Gladys Goecke

Gladys Goecke, Senior Director of Volunteers, Direct Mail, and Memorials at the American Lung Association of Minnesota, is not herself a volunteer, but she has been working with volunteers for all her 50 years with the association. Actually, Gladys doesn't just work with volunteers; for nearly her entire tenure at the American Lung Association of Minnesota, she has overseen the volunteer program there. The field of volunteer management was in its earliest stages when Gladys started working with Lung Association volunteers in the 1950s. As the field has developed, she has actively sought out opportunities to develop her volunteer management skills and the volunteer program at the American Lung Association of Minnesota.

Gladys maintains a strong volunteer program using some important principles of volunteer resources management. She always expresses appreciation for the time and work of volunteers. She makes a point to remember birthdays and other occasions. There are special treats for the volunteers when they come in to the office. Gladys also sits down in the volunteer room with the volunteers and works as hard or harder than they do, right alongside them.

Gladys loves working with volunteers because they love to come to work, they are always looking for more work, and are willing to do whatever is asked of them. She described the volunteers at the American Lung Association of Minnesota as "a wonderful bunch of people … who make my job so much easier!" Before computers and mail merge programs made mass mailings less labor intensive, volunteers prepared the annual mailings of Christmas Seals for the branch offices in Minnesota and South Dakota. Today, Gladys still gets assistance from volunteers every time there is a major mailing.

While Gladys gives all the credit for the success of the volunteer program she oversees to her hard-working volunteers, others who have worked with her are quick to recognize that effective volunteer management is essential for a volunteer program that keeps volunteers engaged and coming back for more. According to Audrene Lojovich, American Lung Association of Minnesota Board Chair, "The Lung Association has been a better place to work and volunteer due to [Gladys'] dedication." Another colleague said, "Gladys is a magnet for a core of volunteers that has consistently served this organization for years. Her proficient organizational skills, pleasant demeanor, and appreciation of their services attract volunteers to donate their time and skills over and over again."

Among the many devoted volunteers she works with, Gladys identified some who showed extraordinary commitment to the Lung Association and our mission. One, an émigré from Austria, started volunteering at age 80. Three days a week, for ten years, she took the bus to the Lung Association offices to donate her time. Gladys also expressed admiration for a current volunteer who suffers from chronic lung problems, and puts in many volunteer hours working at health fairs and promoting awareness on behalf of the American Lung Association.

Gladys recently celebrated fifty years with the American Lung Association of Minnesota. For over a hundred years, the American Lung Association has relied on the skills and dedication of volunteers to make possible what we do. For close to half that time, Gladys has been engaging, supporting, and finding meaningful opportunities for a number of those volunteers.