December 22, 2010

Living for today, inspiring for tomorrow

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

What does it mean to have a heart of gold? If it means going above and beyond the call of duty in everything that you do, while always keeping a smile on your face and thinking of others’ needs before your own, then Kathy Skarda is definitely worthy of the 2010 Heart of Gold Award.
Kathy has lived in McKenzie County for her entire life. Between that and working at First International Bank & Trust, she knows just about everyone in the county and she is willing to help them all.
“I just love making people happy,” says Skarda. “Growing up, my parents were always volunteering and helping people out. I was raised to do the same.”
Skarda lives her life by a quote that her dad often repeated to her, ‘Live for today and inspire for tomorrow.’
“My parents were a great inspiration to me and I believe that quote is a great way to live,” states Skarda. “I have never thought of myself as someone special. I guess I just thought everyone did the things that I do.”
Some of the things Skarda is special for include always having a new bag of socks in her vehicle, just in case one of the hockey kids needs a dry pair.
“Kids are kids. They forget things and I have just always carried extra jerseys, socks, coats and whatever I think they may need to play a good game or get through practice.”
“Kathy has been a tireless volunteer for the McKenzie County Hockey Club for many years,” says Gretchen Stenehjem, who nominated Skarda. “She has been in charge of concessions, and she is there every week to help the younger kids tie skates. She gives kids rides to and from practice, sometimes making sure that they have had dinner or a snack. She is always encouraging to players and parents, and she is willing to do anything to encourage the team.”
Skarda is known for her big hello and willingness to help out with any project or anyone in need. She has worked with United Blood Services out of Bismarck for over 20 years. In addition to coordinating local blood drives every two months, she also calls donors before every drive to remind them to stop down and do their part.
“I am a firm believer that a person needs to do their part and give back to the community every chance they get,” says Skarda. “You can only take so much before you need to give back.”
In addition to her work with the blood drives, Skarda has also set up two bone marrow drives when there were people in the community who needed a bone marrow transplant.
“A lot of the credit for my volunteer work has to go to my family and my employer,” comments Skarda. “They are both willing to let me go so I can be wherever the work is whenever I am needed.”
In addition to her many volunteer efforts, Skarda is also known for giving whenever she sees that someone is in need. And that may be from helping at the scene of an accident or providing a place to live when a family is in need.
When a local family was locked out of their home due to a dispute with their landlord, Skarda was more than willing to take them home for the day. She took the family of seven home for a week until other arrangements could be made and gave them clothing, diapers and meals while they were there.
“I heard there was a family who had nothing other than what they were wearing, and I said of course, they can come home with me,” recalls Skarda. “Our kids were around the same ages so I was able to give them clothing and diapers until they were able to get back into their home. It was a busy time at our house, but I would do it again anytime.”
When Skarda was faced with tough times at home, she never slowed down.
“About a year and a half ago, Kathy’s husband, Gary, was seriously injured in a farm accident,” adds Stenehjem. “While Gary was unable to work, Kathy jumped in and picked up the slack. She would put in a full day of ranch work, took care of her kids and still put in a whole day at the bank. And she did it all with a smile on her face. She never complained about the extra work, she just got the job done.”
In addition to her extra workload, Skarda continued to volunteer and help out everyone around her throughout Gary’s injury.
“When Gary was hurt, the community was there for us, and the only way I knew to thank them was to continue giving back,” says Skarda. “Volunteering is a stress reliever for me; it just makes me feel good.”
Most days, Skarda is up at 4 a.m. just so that she can get her house work done and move on to doing things that will help others.
“Kathy always puts others first,” says Stenehjem. “Her compassion for people and volunteering is truly an example to follow. Her vibrant hello, friendly disposition and willingness to serve others is evident in Kathy’s ‘Heart of Gold’ for all.
“I was so surprised and humbled by this award that I just started to cry,” says Skarda. “I was very overwhelmed when I found out that I had been selected. I am just doing what I have always done, giving back.”