Small acts of kindness like showing customers fabric measurements or offering people carts when their hands are full, bring Bonnie Ackerman the most joy.
"When somebody tells me thank you, it makes me feel so good to know I helped them," she said.
When Bonnie retired from a successful career, she, like many people, wasn't ready to step away from meaningful work. Instead of looking for a paid position, she stopped by the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store in West Fargo, ND to inquire about volunteer opportunities, and was "hired" on the spot.
Because she already had a love of quilting, she was asked to merchandise and assists in the arts, crafts, and fabrics department. For the last ten years, that has been her domain... and where she finds her joy in helping people!
"I love everything I do," she said. "Sometimes I go to bed at night and I'm trying to get to sleep and I'm thinking, 'Oh, I think I better do this tomorrow or that tomorrow.'"
Bonnie developed her work ethic growing up on a farm in North Dakota. She had three brothers and simply did what they did. Back then, she says she would have been called a "tomboy." Membership in 4-H was how kids were typically introduced to farming practices at that time, but girls were not yet allowed to be members. Her dad gave her calves to raise anyway, and those calves later paid for her higher education.
Her desire for more education is what took her off the farm and to the big city of Minneapolis, MN. At that time, Northwest Airlines ran a business school in the Twin Cities, where Bonnie learned to be a teletypist. Then, just as her career with Northwest was starting, the company experienced a strike. Looking for stability, she took her office skills to an insurance company that needed a filer. She bloomed in the office work environment and soon because the company's receptionist, what we would now call the "Director of First Impressions." She fell in love with working in an office, being around people, and providing others with information.
When she moved to Fargo, ND, she applied her skills to office work at MeritCare Health Systems (now Sanford Health). For 25 years, she blessed her employer ad co-workers with her warmth, kindness, and good work.
In her years as a dedicated volunteer, Bonnie has been named "Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Volunteer of the Year" three times and gained the appreciation of everyone who has worked with her. Her co-workers are the first to benefit from her attitude.
South Fargo Store Manager, Alicia Ackerson, who previously worked at the West Fargo store said, "Bonnie's not only committed, but she always asks how you're doing before getting right to work."
West Fargo Store Manager, Kirk Hawley, said, "Aside from being caring and positive, Bonnie is a dedicated volunteer who gives her all."
In addition to volunteering at the Ranch, Bonnie makes and donates quilts to various nonprofits in the community.
When asked what advice she would give to someone who is planning to retire, Bonnie laughed and said, "I do not like telling people what to do. But just keep yourself busy, live longer, and be happy. The best thing that ever happened to me is volunteering at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It keeps my life going."
It seems that underlying everything is Bonnie's love of being of service. "I think my favorite part about the whole situation is helping customers," she said.