FAIRMONT - Zipping down the road in her motorized scooter, Marge Krugler is a woman on a mission. Her bright eyes are alert but not alarmed by the traffic whizzing by her, her kind smile offered freely to friends and strangers alike.
Waving from the back of her scooter is a small orange flag, a safety feature but also an advertisement for the nonprofit organization that employs Krugler.
"It's a conversation starter," she said, pointing out the RSVP logo that adorns the flag.
Marge Krugler smiles as she rolls down the sidewalk on Downtown Plaza.
The 80-year-old Fairmont resident is the Southern Tri-county RSVP assistant for Martin County. For anyone unfamiliar with RSVP, the program began as a way to connect retirees and senior citizens with volunteer opportunities in the community. Today the program is open to people of all ages.
Krugler has been involved with RSVP for 15 years as a volunteer, starting shortly after she moved to Fairmont. In February this year, the assistant position was created, requiring Krugler to make the rounds to different "stations" that utilize RSVP volunteers.
"My job is to find volunteers for 28 nonprofit organizations," she said.
Krugler cannot walk, so to get to and from the different stations, she travels in her scooter. Among the organizations RSVP assists are Ingleside, Goldfinch and Maplewood assisted-living facilities; Twelve Baskets thrift store; Salvation Army; Hot Meals on Wheels; and Red Rock Center for the Arts.
If she runs into trouble - not uncommon in the winter when snow starts piling up - fellow travelers and pedestrians have always stopped to offer their assistance.
"It's fantastic," she said. "That's Fairmont for you. When people really badmouth Fairmont, I will come to its rescue."
Another part of Krugler's job is to keep track of the hours donated to the different stations. RSVP relies heavily on grants and must provide proof that the money it receives is used to fulfill the objectives stated in the grant applications.
In the past 12 years, the organization has utilized 76 volunteers in Martin County, and 12 new volunteers have signed up since Krugler became an RSVP employee.
"With 3,185 hours compiled, at $7.85 an hour, it adds up to $25,300 that has been contributed for the betterment of Martin County and Fairmont by RSVP volunteers," she said.
Krugler also has experienced other, more personal benefits in volunteer work, such as meeting new people, finding a new outlook on life, and learning to think of others before yourself.
"Research shows older Americans who volunteer more frequently live longer lives with fewer disabilities," she said.
Krugler speaks with the confidence of a well-educated woman, and she is. Originally from Chicago, she moved to Fairmont 16 years ago to be closer to family after her husband passed away. She has a bachelor's degree in education, and she spent time working with inner-city students before returning to graduate school to get her master's degree in special ed. Her husband was a professor, writer and minister, and the couple moved back and forth from Illinois to Nebraska several times for their work. When Krugler relocated to Fairmont and was still able to drive, she worked as a substitute teacher at area schools.
"The reason I'm here is because of my daughter and grandchildren," she said. "... They're my pride and joy."
In addition to recruiting volunteers for her job, Krugler continues to serve as a volunteer. She helps out at the Fairmont hospital and grades papers at St. Paul Lutheran, where her daughter, Kathy Gratz, teaches. For the Readers Theater program, Krugler narrates stories as other volunteers act out the scenes to local school children.
"I never realized until I got so involved in RSVP how much is happening here," she said. "It's been eye-opening for me, and oh, how I appreciate this city: all the things people are doing, the involvement of so many volunteers. It's just fantastic."