Lynn Benrud was volunteering as an elevator assistant in the Gonda Building at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus when she met the man she was going to marry. She didn't realize it at the time. Back then, Lynn was just a friendly face in a blue uniform, and Art Bernard just another person in need of directions and kindness. Lynn delivered both.
"Art was pushing his mother in a wheelchair and asked if there was any place to eat besides a cafeteria," Lynn tells us. She pointed down a hallway and explained where he'd be able to find some restaurants. When he looked unsure about finding his way, Lynn did what Mayo Clinic volunteers so often do. "I said, 'Come on, I'll show you,'" she tells us. As they walked and talked, Lynn learned that Art's mother (a cousin of Mayo's much-missed Sister Vera) was expected to be in Rochester for an extended period for treatment. "You'll need to know where to find a grocery store and a big box store," she told Art. "If you'd like, I'd be happy to show you."
Lynn played tour guide the next evening, and she and Art began a conversation that would continue even after Art and his mother returned home to North Dakota sooner than expected. "We'd talk on the phone every once in a while," Lynn says. Both of them had lost their fathers and were caring for ailing mothers. "I think that's what brought us together, and what drew me to him," Lynn says. "He'd stayed on the farm and took care of his mom for most of his life. He did all the things for her that most people wouldn't do." After Art's mother passed away a few months later, he asked if he could come back to Rochester to pay Lynn a visit.
That was seven years ago. In the years since, Art has moved to the Rochester area, joined Mayo Clinic's volunteer ranks himself, and married the woman who showed him the way to lunch — and the rest of his life. "It was fate," Lynn says of that chance encounter. "Right time, right place. I always tell people that you never know where volunteering might take you."
Falling in love is just one of the many benefits Lynn tells us she's discovered through volunteering, which she began doing as a way to find a closer connection to Mayo's mission. "I'd been working at Mayo on the business side of things and wanted to know the feeling of working with patients," she says. She's switched jobs since then — becoming an administrative assistant for Mayo Clinic Volunteer Programs — but continues to volunteer over her lunch hour.
"Serving patients is what Mayo is all about, and our volunteers have a huge impact on our patients," Lynn tells us. "People who are lost and afraid see a blue uniform and a friendly face and feel better." Being one of those friendly faces makes her feel better, too. "When I volunteer, it gives me energy," she says. "It's like an hour of joy in the middle of my day."
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