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Prime Time: Volunteers, programs make Senior Center shine

Marian Qvern -Stellar Speller

Marian Qvern is a Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center volunteer. She and her husband help with Christmas gift wrap and Marian has helped with the pancake breakfasts.

She was an educator for 50 years. After she retired, she volunteered in a first grade class at St. Philip's Schoool for 13 years. She is 88 years old, and her claim to fame is her spelling expertise. In 1997, she won first place in the Beltrami County Spelling Bee and then went on to the state spelling bee, but lost. In 1998, she won second place at the Senior Beltrami Regional Spelling Bee. Marian has a dignified and serious look about her, almost a little intimidating. She said one day while she was volunteering at the reception desk at the hospital Sheriff Phil Hodapp walked by and said, "Marian, you're as tough as boiled owl."

Ida Toffle -

Oldest of the Old

In 1998, Ida Toffle was the oldest active volunteer at the Senior Center. Now at age 92, she still holds that title.

Ruth Graves - Queen of Ideas

Year after year, Ruth Graves comes up with innovative ideas and ways to make our style show the best.

Tax Assistance Program

Tax preparation assistance for seniors and low-income individuals continues to be offered year after year at the Senior Center. This program is sponsored by the Senior Center, AARP, the IRS and the Minnesota Revenue Service. Volunteer tax counselors who have had many hours of computer and tax preparation training run the program. To continue working with the program, volunteers must be recertified each year. Although Bill and Henrietta Britton get the credit for developing the program back in the '80s it continues to be alive and well under the coordinating hand of Ralph Brose. During the 2011 tax season, 1,080 individuals took advantage of this very valuable service.

According to Ralph, "Total refunds amounted to about $527,000."

To show their appreciation for this free service, people give donations to the Senior Center. This year a total of $4,984 was donated. Ralph has been involved with tax preparation for about six years.

Many volunteers have been doing taxes for a really long time but Sharon Israelson, having racked up 19 years of volunteering, takes the prize for working the longest. She didn't say if she planned to aim for 20 years.

Gerry Maretens has a long history of volunteering in the program. Back in 1995, Gerry's wife, Shirley, saw an ad in the paper asking for help with the program. Her first thought was that she and Gerry could do this work together. However, according to Gerry, when Shirley saw how much work and stress were involved she said, "No way am I going to do this."

So Gerry got involved anyway, worked with and learned from Bill Britton and eventually took over the local coordinator position. Ralph took over in 2005. Gerry helped train the counselors for AARP, did returns and that's what he continues to do today. It sounds like Gerry is in for the long haul because when I asked him if he plans to continue his tax work he said, "I'll keep helping little old ladies with their tax returns until I lose my brain and I can't do it anymore."

AARP Driver Safety Program

The Senior Center continues to be the site for this helpful program. This program is the nation's first and largest classroom refresher course geared especially to our safety needs. Last year, 750 people registered for the classes. Joe and Jan Willer have coordinated this program for at least 10 years, and the Senior Center is happy to know they plan to continue. There are about six instructors, and now the program has branched out to include Blackduck, Kelliher and Northhome. Jan said a new film has been added to the program which teaches participants how to drive on roundabouts. If you are interested in attending either the eight-hour or the four-hour educational classes call Joe or Jan at 751-3086 anytime between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday-Sunday.

Senior Creations Gift Shop

Dolores Fredenburg took over as Craft Shop manager when Frances Struck retired in 1993, and now, 18 years later, she is still managing the program. Other long-time craft shop volunteers include Ann Corcoran, Lucille Reid, Lucille Bewley, Selma Jacobson, Laurel Gehlert, Carol Stevens, Marilyn Gangeness, Jane Nelson, Lyla Bruun and Richard LaVoi.

Pancake Breakfast

It takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of hard work to pull off the monthly pancake breakfast, but it does seem to be well worth the effort because people keep coming back month after month and year after year. So, good pancakes make for a good fundraiser. For many years this event has provided a nice source of revenue. In fact in 1998, our pancake profit was $4,399, and 10 years later in 2008, it was $5,000. Not bad I'd say.

So who do you suppose has worked with the pancake project the longest? Looks like Billie Bauer gets the award. She has done most all of the tasks that go with pancake day, but when Ann Stennes gave up the most important duty, that of working the counter, Billie was assigned that job. She wondered if she could really handle that most difficult and challenging position. Well, those of you who know her know she's still there and doing a fine job of keeping the servers organized.

Card ladies

Making beautiful like-new greeting cards out of old ones is a volunteer project which is probably the most time consuming volunteer effort of all. These volunteers meet each Monday morning to work together on cards for 2-3 hours. Then they continue to work at home. They should get overtime. And who has put in the most hours doing this tedious work? Phyllis Uglestad and Ann Corcoran have been with this program the longest.

RSVP Program

Kjell Thompson heads up this program, which is housed at the Senior Center. She lines up volunteers to help in a variety of settings. One such setting is the elementary school system where volunteers can assist teachers in a variety of ways. Some volunteers have been at the same school with the same teacher for 8-10 years. For information about RSVP call Kjell, 751-8836.

LSS Nutrition Program

These ladies really have to enjoy cooking. What's more, the four of them must also enjoy working together because, collectively, they have racked up 72 years. And they are actually still good friends.

Meals on Wheels Coordinator Sandi Malterud, and Head Cook Dawn Rivera have each put in 21 years. Melanie Raiter has worked for 16 years and Darla Bohlman has put in 14 years working in the LSS Nutrition Program.

Although these women are not volunteers of the Senior Center, they and the LSS Nutrition Program have been such an important part of the Senior Center for such a long time they deserve to be acknowledged.

Besides that, their program provides plenty of volunteer opportunities for seniors.

Ann Daley and Pat Kroeplin are Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center volunteers.