Mary Berglin '65
Her peers call her “one of a kind” and say she is the “consummate volunteer.” Mary, or “Marty” Engebretson as she was known in college, was taught by her parents to do a good job no matter what the task.
“Whether it’s taking out garbage or doing a paid job, things have to be done right,” Berglin said.
Her can-do attitude has led her through multiple jobs – both paid positions and volunteer roles.
A double major in English literature and education, Berglin went on to teach English at Washington High School in Sioux Falls. When she and her husband, Dwight, decided to start a family, she took some time off to raise her kids. Later on, she changed her career path to work at the Vermillion Public Library delivering books to patients recovering at home.
“I tried to be a little sunshine to all those homebound patrons of the library,” Berglin said.
While working at the library, a position she held for 24 years, Berglin became involved with the Vermillion Food Pantry through her church.
“When it comes to the food pantry,” Berglin said, “there are a lot of hats that you need to wear.”
She helped with the behind-the-scenes jobs such as sorting food, training volunteers, handling paperwork, applying for secured grants and going out into the community to talk to groups about the food pantry. All this is on top of the time she spends helping those who rely on the Food Pantry for their groceries.
The biggest hat she wore was “director,” a title she held for 25 years at the food pantry. Her leadership has been key to accommodating the growing number of people in need of food each year in Clay County.
Berglin joined the Vermillion Food Pantry five years after its start, when the agency was just developing. At that time, it served fewer than 100 people a year. This number has greatly increased and it now serves more than 5,000 people each year from surrounding areas.
To assist all of these people, Berglin needed help.
So she went out into the community to inspire others to volunteer for the food pantry, creating a system using more than 85 volunteers who are organized into 17 teams.
“If I can get [the community] to listen, to volunteer or to donate, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something."
Her faith and her education have impacted how she lives out her life and she fondly remembers having good Bible classes with various pastors on Augustana’s campus. She was also involved in Women’s Chorus at Augustana and worked part time all throughout her schooling.
Her faith and her parents taught her that paid or unpaid, there are things that have to be done to help those in need. Going beyond the basic call of duty is fulfilling to Berglin, who likes the feeling of doing something worthwhile with her time.
She sees this in the volunteers who come in as well.
“The [University of South Dakota] students who have worked when the pantry was open see the fruits of their labors,” Berglin said. “They felt they were doing something really important and decided to go beyond the class requirements [for volunteer hours].”
For the countless hours she’s given in service to the Food Pantry, she has been recognized numerous times by organizations. Most recently, Sanford Health named her “Vermillion Volunteer of the Year” in May of this year.
After 25 years, her last day at the Vermillion Food Pantry was March 1, 2014. She has enjoyed retirement so far and even took a major trip to Europe this summer with her husband. Berglin plans to spend more time with her grandchildren, catch up on her reading list and do some gardening.
To honor her faith and service to the Vermillion community, Berglin will receive the Alumni Achievement Award during Viking Days this fall.