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Donor stories

The following donor stories are a few of the many who have chosen to generously give to the Sanford Health Foundation.

In her honor—Arizona man's donation honors his wife's work as a nurse and nursing teacher

Hank Swierenga

Hank Swierenga is the kind of guy who gets choked up when he talks about his wife, who died last fall. His love for his wife of 55 years is palpable in his words and deeds.

Vivian (Hoff) Swierenga was from Venturia and graduated from what was then called Bismarck Hospital School of Nursing in 1953. The school was renamed the Sanford Health College of Nursing in 1988.

The first time Hank saw Vivian, he was delivering newspapers to the nursing station in the Bismarck Hospital, which is now called Sanford Health, and she was walking with some nurses. They crossed paths again at a Bismarck Baptist Church Bible study.

It took him a couple weeks to persuade her to go out, because

she didn’t date much, but they married about 10 weeks later, when they were both 24 years old. "She fit the bill," Hank said.

Hank recently donated $200,000 to the nursing college in memory of Vivian—the largest donation the college has ever received from a living donor.

"She thought a lot about her nursing career," he said. "That was very important to her."

And Bismarck is important to Hank, even though the Chicago native only lived in the city for three years. After getting out of the military upon conclusion of a 13-month stint in Korea, he was working in circulation for the Minneapolis Tribune in 1954 when they sent him to Bismarck, which he said was their third-biggest market outside of Minneapolis.

"It's one of the greatest cities," he said. "That's a city I'll never forget. I felt the city gave me an education, and the Bismarck Hospital School of Nursing, they gave Vivian a good education at the same time. And both of us I think carried it for the rest of our lives."

He retired from the newspaper business in 1990 and then went into the vending business, owning Scottsdale Vending Service for 11 years.

But life changed when Vivian was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2001. He sold his Scottsdale, Ariz., home and moved to a gated community in Mesa, where he lived just two and a half blocks away from the assisted living center where Vivian lived for her last three years.

Toward the end of her life, she would call Hank "her sweetie," and he would show her their marriage certificate to explain who he was.

"She was never more than two feet from me, every place we went," he said.

When Vivian and Hank met, she was teaching nursing at the nursing college. She spent several years working as a nurse and student nursing teacher at Bismarck Hospital. She took about eight years off from nursing after she had their first child but always took refresher courses and worked for trauma centers in Illinois, Minneapolis and Phoenix.

"She just loved that," Hank said. "She liked the ER. That was her thing."

Nine days after their 55th anniversary, Vivian died. It only made sense to Hank to give an annuity to the nursing college where she got her start.

"I think that hospital at Sanford Health and its school of nursing are probably among the best in the country," he said. "She was not only my wife, she was my best friend and really my partner."

Karen Latham, Sanford Health College of Nursing provost/dean, said the money will be used to help the college buy equipment and technology to improve instruction.

"That's awesome to have that kind of support from this alumna's spouse," Latham said.

For more information on giving to the College, click here.
For more on charitable gift annuities, click here.

Sowing blessings and reaping the harvest

Dan and Alice Voegele Dan and Alice Voegele met during the Korean War while he was home on furlough. In 1953, just months after his discharge, they married. Cattle and crop occupied their day-to-day living until she decided to accept employment as a bookkeeper with Sanford Clinic.

He continued his work on the farm, driving back and forth every day. In 1979, she began her second career as a teller for Gate City Bank. The couple retired when the farm was sold in 1995.

Though farming took most of his time, Dan never forgot his service to his country. He was an active member of the American Legion and was particularly involved in the 40 et 8 Society. This national honor society was named after the French boxcars that hauled soldiers and supplies to and from the front lines during World War I. Each car had its capacity—either 40 men or 8 horses—stenciled on its side.

Today, Legionaires nationwide support causes they believe in through the 40 et 8 Societies in their communities. Bismarck's 40 et 8 Society supports nursing careers by providing scholarship assistance to students pursuing a nursing degree and they raise their scholarship dollars through a spaghetti dinner. Dan was known as the "spaghetti man" for his long-term involvement in the dinners that have been served every Tuesday since 1964.

According to Alice, Dan was passionate about the 40 et 8 Society and, in particular, about the importance of the scholarship assistance provided to students who really wanted to pursue a nursing career but found it financially impossible. "He was chairman of the scholarship committee for over 30 years," Alice said. "During that time, his committee would read the passionate letters of request from students hoping for help. The work would be agonizing for him. 'I wish we could help them all,' he often told me."

Dan, himself, was a recipient of his own good works when, as a patient of Sanford Health, he was cared for by some of the very nurses that the 40 et 8 Society sponsored under his tenure. "That revelation always produced a great smile and a warm feeling for him." Dan died in March 2004.

To honor her husband and continue the work he cared so much about, Voegele established a CGA with a five-figure gift. The Dan and Alice Voegele Memorial Scholarship was invested for growth. Until her death, Voegele will receive a guaranteed income forwarded to her on a quarterly basis. Upon her death, the Voegele gift will be permanently endowed to provide scholarship assistance to a Sanford Health College of Nursing student who is:
  • Serious about becoming actively employed within the nursing field
  • Making satisfactory academic progress
  • Experiencing a serious financial need

"We will always need nurses," Alice said. "This just seemed like something I could do to honor and memorialize Dan. I know he is smiling down on me."

Click here to find out more about charitable gift annuities.

How one couple found a way to give back

Wald Nelson Henderson once said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Those words remind us how important and fulfilling it can be to find ways to honor the future and pay kindness forward.

James and Doris Wald are honoring the future by dedicating a legacy gift to St. Vincent’s Continuing Care Center. “My mom spent over 90 days in the hospital and needed to make a transition so she was admitted to St. Vincent’s,” Doris said. “The staff was just like family and she loved it so much she didn’t want to leave even though she was initially very apprehensive about the move.”

Wald’s mom, Marie Rohrich, lived at St. Vincent’s for three years. According to Wald, Rohrich’s days were filled with activities and friends. After she died, the couple began to look over and realign their wills and estate. “We have been so fortunate and blessed in our lives. Other than providing for

our family, we felt it important to consider how we might best support our church and St. Vincent’s,” Wald said. “We just couldn’t forget how they made Mom’s last few years the happiest she could have ever had.” The couple's motivation to give a legacy gift to St. Vincent's is twofold. "We felt it was the best way we could leave a larger gift to show St. Vincent's how much we appreciated what they did for my mom. And, it was also a way for me to honor my mom," Wald said. "She would be pleased to know that we are doing this."

A legacy gift, like the one given by the Walds, means something very special to Kirk Greff, Sanford Health St. Vincent's Continuing Care Center administrator. It represents dollars that can be used to directly affect and positively impact the lives of the care facility's residents.

A warm smile spreads across Greff's face when asked about the good that can be accomplished with gifts received through wills. "Legacy gifts allow us to purchase items that the residents of St. Vincent's need to make their lives easier or more comfortable," Greff said. People who make the commitment to include St. Vincent's in their estate planning are investing in the future of the long-term care facility.

Perhaps you have thought about leaving a legacy gift to one of Sanford Health's long-term care facilities as the Walds are doing. Maybe you would like to support the Sanford College of Nursing or maybe you care deeply about a specific program within the hospital. For more information on how to include Sanford Health in your will, contact the Sanford Health Foundation at 701-323-8450.

How to make a big difference without emptying your pocketbook

Daryl and Mary Lou Balerud Sometimes people hesitate to give because they assume the amount they can afford might not be enough to make a difference. Life insurance is a practical way to leave an affordable legacy. It allows people to do more than they may have thought possible. Donors no longer need to accumulate great wealth to make substantial and meaningful gifts.

Daryl Balerud has become a benefactor to the Sanford Health Foundation by naming it as beneficiary of a life insurance policy. “I would encourage people to give this way because when you leave a life insurance policy, it becomes a gift of appreciation at the end of your life,” Balerud said.
From 1984 to 1988, Balerud worked as the business manager at Sanford Health. During his four-year tenure with the healthcare system, he learned the basics of what was needed to develop his current business, A.R. Audit Service, Inc. "I learned some very important things: respect for the individual, giving without expectation and the importance of striving for excellence," Balerud said. "Those are ideals and philosophies I use in my businesses today."

During his time at Sanford Health, Balerud said he saw a very caring philosophy regarding bill collection. He could see the hospital tried hard to help people who weren't able to pay. "So many people are not aware that millions of dollars worth of healthcare costs are provided by Sanford Health for those in our community who are not able to pay. What a contribution they give to the community," Balerud said.

Gifts to Sanford Health can help those who aren't able to pay their medical bills. Gifts of life insurance are an easy way to gift a substantial amount to the Sanford Health Foundation for the benefit of the healthcare system or the College of Nursing. They can be accomplished in one of three ways:
  • Purchase a new life insurance policy and name the Sanford Health Foundation as beneficiary.
  • Gift the Foundation with a currently-owned policy.
  • Make a cash gift to the Foundation, thereby facilitating their payment of premiums on insurance taken out on your life, as the donor.

Tax benefits vary with each approach. As always, the Sanford Health Foundation encourages donors to visit with their financial advisors for more information regarding gifts of life insurance.