Year of Service Turns Into a Second Career for Volunteer Manager

After 25 years as an elementary school teacher, Marie Aaberg took a year sabbatical to volunteer at Mayo Clinic. It ended up being a life changing decision.

For 25 years, Marie Aaberg spent the first day of each school year at the front of a classroom. But the fall of 2002 was different. Instead of another year of shepherding children through math and reading, the longtime elementary school teacher was tending to a different set of needs as a volunteer at Mayo Clinic. She'd taken a yearlong break from teaching specifically to give back to the institution.

Aaberg tells us she chose to take a sabbatical to volunteer at Mayo based on gratitude for care that she and her family members had received. "I just wanted to give back," she says. "I wanted to give something of myself."

It wasn't a decision she made lightly. The sabbatical was unpaid, so Aaberg "had to budget and plan carefully," she tells us. "I took on two lawn-mowing jobs to pay for gas." And a lot of it. Aaberg put 10,000 miles on her red Ford Ranger that year, driving between her home in Mankato and Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus.

She logged many additional miles on her feet, serving primarily as a surgical messenger at Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus. "The nurse communicators would call and give surgical updates to share with the families in waiting rooms," Aaberg says. "It was a big responsibility. I loved that role and felt honored that Mayo Clinic would let a volunteer assist in that way. Some days I'd walk the equivalent of 10 miles. At the end of the day my legs would be exhausted, but I felt good."

Aaberg volunteered in other areas of the hospital as well during her year of service, and also had the opportunity to serve as the volunteer representative at a Mayo Clinic Values Retreat. "I learned more about Mayo's values and realized that they aligned with what I feel is important in life," she says. "Mayo Clinic represents something truly amazing."

The following fall, Aaberg returned to the classroom. But her thoughts often returned to the hospital halls. "I loved teaching, but I missed being at Mayo Clinic," she says. So when she saw a job posting for a new position as the leader of the Mayo Clinic Young Volunteers Program, Aaberg decided to apply. "It seemed like a good fit for me and I felt like maybe God was leading me on a different path," she tells us. After a "pretty intense" interview process that included four days of interviews, Aaberg was offered the position. "I was deeply humbled and honored to have the opportunity," she says.

Almost 15 years later, she feels the same reverence for Mayo Clinic. "I was so proud to be a volunteer at Mayo, and I'm so proud to say I work here," she tells us. "I still love my job. Every day I have the opportunity to help someone or make a difference for someone."

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