Volunteer Profile: Sharon Oswald

Sharon Oswald is proud to be a Voyageurs National Park Association (VNPA) board member, sustaining monthly donor, and volunteer. She believes strongly in the mission of the National Parks and wants to help Minnesota protect its parks. “Voyageurs is a beautiful piece of our state,” says Sharon.

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Originally from Wisconsin, Minnesota has been home ever since her college days at the University of St Thomas. Sharon is currently Strategy Officer and Program Director at Delta Dental of Minnesota. She has the privilege of helping guide the foundation’s philanthropic efforts to improve the oral health of underserved people in Minnesota. She says, “I love my work. I get to meet and work with so many wonderful leaders in Minnesota dedicated to the common good. It’s very inspiring and meaningful.”

Sharon first experienced Voyageurs National Park on a canoeing trip with friends who knew about the park. She couldn’t believe how beautiful it was and how she had no idea it was there. Forrest Flint, a VNPA board member and Delta Dental co-worker, knew of Sharon’s interest in the environment and invited her to a VNPA event. Sharon volunteered with the VNPA events committee and became convinced of Voyageurs’ worthiness and impact. When Forrest retired from the board, he encouraged Sharon to take his seat. Sharon has served on the board now for 3 years.

Sharon’s favorite Voyageurs memories have to do with the community surrounding the organization. One was a Voyageurs anniversary event at Surly Brewing with great turn-out and an exciting celebratory feel. “It was exhilarating,” she recalls. Another was a VNPA boat tour in the park led by Voyageurs Superintendent Bob DeGross himself. She recalls how special it was to experience the park with Bob and the group. “We got to see and learn about unique areas of the park and cultural history I hadn’t noticed before.”

Sharon is a monthly sustaining donor because she feels it makes it easier for VNPA to plan and be more effective in the long-run. She laughs, “it’s also a smaller amount for me each month.” She’s very appreciative of her employer Delta Dental of Minnesota’s corporate support. They match a portion of her donations, and they have become a corporate partner for Voyageurs.

When asked why she supports Voyageurs with her time, talents and money, Sharon replies that VNPA provides the opportunity for long-term support and vision for a beautiful piece of Minnesota currently threatened by climate change and many other threats. She says the best things about VNPA are making more people aware of the park and encouraging more access to the park. Sharing more knowledge about health and its connection with nature is important to Sharon. “Voyageurs is a huge asset I’d like to see more people utilize.”