Weather Forecast


Area couples say relationships benefit from volunteering together

Bruce and Jodie Storhaug taking a break from packing food and enjoying the music during the Greater Grand Forks Feed My Starving Children MobilePack Event April 6, 2013 at Grand Forks Public Works Building.1 / 3
Jean Moe, a AARP tax preparation volunteer, helps a client with her tax return this spring at the Campbell Library in East Grand Forks. Jean and her husband Mike Moe have volunteered for the service for four years 2 / 3
Mike Moe, a retired pilot, has been a AARP tax preparation volunteer with his wife Jean for four years. Mike says their volunteer work together has enhanced their communication as a married couple.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD3 / 3

“And you know how cold it was this winter,” he said.

Mike and his wife, Jean, have served four years as volunteers and are local site coordinators for the AARP-sponsored tax service aimed at low-income elderly but is open to all.

“There’s a real need for this,” Mike said. “Some of these people have no money.”

Volunteering not only makes him and Jean “feel good,” it’s also good for their relationship, he said.

“It makes us much more close. We have to actually sit down and talk and plan our day.”

Doing volunteer work together enhances their communication as a married couple, he said.

“It gives us something structured to talk about, and that works into other aspects of life.”    

AARP tax preparation volunteers are required to have another person check their work. Mike and Jean did that “quality review” for each other. 

That kind of reliance and communication “extends to the home,” Mike said.

Jean prepares a newsletter for the North Dakota Hearing Society which Mike reviews for errors and other input, she said.

Time together

During his nearly 31-year career as a pilot, Mike would often be away from home two or three weeks at a time, he said. As he approached retirement in 2009, he was “kind of worried that if we spent this much time together, we wouldn’t like it.”

Turns out, “we really do enjoy being together,” he said. “We found that we not only survive, we flourish.”

Volunteering for organizations they believe it offers them a chance to do that. The tax preparation work “is right down our alley.”

This year, the Moes and other volunteers helped about 600 area residents compile and submit federal and state income tax forms, he said.      

“One woman, with tears in her eyes, said, ‘I didn’t know how I was going to get this money back.’” 

Jean said the volunteer work she and Mike do has impacted their children.

“I believe it’s influenced them” to also give of their time and talents, she said.

One of their sons, James Moe, Grand Forks “helped immeasurably” by setting up nine computers for the AARP tax preparation site, she said.

As a pilot, James doesn’t have a lot of time off, Mike said, but he spent almost three days before tax season, solving computer problems and properly connecting equipment.

Their daughter, Susan Moe, also of Grand Forks, has also become a volunteer. An avid dancer, she participated in the recent “Dancing for Special Stars” event to raise funds for North Dakota Special Olympics.  

‘Relationship builder’

In similar ways, Jodie and Bruce Storhaug, Grand Forks, say volunteering together has positively affected their relationship. They have been helping other people, together and with their children, for about nine years, Jodie said.

“It’s nice to have something you share in together,” Bruce said. “Volunteering is a relationship-builder overall.”  

For the past four years, the Storhaugs have led the Feed My Starving Children annual effort, based at Calvary Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, to provide meals for children worldwide.

In the acts of volunteering, “I just think, in our relationship, our love for each other grows,” Jodie said. “You see that giving heart of the person you’re married to. You see more deeply into that heart.

“And — not negatively — you are proud to see them serving and giving and not being selfish with their time, giving to other people.”

Mutual support is even more important when the project “is more long-term demanding,” Jodie said. “It’s easier to do together. One person is not pulled in another direction.  

“When you go through the ‘valleys’ of service, it’s not always easy. Some days, it’s harder to press yourself and get it done.

“Bruce is so interested and so encouraging,” she said. As the FMSC winds down, “he says, ‘I think we need to do this again.’”

Seeing the project come to fruition, she said, “it ultimately just hits us both that we are really, in a sense, privileged to be part of making a difference in the lives of children in our world who (otherwise) wouldn’t have food.”   

“To look back and see what we’ve been able to do in our community, to know that what we did this weekend (April 4 to 6) will feed 1,171 children for a year is very amazing.”

Influence on family

In the Storhaug family, the seeds of volunteerism were sewn after the Flood of 1997 when people from around the country came in droves to help residents here, she said.

“We saw a lot of people come to our homes and serve us. The gift that service can be was kind of driven home to us.”

A mother and her two daughters from Connecticut came to the Storhaug home to help out, Bruce said. “That’s how they were spending their family vacation. That really amazed me.

“That puts more of a desire to do those kinds of things in our hearts, too.”

When their daughters, Mara and Kaia, were in high school, the family went on church-sponsored mission trips — as family vacations — to Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Seattle to lend a hand with such tasks as building projects, food preparation and child care. 

“We always had an interest in wanting to be involved in what our girls were doing,” Jodie said.

She and Bruce also wanted to teach that “we are made to serve; it’s a joy to serve,” she said. “We wanted to be an example to them.”

Bruce said, “Kids are always watching. You may not think they they’re paying attention, but they are. That (volunteer) mentoring, that modeling behavior really has an impact on your children …

“Doing something for the greater good, and having your kids seeing you work together and enjoying each other’s company, that pays off in the long run for your children.”  

In their volunteer work, “we ended up just, all of us, kind of being fulfilled by serving other people,” Jodie said. “It definitely draws you closer to each other.