It was one long hug between Gen Mollenhauer of Ironton, who was congratulated by her 5-year-old great-grandson Connor Ferrari after she was named Crow Wing County’s Outstanding Senior Citizen Thursday at the annual recognition picnic in Lum Park in Brainerd.
Connor — the son of Michael Ferrari and Allison Seely of Crosby — was given the job of presenting the award by the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in Brainerd which sponsors the honor. Connor walked up with the plaque in hand. A vase of flowers was carried by DeAnn Barry, LASAC executive director. Three women were nominated for the senior citizen award — Darlene Painter, Verna Vanderburgh and Mollenhauer — who sat in front of the crowd at the picnic. Connor went straight to his great-grandmother and gave her the plaque and a long hug.
“I had no idea,” said Mollenhauer, right after she received the award. “This is beautiful and there are more of you who do this (volunteer) ... I have goose bumps running through my veins, not just my arms and legs.”
Connor was not just given the job to present the award because he is Mollenhauer’s great-grandson. He was chosen because has assisted Mollenhauer for the past three years with mail delivery at the Cuyuna Care Center in Crosby.
“I like to help,” said Connor. “She takes me places. And I get candy.
“I knew it (that she would win.)”
Mollenhauer, 85, said she had been taking care of Connor since he was 2 and she had to volunteer at the Cuyuna Care Center in Crosby, so she just took him along. She said he would help and they’d deliver mail together. She said he will be going into kindergarten this fall and he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to help out at the care center anymore. Mollenhauer said the care center worked things out so Connor can help deliver mail after school.
Mollenhauer volunteers four days a week, with about 45 hours per month at the care center, where she began volunteering in 1995. She helps delivers mail, plays music, helps on outings and on fundraisers.
Mollenhauer, who was nominated by Delores Swanson, also volunteers at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Crosby and the Ironton American Legion. Mollenhauer has been volunteering for more than 25 years in Owatonna and surrounding communities and in the Crosby area.
When asked why she volunteers, she said, “It feels good right here. (as she placed her hand on her heart.) And it helps me forget my troubles.”
Barry said “Gen is taking the time to make volunteering a legacy with her great-grandson. We should all be encouraging young kids to volunteer. She will represent Crow Wing County well at the State Fair.”
Criteria for the award includes that the citizen has to be a Crow Wing County resident; must be age 70 or older; volunteering must have been accomplished after age 65; and no pay was taken.
Barry said in the nomination letters, residents had to write how the person touched the lives of people and the community with their volunteer work, and include the time and quality of their work.
Barry said all three nominees are deserving of the award. Barry said each hour of volunteer work is important and that the senior center appreciates all the volunteers for their work.