Magazine Feature / People

Volunteer uses humor to motivate others

Sandra “Sandee” Walling (MSW ’65) says that her ability to volunteer for so many organizations is a skill she learned as a single mother.

“I could cook, talk on the phone and help my kids with homework,” says Walling, whose sons are now 35 and 36. One skill she says she never learned: “How to say, ‘No.’”

Walling, recipient of DU’s 2007 Founders Day Community Service Award, says that she never set out to volunteer for as many organizations as she has (she can remember 24, but believes there have been more over the years).

“As a single mom, people didn’t think I had to cook dinner for my husband, so they started asking me to help out. I guess it snowballed.”

Even though she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 12 years ago, Walling hasn’t slowed down. In fact, it gave her a new mission.

Walling has served as both a board member and guild president of the Rocky Mountain MS Center.

“People love her!” says center Executive Director Karen Wenzel, explaining how Walling motivates her fellow volunteers. “She always looks like a million bucks, and she has this incredible sense of humor. She infuses humor and playfulness in everything. People just want to be on committees with her.”

Walling says she likes to deliver tangible results and she has a “thing for the hurt child.” Some of the organizations to most recently benefit from Walling’s attention include Colorado Uplift, Homesteaders, the Kempe Alliance, Colorado Neurological Institute, Food Bank of the Rockies Guild and the Hospice of Metro Denver. She still works part time, and every Wednesday and Saturday she volunteers at the DU Women’s Library Association Book Stack in the Mary Reed Building.

Walling jokes that she’s so busy that she only uses two rooms in her home: the bedroom and bathroom. The rest of the rooms, especially the kitchen, are superfluous since she’s so rarely home.

Walling says her most important asset is her sense of humor. “I’m not married. My kids are grown,” she says, planting her tongue firmly in cheek. “I figure I could spend my time at Shotgun Willie’s or do this!”

This article originally appeared in The University of Denver Magazine, Spring 2007.

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