Paying it forward: Ken Martin and Bev Priefer

Ken and Bev panning for gold in Alaska

When Ken Martin and Bev Priefer met on a blind date, they discovered they had a common interest in helping others; an interest that continues into retirement in the form of volunteerism.

Ken and Bev both had active working lives. Ken worked in varying positions at American Family Insurance and Bev spent many years in a variety of nursing positions with the Veterans Health Administration. When retirement was on the horizon, Bev took time to reflect and plan. When thinking about what she’d like to do with her time, she identified activities that fell into three groups: service to others, lifelong learning, and creative endeavors. “I like categories,” she explains. She quickly found PLATO, where she attends classes and lectures, and she also allocates time for reading. A life-long baker, she began exploring bread baking, Together, Ken and Bev make over 100 jars of jam each year! Bev volunteers for the Red Cross, University League, and Bethel Food Pantry lending her hand in a variety of activities.

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Bev with Bucky at the Carbone Cancer Walk 

Retirement for both has been an adjustment in realizing that the pay that accompanied previous employment now comes indirectly through life-long savings and investments. “The pay still comes,” she explains. “It’s just a different mindset.”

When Ken retired from a long career at American Family Insurance, he quickly found himself looking for projects. “There’s no right or wrong thing to do when someone retires, “ Ken says. “It’s what works for that person. But I felt I needed to fill a void.” Ken missed working with people and completing projects, so he took part-time jobs at Duluth Trading Company and as a short-order cook in the first couple of years of retirement.

Ken joined SAIL several years ago after hearing Executive Director Ann Albert talking about the organization at a retiree luncheon. Soon after joining, he was excited to find the volunteer driver and handyman positions available, and he greatly enjoys helping other members get around town and take care of household needs. “There’s the satisfaction of helping someone in need, and the knowledge that we’re paying it forward,” Ken says, knowing that he and Bev may need support one day as well. “There is an intrinsic reward from committing time and energy,” he says. And Bev adds, “It’s important to think about what you want, to ask yourself ‘what was it about [my time working] that brought satisfaction?’”

Bev says Ken’s commitment inspires her. In fact, they seem to inspire each other, reminding each other of all of the great things the other person has done. With loving admiration, Ken reminds Bev of her varying volunteer work helping others through her medical training. Bev reminds Ken of all of the projects he’s taken on. They share volunteer time together at their church’s food pantry. Ken also volunteers on the board of the Friends of Fitchburg Library, where they’re working to make the library accessible to more people, specifically children.

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Ken and Bev on the Royal Gorge Train in Colorado

When asked about what makes volunteering rewarding at an organization, Bev says it often comes down to the volunteer coordinator’s ability to organize and encourage strong working relationships among those lending their time. “The volunteer coordinator should help people understand the mission of the project, and that everyone is working toward a common goal,” Bev says. Ken agrees and says when volunteering they like to be kept busy. Both agree that a “thank you” goes a long way. Ken also says he appreciates feedback in the form of statistics. An organization he volunteers for sporadically publishes hours worked and volunteers can see the tangible results of their efforts.

Both agree that it’s easy to get overcommitted, so it’s important to learn to say “no.” In retirement, this couple seems to have mastered how to make time for each other as well as pursue their own interests. They’ve enjoyed the many programs at SAIL, including Tech Tutoring and SAILing Into The Future! SAIL’s programs provide many of the activities that are important to them, such as continuing to learn and be creative.

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Celebrating Bev’s birthday at Tavern on the Green in New York City

Still, their volunteerism is a significant shared passion. During his time working, Ken once heard a retiring officer say “Volunteerism is the rent you pay for the space you occupy on this Earth.” A beautiful quote, and one that Ken and Bev have taken deeply to heart.

SAIL is always looking for volunteers! Please contact volunteer coordinator Peggy York at 608-230-4321 or to find out how you can help!

2 thoughts on “Paying it forward: Ken Martin and Bev Priefer

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