Fargo Woman Receives AARP Award for Volunteer of the Year

82-year-old Vel Rae Burkholder started volunteering for the organization 22 years ago

FARGO, N.D. — Volunteering is the niche 82–year–old Vel Rae Burkholder didn’t know she was searching for 22 years ago.

But when she finally found it, something else came along with it.

“Do you feel as though you found your purpose?”

“Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it,” Burkholder said.

She’s done about 100 hours of service to AARP each month since 1997.

With all the dedication and love put into it, there was certainly no shortage of fulfillment painted on her face through the tears and her big smile as she accepted the AARP’s 2018 Andrus Award, their highest and most prestigious award for community service.

“It was overwhelming and it was also very humbling but I’ve been very fortunate to work with the group at AARP and have fun,” Burkholder said.

While she says she’s both humbled and honored to receive the award, she says volunteering has always been her the best prize of all.

“It just seems like something that means more to you then. You learn from them as well as they learn from you and I just feel that it makes you happier,” Burkholder said.

It’s a feeling AARP North Dakota state director Josh Askvig says doesn’t go unnoticed.

“She enters a room and just instantly you light up because she’s there to do whatever she can to make that event awesome. We do so many events that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do accept she raises her hand and says ‘I’ll help. I’d be glad to help find other folks to help out and make sure it gets done,” Askvig said.

Burkholder has done more than 40 fraud presentations in just the last two years.

She also frequently helps out with AARP’s Movies for Grown Ups program.

After helping out at a variety of events for so long, Burkholder is a strong believer others would find the same fulfillment at least volunteering once in their lifetime.

“They need to volunteer for something. They shouldn’t just sit back and not do anything. You really do have purpose and you really enjoy life better,” she said.

Burkholder’s win means AARP will donate $500 to a charity of her choice.

She is choosing to give the money to Moorhead’s Theatre B because her son loved everything about plays and musicals.

Categories: Community, Local News, North Dakota News