By Jen Bakken
Most of us work because we have to, and free time can be hard to come by.
It could be said that people are busier today than ever before. As we get older, sometimes we look forward to the retirement years, with hope that those years will be relaxing and our schedules will be less hectic.
For Delano’s Bernie Kittock, this isn’t the case. She is just as busy, if not busier, than she was before she retired from Prudential Financial Inc. after 36 years of employment.
Bernie is still active and working, though she doesn’t receive a paycheck. She gives her time to help others simply because she wants to.
If two words were used to describe her, they would surely be “committed volunteer.”
Born in Delano 75 years ago, Bernie grew up on a farm with her parents, Vincent and Sophie Kittock.
She is a proud member of the Delano High School 1951 graduating class. Eventually, the family sold their farm and moved to a home on River Street, and she lives in the family home to this day.
She had a brother, Leonard, who passed away from cancer, and has a sister-in-law, Gwen. While she was never married, she has a large circle of family and friends.
Beginning as a keypunch operator at Prudential Financial, Inc., Bernie eventually became an accounts payable technician.
Even before retiring from her career in 1993, she began her second career volunteering.
The Delano American Legion Auxiliary is an organization with dedicated women who are devoted to America’s veterans, young people, as well as the community, and Bernie became one of these devoted women.
Over the past 20 years or more, she has held many positions, and carried out countless tasks for the organization, including being the unit president and Tenth District president.
She also picks a Delano royalty candidate for the Legion to sponsor each year, and has been a member of the Delano Royalty Committee.
Having a father and brother who were in the United States Army, she feels strongly about being involved with the American Legion.
“My parents were charter members of the Legion and the Auxiliary,” Bernie Kittock stated with pride.
One program she is very committed to is the American Legion Auxiliary Girls’ State program.
While teaching young women how to be responsible citizens, Bernie shares a love for her country with these girls, as they learn first-hand how their state and local government work.
“It makes me feel good to hear mothers say I made a good influence on their girls,” she said.
It would be nearly impossible to list every way Bernie has affected the lives of others through her volunteerism.
At the St. Cloud VA Medical Center, she has wrapped gifts for soldiers; she helps with bingo and other events at the Golden Living Center weekly, is a member of the Delano General Federated Women’s Club, and has lent a hand to Helping Hands Food Shelf. She is also a member of the Catholic Aid and Catholic Order of Foresters, and was president and state bowling director for many years.
“I have known Bernie pretty much my whole life,” said Gail Sinkel from the Delano Senior Center. “She has been a volunteer at the senior center for approximately 12 years. Bernie is committed to helping others in any way she can. She likes to keep busy and, in doing so, has given her time and enthusiasm in helping others in need.”
In 2001, Bernie was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to have a mastectomy. She has been cancer- free ever since.
One might think this would have reduced her volunteer activities, but instead, she found even more ways to help others.
She began helping patients at Ridgeview Medical Center in the women’s imaging center.
“They were so nice to me there when I had cancer, so I wanted to volunteer and help people the way I was helped,” Bernie said.
Women may be visiting for routine tests, or under very stressful circumstances, and Bernie offers any assistance they may need.
She has also given her time to Ridgeview by escorting groups of children on tours of the hospital, and also at the Ridgeview tent at the Carver County Fair.
“In addition to the services Bernie provides in our organization, she is truly an ambassador,” said Susan DeGolier, director of volunteer services at Ridgeview Medical Center. “Carrying a positive message about Ridgeview Medical Center out into the community.”
Last year, Bernie received the Prudential Cares Volunteer Grant in recognition for the services she performed at Ridgeview Medical Center.
After an application process she was given an award certificate and a grant was presented to Ridgeview Medical Center.
Her personal experience with cancer led her to also be involved with the Delano Relay for Life. While on the survivor committee, she has handed out countless carnations for various cancer walks.
Bernie will be attending the ninth annual Connect Retreat for Women Surviving Cancer at the King’s House in Buffalo Wednesday through Friday March 26-28.
This retreat offers hope, support, and a positive outlook for women surviving cancer.
For more information on the retreat, visit the Community Health Foundation web site at www.chfwc.org.
One of the most thrilling moments in Bernie’s life came in 2001, when she was given the Minneapolis Aquatennial Honorary Commodore Award in recognition of her extraordinary volunteer work.
When she is not helping others, you may find her watching her favorite TV show The Wheel of Fortune, gardening, attending events at the senior center, or canning pickles and beets.
One thing she is grateful for is all of the wonderful people she has met over the years.
“I’ve met so many nice people,” she smiled. “Like Cathy Rieckenberg, who makes sure I never spend a holiday alone.”
As you meet Bernie for the first time, her distinct voice stands out, but when you get to know her it is her big heart and compassion for others that sets her apart from the crowd.