Melinda Loberg: A worthy spirit
When Melinda Loberg retired 10 years ago and moved to Martha's Vineyard with her husband, Michael, she was not looking to spend the remainder of her life digging dandelions out of her front lawn. Instead Ms. Loberg embarked on what she refers to as "a second career as a volunteer."
That career is a success. One measure came last week when Hospice of Martha's Vineyard announced that Ms. Loberg is the recipient of this year's Spirit of the Vineyard Award.
"Retirement is a great opportunity," Ms. Loberg said, a statement that reveals both her enthusiasm and her philosophy when asked how she views life after work. "I've learned a lot in my life. I've gotten a lot back. You can get a lot more than you give when you volunteer."
Ms. Loberg has practiced what she preaches, giving generously of her time and energy to Island causes. Volunteering, for her, has become a full-time job.
Photo by M.C. Wallo
Hers is an impressive résumé. The energetic blonde serves as president of Tisbury Waterways, Inc., a grass roots environmental group in Tisbury, and as president of the Tisbury Volunteer Ambulance Association. She can often be spotted in a bright yellow coat when she's on duty as an emergency medical technician (EMT). She is a board member of Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, a Dukes County Commissioner, a member of the Lake Tashmoo Committee and the Tisbury Harbor Management Committee.
The annual Spirit of the Vineyard Award is given to an individual or group who exemplifies the "Spirit of the Vineyard" through their work with Island non-profits. Past recipients of the Spirit of the Vineyard award include the Martha's Vineyard Harley Riders, Kerry Alley of the Red Stocking Fund, and Polly Brown of Hospice of Martha's Vineyard - who helped establish the award.
On a recent, sunny afternoon in a local coffee shop, Ms. Loberg took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her volunteer work and about the tribute she will be receiving.
"Volunteering is a way for me to be in the community," she said, smiling at the thought. "Volunteering is really a selfish endeavor. I feel useful, and everybody needs to feel useful."
Clearly, she seems humbled, even slightly uncomfortable about being given the award. When asked what her reaction to having been singled out for the award, she reflected, then, sounding thoughtful, said, "I see this award as being an appreciation for your whole life's work in volunteerism. I'm a little worried because I don't think I've finished my lifetime work. It's a lifetime achievement award coming early." She paused and looked out of the window before continuing. "It is nice though to be recognized by those you respect and hold in high-esteem."
A school therapist for 30 years before moving to Martha's Vineyard, Ms. Loberg takes the long view when it comes to addressing problems. This approach has served her well, though she admits to enjoying her work as an EMT. "I like the spontaneity and adventure. I like the immediacy."
A vivacious woman who seems very much at ease with herself, Ms. Loberg combines her past experience as a therapist with her present desire to be of service to the community.
"Now is the appropriate time for me," she says. "Now I see how things work together. I can have a pleasant impact." She continues, "There's going to be a lot of us Baby Boomers kicking around with a lot of experience."
Listening to her, it almost sounds like a call to action: How will this generation of retirees spend their golden years with so much life experience and so many resources at their disposal?
Ms. Loberg is an example of someone who has translated her life experience into helping her neighbors. "Here in this small community, it is very easy to get involved. All you have to do is say yes a few times and you have a full-time job."
The Spirit of the Vineyard Award will be presented to Melinda Loberg, Saturday, Nov. 29, at 9 am, at Howes House in West Tisbury.
Justen Ahren is a freelance writer from West Tisbury.