid gardener, fisherman, outdoor enthusiast, and activist retired from the nursing profession, she had already determined that she wanted to stay busy. She also wanted a variety of jobs and did not shy away from doing something that she had never done before.
Her first volunteer opportunity came when she noticed an ad in The Villager asking for people to help start a community garden. Volunteers were needed to turn a piece of former farm land into a productive garden. Duties would include working with other volunteers, recruiting people, clearing the land of weeds, dividing the area into 36 plots and assigning them to gardeners. That first year only about half of the plots were utilized; the following year word had spread and all plots were filled.
“People raised crops that they liked; one grandmother grew pumpkins for her grandchildren; another grew vegetables from her native area of Alsace Lorraine.” she said.
After five years or so, Joan decided it was time to try something new. A news program on WCCO featured a nonprofit horse rescue and requested volunteers. Joan signed up. “At that time, all I knew about horses was what they looked like.” she commented. Undeterred, the ranch assigned her a mentor to teach her what to do and Joan became a groomer, arriving for her 1½ hour shift every week. “Those horses are just like big dogs. They love to be groomed, to be petted and talked to. And they roll in the grass just like dogs do. One horse that I was grooming got so relaxed that he lowered his head and went to sleep while I worked.” Joan is now in her third year as a volunteer at the ranch. “Anyone interested in the program can find more information at the website “This Old Horse” (www.thisoldhorse.org or 651-437-1889) she said. There are local ranches at Hugo, Hastings, Goodhue and other Minnesota locations. All are nonprofit and all are dedicated to providing retired horses, abused horses or horses that are victim to changes in their owner’s life status with a safe haven to live out their years.
“The nonprofit receives horses from many states. Some are retired race horses, some retired polo ponies or police horses, and others whose owners are unable to continue to care for them. The ranch where I work received a small group of mustangs from North Dakota that includes animals that are blind. The university is now studying the mustangs to try to determine the cause of the blindness.”
Since grooming horses is not full time, Joan continues as a volunteer at Joseph’s Coat, the free store for low income and homeless persons. She has been part of the volunteer staff of 200 hundred or so for more than five years and enjoys the work and the camaraderie. “People really need the items we have. When they come in we ask for an ID and enter that into our computers. We do this solely because the demand is so high the people are limited to coming in once a week. Right now, many of the formerly homeless are getting their apartments at the Dorothy Day Center and they need basics like pots and pans or dishes. Small items like toothbrushes that are still sealed in their plastic wrappers, soaps, etc. are also useful. Jewelry is prized.”
“Yes, we provide clothing. If you want to donate, make sure the clothes are clean, free of stains, have all their buttons and belts. Baby clothes are particularly valued, but again have to be free of stains. Tents and sleeping bags can be used by homeless people.”
“The best thing to do if you have questions about an item is to call and ask if we can use it. We accept donations on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.” Joan currently has no plans to stop volunteering.
Editor’s note: this is part of a series exploring seniors who have lived or worked in the West 7th area and whose lives make a difference. Pat Tupper is a West End writer.