STAPLES -- Older Americans can teach young Americans a lot about the world of work. All one needs to do is watch veteran laborers on the job at Central Lakes College.
At the Staples campus and at the Central Lakes Ag Center, you'll see three hard-working men who don't take a back seat to anyone when it comes to getting a job done. They are participants in the Green Thumb program.
Lloyd Otteson and Bob Myers, both of Staples, and Albert Porter of Bertha are "mature workers" as their qualifications are called. Green Thumb, Inc. is the means by which they can provide community service and earn a little money to live on.
As they groom the grounds of the CLC facilities in their roles as groundskeepers and maintenance aides for up to 20 hours per week year-round, the men demonstrate dependability, punctuality and strong work ethic.
Lloyd Otteson, Staples, used a pitch fork to stack soybeans for harvest at the Central Lakes Ag Center near the campus of Central Lakes College in Staples. He said becoming a Green Thumb participant has kept him from "climbing the walls" after retirement. He grew up on a farm.
"We've been very fortunate to have had the benefit of Green Thumb services," said Ray Gildow, CLC vice president. "Without taking away any regular employee's job, the college has been able to provide a workplace and opportunity for more employment."
They're not just mowing lawns.
Eva Swanson, a Green Thumb worker in the Meta-5 Displaced Homemaker program at the college, parlayed her office skills into more substantial employment. She "graduated" from her status as a temporary participant to that of a trained, permanent worker.
"What started 36 years ago as a way to employ crews of retired men has evolved into a valuable service to our country," said Mary Jean Stobb, director of a five-county Green Thumb region that includes Todd and Morrison counties. "The college has often had at least one Green Thumb worker onboard for quite a few years."
Bob Myers of Staples is one of several Green Thumb workers who has provided years of service to Central Lakes College. Many of the age 55-up workers receive training to find better jobs off the Green Thumb payroll.
At Staples, Myers has been a Green Thumb participant more than five years. His CLC supervisor, John Reese, appreciates having a mature worker, someone who needs little direction to perform a number of regularly scheduled tasks.
At the Ag Center, where Norm Krause is the supervisor, Otteson and Porter have equally productive routines. Porter has been employed through Green Thumb since 1998. Otteson joined the program in April 2000.
"On the Brainerd campus over the years, we've placed workers in the library, in the horticulture program and with maintenance," said Mary Jo Best, field coordinator.
Green Thumb eligibility for some services is based on family income criteria, with priority given to those in most financial need. All applicants get fair consideration, regardless of age and mental or physical limits.
The average Green Thumb participant is at least 70, said Stobb. Today, there are more women in the program than there are men.
"We can accommodate more applicants," said Best. She stressed that as one learns a job, the Green Thumb work can lead to a full-time position. "The host agency always gets first opportunity to hire when one of our workers has learned enough to be job-ready," she noted.
To learn more, call Stobb in Little Falls at (320) 632-4627, Best in Brainerd at 855-3060, or the state Green Thumb toll-free number at 800-450-5627.
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