While the computer age has made keeping track of Mount Evans Home Health and Hospice’s thousands of patients, legions of donors and army of volunteers faster, more efficient, and more accurate than ever before, computers can be a contrary breed and expensive to train. Happily, when Mount Evans needs someone to take their electronic stock in hand, they can rely on tech-savvy volunteer Don Bennett.
“Don’s a joy to work with,” says Rita Rice, the nonprofit’s chief database wrangler. “Whatever needs to be done, he can step right in and do it.”
As it happens, Don’s exceptional rapport with computers is purely avocational. Born in Tucumcari, NM, he expected he’d one day take over his father’s small car dealership. A few years later, the Bennetts traded in their small New Mexico town for one in Utah.
“I started school in a one-room schoolhouse,” he says.
As Don grew, so did his dreams, and in time he was accepted to the Colorado School of Mines, earning a chemical engineering degree that he soon put to work in an unexpected way. With Cold War tensions reaching the boiling point in Berlin, he did the only sensible thing.
“I was about to get drafted, so I enlisted instead.”
Commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Chemical Corps, he eventually landed in Louisiana, training soldiers to recognize and combat chemical and nuclear agents. It was a lucky post, and not only because it kept him on home soil. It’s where he met Gloria, the woman who would become his wife.
When his hitch was up, Don signed on with Shell Oil Company and took up station on the Gulf Coast. He wouldn’t muster out of that outfit for 33 years, during which time he and Gloria raised a fine son and two lovely daughters. He developed a passion for photography, and became handy with lathe and plane. Lots of the Bennetts’ furniture originated in Don’s workshop, and he’s got in mind to replicate a five-book reading stand designed by Thomas Jefferson. And if none of that appears to account for Don’s cyber-chops, it’s because it doesn’t.
“I just happen to like computers and computer software,” he smiles. “When I first saw email, I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
Their children grown and flown, in 1999 the Bennetts settled in North Evergreen and Don jumped into his new community with both feet.
“When I was working I did practically no volunteer work,” he says. “Between job and family, I just didn’t have the time. Now that I have the time, if I can make a contribution, I will.”
Don contributed to ENABLE, and to NEAT, and when a friend mentioned the volunteer opportunities available at Mount Evans, he became a willing recruit.
“I’m so impressed by the things they do. They’re angels on Earth as far as I’m concerned.”
Don’s done his share of yeoman’s work for Mount Evans, like pushing a broom at the Triple Bypass, but he makes his most valuable contributions while seated at a desk.
“I started doing input on a registry for the donor database, and then I spent about 40 hours conducting an inventory of all the school districts in Colorado for Camp Comfort. Lately I’ve been helping enter donations into QuickBooks.”
And while data entry is definitely helpful, it’s when the data refuses to be entered that Bennett earns his gold stars.
“Sometimes the software won’t do what they want it to do,” Don explains, simply. “I’m usually able to get it working right.”
To Rita Rice, it’s simply not as simple as that.
“Not only does Don do all these things, he comes up with better ways to do them,” she says. “Sometimes I don’t know what we’d do without him.”