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United Way In the News


Mother Theresa once said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” This is true of many, but especially of community friend and volunteer Duke Ellingson, who was recently recognized for his incredible generosity and commitment to youth. Ellingson, who volunteers over 300 hours per year, was recently honored as United Way of Greater Yankton’s Volunteer of the Month.

Ellingson was nominated by Beadle Elementary Principal, Carey Mitzel, and several teachers with whom Ellingson assists. “Mr. Ellingson always comes to volunteer with a smile on his face,” stated Mr. Mitzel, who reported Ellingson spends at least four hours per week in different classrooms. “He has a giving heart and sense of fun that inspires all those around him. He is an exceptional volunteer.”

Teachers at Beadle Elementary agree:

“Duke has impacted the lives of many students. He gives so freely his time and energy to help students succeed.” — Mrs. Blackington

 “His love of children is evident in his patience and listening skills.” — Mrs. Becker

 “He is committed to the teachers and students at Beadle. You can tell he enjoys working with all students.” — Mrs. Mueller

“His degree of kindness and patience, with students, is inspiring!” — Mrs. Vlasman

We asked Duke to share more about his volunteer efforts in the greater Yankton community:

I was born and raised in the Yankton area and I began volunteering 25 years ago as a Sunday school teacher for United Church of Christ. About 4 years ago, I considered what I could do to help out in the school district. I was a Beadle Bug so Beadle Elementary was a perfect fit! I began volunteering in different classrooms for grades kindergarten through third.

I continue volunteering because being semi-retired, working half days gives me plenty of time to give back. I love voluntering because I get to work with kids, they are good for the soul.

I do not keep track of my volunteer hours, but I spend roughly 6-8 hours per week helping others at either United Church of Christ (church nursery & Sunday school), Beadle Elementary (K-1st grade), and Habitat for Humanity (Family Services Committee).

Volunteer work is enjoyable because I feel great when I get to help others. I have the time to help and the passion to give back, it really is more of a benefit to myself. It makes me a better person.

My best volunteer experience was at Beadle Elementary. Each day, the teacher gives students high-fives as they leave the classroom from a specific activity. One day, the teacher asked me to fill in as the high-five giver as she was tied up with a student. As students were going through the line, one little girl looked at me and asked, “Can I have a hug instead?” It was very touching and of course she got a hug!

The advice I would give to those thinking about getting out there and volunteering in their communities is JUST DO IT! Volunteering does not take much time and it is very rewarding.

For more information on local volunteer opportunities or to nominate a Volunteer of the Month, visit or call United Way of Greater Yankton at 605-665-6766

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