Community to give back to Willmar, Minn., volunteer battling lymphoma
WILLMAR - She has volunteered in the Willmar community for almost 15 years, helping raise more than $200,000 for Relay for Life and helping raise more than $50,000 and delivering meals weekly for Meals on Wheels. Now, Vicki Dew's friends and co-workers are giving back to her while she battles stage 4 lymphoma.
A benefit to help defray medical expenses will be held in Dew's honor from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church in Willmar.
"I met Vicki when I started working at Walmart six years ago," Warren Sundstrom, food service director at West Central Industries and co-chair of the benefit, said. "She invited me to do Meals on Wheels with her and then she got me involved with Relay for Life."
Sundstrom's fellow benefit co-chair Jamin Johnson, special events coordinator and program manager for West Central Industries, said she met Dew 12 years ago when Johnson started working at West Central Industries.
"She's the driving force behind getting Walmart staff involved with Meals on Wheels," Johnson said. "She's been the catalyst for rounding up drivers and getting the Walmart Foundation on board for their support of Meals on Wheels."
Dew has helped rally her fellow Walmart employees over the years to raise more than $50,000 from the Walmart Foundation for Meals on Wheels.
Connie Jensen, personnel manager for Walmart and co-chair of Dew's benefit, said a certain number of community service hours and number of volunteers are required by the Walmart Foundation to receive different levels of donations.
"We always want to receive the maximum benefits," Jensen said. "If we're behind on our hours or need more volunteers, Vicki will go to individual people and get them involved so we can get the maximum benefits. She strives for that top dollar when it comes to fundraising."
Dew is the Willmar Walmart's "cheerleader" for community involvement, Jensen said.
"She gets the associates going for Relay for Life, she drives for Meals on Wheels and she cheerleads to get others to either ride with her while she delivers or to drive," Jensen said. "She likes to be involved in the community, and all of us at Walmart can volunteer with her."
Sundstrom said he's thankful for Dew's excitement for volunteering.
"If I wasn't asked to volunteer, I wouldn't have gotten involved," he said. "She's really devoted to these causes. She's just everywhere."
Dew, who works in invoicing at Walmart, said her mother is the reason she is an active volunteer today.
"My mother was always active doing whatever she could to help," Dew said. "When I was in the Navy, we always did community service when we arrived at foreign ports. At my last duty station before I retired, we delivered Meals on Wheels. When I moved here, I went looking for one to volunteer with."
Dew said Walmart also had a Relay for Life team when she started working there in 1999, and she had lost her father to cancer two years prior. Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
"I just believe you need to give back whenever, wherever, however you can," she said. "As a volunteer, it doesn't matter how much or how little time you give, because it all matters to someone."
When Sundstrom, Johnson and Jensen approached Dew about holding a benefit for her, Dew realized she didn't like being "on that side of the fence."
"I would much rather be helping people, without a doubt," Dew said.
Sundstrom said he knew Dew didn't want to be in the limelight.
"We just thought that because of everything she's done, we needed to give back to her," he said.
The benefit for Dew will have a silent auction, raffle and live auction, along with a pasta dinner. The benefit will run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday with a 5:30 p.m. celebration and unveiling of the sign that will hang in West Central Industries' cafeteria. The company is renaming its cafeteria after Dew.
University of Minnesota Board of Regents member Dean Johnson and Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish will both speak at the benefit, along with representatives from Kandiyohi County Relay for Life and the Willmar Walmart.
The benefit will be held at First Baptist Church, located at 1000 Sixth St. S., Willmar, near Willmar Middle School. The suggested donation for the dinner is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Attendees are encouraged to wear purple, Dew's favorite color.
For those who can't attend but would still like to donate, donations can be dropped off at West Central Industries or Bremer Bank.