Kathy Simpson
Kathy Simpson

For Kathy Simpson, volunteering is more than just giving back; it is an excuse to do what she loves and to assure the progress and growth of Spring Valley.

Simpson, who owns Simpson’s A&W in Spring Valley along with her husband, Mark, is well known for her dedication to giving back to the community through her various volunteer experiences.

“When this all started, around 1987, I didn’t know really what to do to volunteer. I just knew I wanted to, but I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Spring Valley,” Simpson explained. “So when the kids started school, I started volunteering at the library and I stayed there until 2003.  I really loved it; I really need something that I like doing.  I like organizing, helping and I like learning new things, meeting new people and teamwork.”

For Simpson the value of giving back was a tradition taught to her by her parents.

“The way it used to be, the baby boomers were children of WWII or Korean War veterans and we were taught to give back to the community that helped us,” Simpson conveyed.  “That is just the way I was brought up; my mom and dad were Girl Scout troop leaders, my dad was a leader in the church, he was the fire chief for many years and my mom was a charter member of the Legion auxiliary in Chatfield.”

She carried on the legacy of volunteerism to her children, as well. As for today’s youth, Simpson would like to see them unplug from technology so they can get out into the community to give back, meet new people and make lasting memories through the experiences.

“There’s a long tradition of seeing volunteering as a form of charity or giving back based on altruism.  The best volunteering does involve the desire to serve others but it does include other motivations.  So instead of considering volunteering as something you do for people not as fortunate as you, you can think of it as an exchange,” Simpson said.

Simpson says the motivations that keep her going are getting to know the community, demonstrating a commitment to a cause, doing her civic duty, donating her skills, such as organizing, and gaining satisfaction from these accomplishments.

“You can have an impact, learn something new, be challenged, make new friends, help someone, have fun, have an excuse to do what you love and to assure progress by being an agent of change,” Simpson expressed.

She is currently involved in numerous committees including a committee for Jordan Town Hall to which she has a strong family connection.

“My great-great grandfather built that and he built the stone barn with the driveway to the house.  My mother was born there and I grew up there. We’ve been trying to get his buildings on the historic registry,” explained Simpson.

Simpson is also involved in the recently formed Bike Trail Committee and is the chair for the Spring Valley Tourism Committee.

Simpson explained that in 2010 she saw an article about the establishment of the committee and decided she wanted to be a part of it.  Soon she was nominated to be the chair by Mary Jo Dathe and she has been working tirelessly to help create an identity for tourism in the city ever since.

Because of this dedication, Simpson has kept busier than normal this year as she took over the organizational duties of the Almanzo 100 gravel bicycle race, along with the adjoining Alexander 380 and the Royal 162, which will have bicyclists riding through the beautiful countryside southeast Minnesota is famous for on May 15 and 16.

The creation of gravel racing pioneer Chris Skogen, these races were in peril for a time after he announced their cancelation.

But because the races are such a huge draw for the city of Spring Valley, typically bringing in over 1,000 people into the community for the weekend, the Spring Valley Tourism Committee decided to take over the event.

“When we first took over the race it was really hard,” Simpson noted.  “It has been a learning experience with getting everyone coordinated and on the same page.  It has been a lot of work to let people know the race is still on and getting more riders.  We have a Twitter feed, a Facebook page and website (almanzo100.bike) to get information out to the riders. I’m working with Penn Cycle quite closely now because they know what they are doing and can do these with their eyes closed.”

Simpson is quick to point out that she is not doing this event solely on her own.

“Although I do a lot, I don’t do it all,” Simpson stated. “Deb Zimmer has been influential in handling the logistics of the race as it pertains to the city.  She coordinates the brief closing of Highway 63 for the start of the race, getting the city employees coordinated for their assistance, the port-a-potties and she makes the oatmeal, which is a special oatmeal per the request of the racers, for Saturday morning’s race day.  All of this makes the race day flow smoothly. Julie Mlinar and the Spring Valley Historical Society are in charge of the spaghetti supper this year, with the help of Kiwanis. As curator of the museums she is also opening them early for the Wilderfest weekend. Todd Jones will be riding the routes of the Almanzo 100 and the Royal 162 shortly before race day to make sure the route hasn’t been compromised by detour or nature.  And, of course, there is Penn Cycle’s involvement, without which we’d be sort of lost.”

Though her various committees and volunteering commitments keep Simpson quite busy, she explains her enthusiasm continues to stay strong.

“I think all of us find ourselves in need at some point in our lives, so today you may be the person who is giving the help and tomorrow you may be the person receiving the help,” Simpson concluded.