An Ideal Township man who teaches gentle yoga to senior citizens and a Brainerd woman whose friends often complain that she's never home because she's always volunteering were selected as Crow Wing County's 2003 Outstanding Senior Citizens of the Year.
They are John Ehlert, 78, Ideal Township, and Florence Nelson, 73, Brainerd.
Ehlert and Nelson were honored Thursday at the Crow Wing County Senior Citizens Picnic at Mission Park, an event sponsored by the Crow Wing County Council on Aging, Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union and Horizon Health Senior Advocates. About 200 people attended the annual picnic, which included food and live music.
Ehlert was nominated by Marge and Wayne Abell, Breezy Point. Marge Abell was a 2001 Crow Wing County Outstanding Senior Citizen recipient while her husband was selected as a 2002 Crow Wing County Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year. Wayne Abell then represented the county at the Minnesota State Fair last August and was chosen as the state's outstanding senior. Abell said he is hopeful Ehlert will be selected as another state winner in August because of all the volunteer work he does.
"We're hoping he'll replace me at state and we think he'll do it down there," said Abell.
Abell and Isabelle Erickson, Crosby, last year's female award recipient, announced this year's outstanding seniors.
Ehlert has been a member of the North Crow Wing County First Responders since 1990. He's a member of the Pequot Lakes Community Education Council where he's been a chairperson for six years. His responsibilities include raising money and overseeing projects from volunteer programs to community theater productions and buying a van for seniors.
He's written the "Critter Corner" column for the Whitefish Property Owners Association newsletter for the past two years and he's worked for 16 years with the "Grub Club" to plan, maintain and conduct tours of the Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area in Ideal Township.
He's served as secretary for the Ideal Township Scholarship Foundation for eight years and teaches gentle yoga to senior citizens who want to maintain a better physical condition. He's received awards from the DNR and the Pequot Lakes Community Education Council for his volunteer work.
Florence Nelson was nominated by a co-worker at St. Joseph's Medical Center, where she's been a volunteer driver and gift shop worker and scheduler. She received her 2,000-hour volunteer award from St. Joseph's three years ago. Nelson also actively volunteers at the Soup Kitchen, where she's been a board member and officer and prepares meals. She's a member of the Bethany Good Samaritan Auxiliary, where she's been a board member and officer and driven patients to appointments, volunteered in the gift shop and scheduled other volunteers.
Nelson is chair of an American Legion Club project where she makes sure that every hospitalized veteran receives a card or a visit and also helps with the annual poppy sale and veterans' supper. She is active at St. Francis Church, where she is a Guild member and provides Communion for shut-ins and Woodland Acres Nursing Home. She also serves as the social concerns chair at St. Francis.
"I want to serve other people and do my share to earn my way to Heaven," Nelson said when asked why she volunteers.
Nelson is half of the Nelson volunteer team. Her husband, John Nelson, also was nominated as a 2003 Crow Wing County Outstanding Senior. The couple has long volunteered together, a partnership that has flourished during their 50 years of marriage.
Ehlert said he volunteers because of the rewards he receives from helping others, like his work as a volunteer driver for the Pequot Lakes senior van, where he drives seniors to and from doctor's appointments.
"My wife passed away 11 years ago and when I pick up someone in the (senior) van, I feel loved," said Ehlert. "Besides, if you don't have something to get up for in the morning, you won't get out of bed."
Nelson and Ehlert will be recognized at Senior Day at the Crow Wing County Fair Aug. 7 and will compete for the state award Aug. 28.
Other 2003 Crow Wing County Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year nominees were Dick Weiss, John Nelson and Wallace Dallas.
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