By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
Good luck trying to pin down Peg Pedersen '58 for an interview.
Pedersen and husband Ronald, who live in Latham, N.Y., recently created the Rintz-Pedersen Endowed Fund for Volunteer Service at Catawba.
The two are active volunteers — so much so that it's hard to get Pedersen on the phone.
"Volunteering has always been an important part of my life," says Pedersen, a native of Pennsylvania. "If people grow up and have an opportunity to volunteer, then that carries over into their life after college."
Income from the endowed fund will be used for supplies and travel expenses at the Lilly Center for Vocation and Values. Pedersen read about the Center in a Catawba newsletter, and thought that making a gift to set up a special fund at the College "seemed like a good thing to do."
The Lilly Center director, Dr. Ken Clapp, wholeheartedly agrees.
"Students are happy to give of their time but often can't afford to pay for materials," Clapp says. Now such funding is available, which means more students can become involved, he explains. Such an endowment, Clapp says, is an investment in Catawba's present and future.
"If students leave Catawba with a pattern of volunteerism, you're suddenly looking at the potential to have a tremendous impact," he says.
Pedersen first heard about Catawba through her pastor, who had served a church in this area. "He encouraged me to check it out," she says, and then she and a friend from church came to the College together.
"Catawba was a great place for me," Pedersen says. "I went sight unseen. Mrs. Dearborn was my physical education coach. It was just like family for me."
After earning her undergraduate degree, Pedersen received a master's degree in home economics education from Cornell University, where she met her husband. She was a home demonstration agent while Ronald Pedersen finished his master's degree. She worked as a substitute teacher when their two daughters went to school. She was later director of a church daycare. Today, the couple has two grandchildren.
"I've always been a volunteer," Pedersen says. "I started volunteering when I was in Girl Scouts." These days, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity takes up much of her time.
The Pedersens have been to New Orleans six times to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. This fall, the couple was preparing to take their seventh trip to "Katrinaland," as Pedersen calls it. Since 1997, they've been a part of Habitat's RV Care-A-Vanner program which allows volunteers with motor homes to find out where they're needed, then pack their motor home and travel to that area.
"We had a motor home and we'd done the traveling," Pedersen says. "After a while, you can only see so many museums."
Traveling through Sanford, the couple spent one week on a build, "then I was hooked," Pedersen says. "We were both hooked. You're helping people make a better life for themselves. You can also meet wonderful people who become friends. It's a way to see God in action."
The Pedersens have been all over the U.S. with this program, plus to New Zealand and Newfoundland. They also work close to home. Pedersen is volunteer coordinator for a Habitat group that's rehabbing a house in a nearby county.
Pedersen likes the fact that Habitat for Humanity building teams share a common focus. "We have lots of laughs and keep learning," she says.