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Celebrating our seniors: Fest brings about 200 to DL Pavilion Thursday

The 2014 Becker County Outstanding Senior nominees were introduced to the public for the first time Thursday during Senior Fest at the Detroit Lakes Pavilion. The nominees include (left to right) Walter Welle, Willma Hanson and Jack Koland. Not pictured are nominees Jim and Gerry Langemo, who were unable to attend Thursday’s festivities. The winners of the award, which celebrates senior volunteerism, will be announced during Senior Day at the Becker County Fair on July 31. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

Though an afternoon downpour may have put a bit of a damper on plans for a pontoon excursion around the lake to end the day’s festivities, the weather didn’t stop about 200 area senior citizens from showing up for Thursday’s Senior Fest at the Detroit Lakes Pavilion.

Besides the opportunity to visit with a variety of area service providers, the day also included live music — courtesy of Hank Reitan — and a picnic lunch consisting of hot turkey sandwiches, broccoli salad, fresh fruit and chips.

Several area election candidates, including incumbent State Representatives Paul Marquart and Steve Green, along with Green’s DFL challenger for the District 2B seat, David Sobieski, addressed the crowd, as did Tim Clements, a State Patrol trooper who is in the race for Becker County Sheriff.

In the afternoon, audience members heard presentations on the medical uses and health benefits of essential oils, from Bonnie Juma; current Alzheimer’s disease research from Alzheimer’s Association representative Jeff Steinbrenner; and one on emergency preparedness and the Becker County Code Red System, by County Emergency Services Director Craig Fontaine and American Red Cross representative Nancy Young.

But at the heart of the day’s festivities was the introduction of five local nominees for the 2014 Becker County Outstanding Senior Citizen Award.

This year’s nominees include John “Jack” Koland, Lake Park; Walter Welle, Detroit Lakes; Willma Hanson, Detroit Lakes; and Detroit Lakes couple Jim and Gerry Langemo (who were unable to be present for the recognition ceremony due to a previous commitment).

The Langemos were nominated by the Boys & Girls Club Thrift Store in Detroit Lakes, where they spend many hours each day sorting and stocking books.

“Because of their passion to volunteer they have helped build and maintain a world class book department for our store,” wrote Cary Perell, manager of the Boys & Girls Club Thrift Store, on the nomination form.

“These two are truly world class volunteers and truly wonderful people who are a pleasure to be associated with.”

Hanson was nominated for her volunteer work with the Becker County Developmental Achievement Center.

The DAC is a Minnesota licensed day training and habilitation program serving 75 adults with developmental disabilities, each of whom has varied abilities, interests and behaviors.

According to information contained in the nomination form, Hanson was called in to serve some DAC clients who wanted to enhance their reading ability.

For a half hour each day she would work closely with her individual charges and get to know their learning preferences, whether it was playing word games, reading out loud or writing their own biography.

She has even stayed several times for more than an hour over her allotted time to help DAC clients with their literacy skills, according to the nomination form.

Koland was nominated by the Cormorant Lions Club, where he is a charter member and three-time recipient of the Melvin Jones Fellowship, the highest award for service that the Lions can bestow.

He is also a volunteer with the Lake Park-Audubon School Legacy Foundation; Salvation Army, for whom he helps ring the bell for the “Red Kettle” program every holiday season; Lake Park American Legion; big Cormorant Lake Association and Wermager Beach Association; and Cormorant Lutheran Church, among other community service efforts.

“Jack is always taking part in (Lions) meetings and projects, and is a renowned champion ticket seller for our two main fundraisers,” wrote fellow Lion Mike Wammer on the nomination form. “Jack is a veteran who is active in his legion post.

“He’s also a good neighbor and a busy grandfather.”

Welle was nominated by his daughter, Sheila Welle, for his volunteer work with the Emmaus outreach program, visiting with people in nursing homes and assisted living residences, taking them out into the community when possible and taking a communion service to shut-ins.

He is also a volunteer with both the Knights of Columbus and the Callaway Lions Club, where he assists with fundraising events and attends their monthly meetings.

“My father has been a wonderful example of humble service for as long as I can remember,” Sheila Welle wrote.

“One of his greatest examples is his willingness to make time to visit anyone in need of company… he has a strong desire to connect with others and help them to know they are still valuable members of our community.

“At the age of 83, Walter Welle still continues to humbly serve this community by visiting shut-ins on a weekly basis… he not only touches and enriches the lives of those he visits, but also their families and members of our community, who see his humble act of service as a gift and an example to follow.”

Given annually to one man and one woman in recognition of their volunteer service in the community since reaching age 65, the Outstanding Senior Citizen Award is officially presented each year during Senior Day at the Becker County Fair.

This year’s awards will be presented on Thursday, July 31.

The Becker County Senior Fest was a joint presentation of the Becker County Senior Network and County Council on Aging.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454