top of page

Couple makes big impact volunteering

By Marilyn Brinkman of St. Joseph

If you stopped by Roger and Marjorie Henkemeyer’s place in rural St. Joseph and peeked in their shed behind the house, you’d think Santa Claus must live there.

At any time of the year, their 30x36-foot shed is filled with Christmas paraphernalia: Christmas trees, ornaments, teddy bears, dolls, dishes, garland, and whatever people don’t want to throw away but no longer have use for.

Roger and Marjorie Henkemeyer volunteering at church, something they love to do.. Photo by Marilyn Brinkman

About seven years ago, because Sister Betty Larson OSB knew The Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Richmond had an annual Christmas sale, she convinced Marjorie and Roger that maybe a Christmas sale in early November would be in order. It would aid in recycling Christmas gifts and decorations from people who no longer needed or wanted them, and it would make a tidy sum of money for special projects in St. Joseph’s Parish. 

After some discussion, they decided to try it for one year. People should bring their items to the church Gathering Place. When they ran out of space, Sr. Betty suggested Roger’s shed.  If they were unable or for some reason couldn’t bring them to the church, Roger would pick them up.

The first year the proceeds were minimal. As the years have progressed, the amount the parish earns by only suggesting a goodwill offering has been substantial.

What Roger, Marje, and Sr. Betty enjoy most is seeing the parish work together for a common cause. Each year more and more parishioners volunteer for five to seven days in the planning, organization, sale, and finally removal of the left-over donations. They enjoy being and working together. First emptying hundreds of boxes, sorting the items to place on tables for display. Then assisting on the sale days, greeting customers, often laughing, and just socializing with buyers and each other.

Marje is the parish nurse. Roger is Marje’s sidekick, the parish handyman and painter. Both say they enjoy volunteering because the people of St. Joseph are convivial, willing, and hard-working.

“Volunteering brings people together,” said Roger.

“Volunteers are also doing important work for the parish,” said Marje.

As parish nurse, Marje works with all aspects of the parish to do whatever the parish needs and wants. She coordinates exercise, weight loss programs, caregiver counseling, and does home visits with Sr. Betty. She says she is lucky to have Sr. Betty.

As a member of the Whitney Advisory Board, she facilitates classes and speakers at St. Joseph’s Gathering Place.

Fare For All

Ten years ago, Marje explained that Fare for All was a food distribution program in St Cloud and surrounding areas, but not in St. Joseph. A nursing student at St. Benedict’s College, Amanda Roles, in conjunction with Resurrection Lutheran Church in St. Joseph, began a committee to bring it to St. Joseph as a school project. Marje and Roger helped coordinate it. Amanda’s school project helped start a great program for the two churches, and it has become the largest Fare for All in the area.

“St. Joseph’s Parish volunteers work together to provide this wonderful opportunity for individuals to purchase excellent food at great prices,” said Marje. And it warms her heart that the two churches continue to work together and form lasting friendships.


Marje was born in Chicago but grew up in Stearns County. She is a graduate of St. Cloud Tech High School and St. Gabriel’s School of Nursing. She received her B.S. from St. Cloud University and M.A. from the University of Minnesota. Roger acknowledged that, “She’s the one with the degrees. She also has the professional experience.”

Marje recalled that during the 10 years they lived in Sartell, she was president of the Sartell Christian Mothers. They told her,  “We’ll help you. We’ll guide you.”  Marje remembered this as a mantra for the rest of her life. They were patient with her and taught her. Marje said she learned, “There’s always someone there to help and guide you.”

She traveled and received a National Award from Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council setting up nursing programs in rural Minnesota.

Marje retired after being vice-president of Tech College where she taught nursing and also started and set up programs there. She has been on St. Joseph’s Parish Council twice. In 1973 they moved to St. Joseph, where their children went to school, and Marje taught CCD classes.


Roger was born and grew up in St. Cloud. He joined the Army in 1956 and was stationed in Germany for 18 months, then in Fort Benning, Georgia. He retired in 1994 at age 55 from his job as a painter at the Veteran’s Hospital in St. Cloud. Later in 1994, he started soliciting for prizes for the annual St. Joseph Parish bazaar—for 34 years, an almost full-time job. As a self-employed painter he began volunteer painting for the church and retired again at age 80, but still paints for the church now and then.

Some of Roger and Margie’s hobbies are biking on the Wobegon Trail, jigsaw puzzles, and cards. Roger is also a sports fan and storyteller. Once started, he can tell stories for hours!

Over the years, they have traveled extensively (Europe, Russia, South America, Panama, and many more). They saw the Passion Play twice and enjoyed it very much.

In 1994, they attended the Olympics in Norway and through it became active in the Sons of Norway. For many years they had Norwegian students live with them for a time.

Marje and Roger have three children and five grandchildren.

How do they handle stress? Roger said he doesn’t have to, “Marje has all the stress!” What drives them? “The wonderful people of St. Joseph.”

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page