Volunteer opportunities keep popping up for Chuck Duke of Minot.
Since retiring in 1999, Duke, 74, has looked for ways to stay busy as a community volunteer. And if there's popcorn involved, so much the better.
"I like popcorn," said Duke, who knows a bit about the subject.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Chuck Duke rings the Salvation Army bell while waiting for popcorn to pop at the Dakota Square MarketPlace Foods Dec. 8.
He popped many bags of popcorn during the three years that he ran the popcorn machine while volunteering at Trinity Health, which used to give it away to patients and visitors in Trinity and St. Joseph's hospitals. He took on the popcorn duties in the lobby of MarketPlace Foods in Dakota Square when his son-in-law, who manages the store, wanted to enhance the theater-look of the lobby by giving away popcorn.
This year, Duke manned the popcorn machine at the summer Arts in the Park event as a volunteer with RSVP+. Having previously popped corn next to a Salvation Army bell ringer at the grocery, this year he volunteered his services to ring the bell himself while serving up the popcorn.
"I think I like to do it as much as I like to eat it," Duke said of making the popcorn.
He's been at it long enough that he's had a chance to try some of the seasoned popcorn and the kettle corn, which he especially likes. This year he was experimenting with an Amish corn with colored kernels.
Duke works for MarketPlace two evenings a week and on Saturdays to present customer samples as well make popcorn on Saturdays.
His volunteer interest comes from his experiences in working with people.
A native of West Virginia, he served as a ship corpsman, or medic, in the Navy. He recalled serving in Vietnam as his ship's main medical officer, with only one assistant. Upon retiring from his Naval career in 1976, he came to Minot, where his wife, Janet, was from. He had met Janet, who was serving in the Marines, in Washington, D.C.
By 1976, the ability to test to become a nurse had been discontinued for former military medics, and another job alternative slipped out of reach when Trinity decided that its operating-room technicians must be nurses. Rather than go back to school, Duke used his training to license in social work.
He worked as director of the local blood bank for a year and managed hotels before eventually spending nearly 20 years with the organization now called Community Action Partnership, where he served as director.
Community Action relied heavily on volunteers, particularly in the government commodity distribution programs that were being run through the agency at the time, he said. He also got involved in the community himself soon after arriving.
He served 12 years on the Minot City Council. Through that work, he became involved with the Quentin Burdick Job Corps Center and has served on the center's community relations committee since its inception. He has served for the past 15 years as chairman of a committee at Norsk Hostfest and is on the supervisory committee for GEM Credit Union.
Duke believes in passing on volunteerism to the next generation. He enlisted an 18-year-old grandson to join him in volunteering with Special Olympics. The Dukes raised five children and have 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Duke and his wife also volunteered with the clothing drive sponsored by Herberger's over the holiday.
Duke's regular volunteer work includes calling bingo at the Parker Senior Center twice a week.
Duke, who never tried a volunteer job that he didn't like, said he gets satisfaction from helping others.
"My wife says I get too much satisfaction," he joked. "I am not at home. I am gone a lot."
Although physical limitations now require that he avoid walking, he finds there's plenty of tasks that he can do. He perceives a social benefit to not only those he helps but also to himself.
"This is as much therapy for me as anybody else," he said.
He signed up with RSVP+, an organization that coordinates volunteers and connects them with opportunities, to find out where the needs are and try new things. He has had some opportunities to volunteer in the medical field with the hospital and First District Health Unit.
He held the hands of cataract surgery patients during operations conducted by Dr. Darrell Williams, who believed in the power of human touch in healing. He volunteered in the waiting room of the hospital's intensive care unit.
Duke understood what people were going through. Having experienced a stroke, heart attack, bypass surgery, cancer, and even a bad case of blood poisoning earlier this year, Duke figures that since he's still around, it must be because there remains work for him to do.
"Whatever purpose we have in life, I think, is going to be fulfilled one way or another," he said. "But I do have fun with whatever I do. I enjoy people. I enjoy the fact that I have helped somebody."