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2023 July Volunteer of the Month - Susan Thorson

Turning a bare piece of land into a bountiful, productive place to gather food is usually the job of farmers. However, over the past few years, unused parcels of land have become a mecca of garden vegetables and other grown foods thanks to the efforts of gardeners in the community who, in the past, have had no place to have a garden.

Susan Thorson has been a Healthy Yankton committee member since the group’s inception approximately 18 years ago. Healthy Yankton’s largest project has been growing Yankton's community gardening opportunities. This project has grown from 50 plots in one location to a whopping 300+ plots in two locations as of the 2023 season! Gardeners grow healthy food for their families with many donating to others in need; as well as having an opportunity to get their daily exercise.

Susan helped this project recognize its potential and put in the work to grow it to what it is today. Her primary role with Healthy Yankton is treasurer where she has remained a consistent leader and advisor. She also spends countless hours getting the community gardens ready, closing them up and maintaining them through the growing season.

Because of Susan’s commitment of time and talent to our community, United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton was honored to present her with the July 2023 Volunteer of the Month Award.

Angie O’Conner, President of Healthy Yankton said; “Susan has quietly served on this committee over the years and volunteered hundreds of hours so that opportunities could be available for others to improve their health. Her background as a nurse and her "get it done" attitude has helped our committee’s projects continue to grow and evolve. She serves to help others. Her volunteerism doesn't stop after the financial duties end. Susan isn't afraid to do the heavy lifting when the gardens open and close each season. She gets her hands dirty cleaning up compost piles, pounding in plot markers and hauling garden carts in and out of storage. She is a quiet leader.”

We asked Susan to share more about her volunteerism, in her own words:

“I have lived in the Greater Yankton area since 1996 and also lived in Yankton in the late seventies and early eighties.”

“I volunteer in communities wherever we have lived either through church, my jobs, or in areas of special interest to me. I have always believed wherever you are planted, you need to sprout and grow. You can do this by volunteering.”

“My main volunteer position is on the Healthy Yankton Board, and I serve as the treasurer. I take in the garden annual rent fees and then pay all the bills which include supplies for the garden set up, water, signs, and additional items as needed. Each year I recruit my husband to help, and he really enjoys the time setting the garden up. I have volunteered at our church on a variety of different mission projects and help many individuals with errands, occasional transportation, cleaning, laundry, downsizing, and moving. I just go about doing for others as I was taught by my grandparents and parents. When there is a need presented by a family or individual, I try to figure out how we can help them. I just try to live my calling and live generously by giving of myself.”

“It just feels good to help others and meet the needs of projects in the community. I most like working with people and enabling them to do the best they can under their circumstances. We all need help at sometimes and I just enjoy seeing people accomplish their goals whether it happens to be gardening, in their jobs or in their communities.”

“I would have to say the community garden is the best volunteer experience I have had. Our Healthy Yankton Community Garden really serves the needs of all income levels and has expanded over the years. It is a joy to work with all the volunteers the week before the garden opens in the spring. Everyone pitches in on the hard work, gets to know one another and shares their garden experience. We are thankful for our core group of people who continue to help every year as well as the gardeners who help.”

“The advice I would give to those about getting out there and volunteering in their communities is just volunteer for anything that interests you and you can make a difference in the community!"

Thank you, Susan, for all you do.

To learn more about local volunteer opportunities or to nominate someone for United Way’s Volunteer of the Month Award, please visit, email, or call United Way of Greater Yankton at (605) 665-6766.

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