Sanford volunteers thankful for 11 years, 10,000 hours

"Sanford Health feels like our home away from home."

Ron & Elaine Frary pose after being named the 2020 volunteers of the year.

If you ask Sanford Health director of volunteers and gift shops Nona Bixler, Ron and Elaine Frary are staples of Sanford Health.

“They feel like family. They’re here so much, they feel like family.”

A decade of volunteering

Ron and Elaine have been volunteering at Sanford Health for 11 years, logging over 10,000 hours.

“It’s just something I feel called to do,” said Ron.

“It’s really rewarding. It’s our way of helping in a really small way,” echoed Elaine.

Ron typically volunteers as an escort, as does Elaine. She also visits patients in order to give them a friendly face and ease any worry they have. They say they always make time to let patients know they’re supported.

“They’re not here just to serve three hours and go home. They make time to get to know you and your family,” says Sanford Health volunteer coordinator Rebecca Conner

“I can come into Sioux Falls at Sanford and make a difference in the life of a patient,” Elaine explained.

More: Health care heroes: Sanford’s mobile testing teams

Since July, Ron and Elaine have added to their volunteer responsibilities: they’ve been assembling COVID testing kits.

“We take a swab and vial and put it in a small bag. We take 25 of the small bags and put it in a larger bag, and then we take 20 of the larger bags and put it into a box.”

A big surprise

After giving of themselves for many years and many hours, it was time they were honored.

Sanford Health News followed them around and interviewed them on what it’s been like to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, what they didn’t know is the real story was them.

Nona and Rebecca surprised Ron and Elaine by naming them the 2020 Sanford Health volunteers of the year.

“They are very humble people, and they don’t like a lot of attention they just love to serve,” Rebecca Conner said of Ron and Elaine.

Ron and Elaine say Sanford Health feels like, “our home away from home.”

“We feel valued and appreciated, and very much needed and wanted here,” said Elaine.

“It’s just a great place to be,” chuckled Ron.

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Posted In Awards & Recognition, Coronavirus, People & Culture

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