Spotlight turned on for dedicated volunteers

by Jim Boyle


Joanne Arnold volunteered to open the Country Store at Evans Park on the Guardian Angels campus in 1986, and she has been volunteering there ever since.

Arnold shows up bright and early every Tuesday morning with groceries from Elk River Coborn’s.

Actually, its not always bright. It’s often dark, and she usually has to brush off rain or snow from her shoulders.

“It seems like it’s like this every Tuesday,” Arnold said this past Tuesday morning with a chuckle, as she addressed the rain drops on her jacket.

No worries.

Like the U.S. Postal Service, Joanne doesn’t miss a delivery or a chance to restock the shelves each Tuesday.

“I liked the people,” she told the Star News. “There’s not a soul left from when I first started, but you just keep making friends.”

Joanne’s husband, Vic, knows the feeling. She recruited him nearly 10 years ago. He’s been a tax man for residents there ever since.

The Arnolds’ dedication has not gone unnoticed.

The Arnolds were recognized recently as the 2011 recipients of the Aging Services of Minnesota Volunteers of the Year Award. This prestigious award  came from Aging Services of Minnesota, the state’s largest older adult services trade association. It represents over 700 providers of the complete continuum of services.

Joanne Arnold has been buying groceries and stocking shelves for 24 years at the country store she helped open.

“Vic and Joanne are the hands and feet of Guardian Angels’ mission,” said Rita Waxon, a housing director for Guardian Angels Senior Housing. “They have dedicated 24 years to Guardian Angels with love and care. They are helping our seniors by bringing services from the community right into their homes … and making shopping more convenient.”

The Arnolds would just as soon have the spotlight turned back down. Waxon nominated them after she showed up on the scene of Guardian Angels and discovered all these two individuals do.

They volunteer, however, because of the daily rewards. Like when Sharon Bartusek, one of the 152 residents they serve, delivers them two cups of coffee each Tuesday from her motorized wheelchair. “I like to have their coffee ready for when they come in from the cold,” Bartusek said.

Many residents have befriended them along the way.

The Arnolds became familiar with Guardian Angels when Joanne’s parents and Vic’s mother were residents. Joanne recalls faithfully delivering meals to them.

A store had been planned at the Evans Park facility, but there was nobody to staff it when Delores Kratzke, a housing manager, asked Joanne if she would be interested.

She agreed.

“It wasn’t as busy back then,” she said. “I did all the shopping, stocking, pricing and worked it, too.”

Her efforts are now limited to Tuesdays and filling in when needed on other days. She buys about $400 in groceries a week, including some special requests that she fills.

She retired from the job once when she went into the hospital for surgery, but she got a call one month later to see if she would come back.

She did and has been back ever since, missing a week here or there when she needed other minor surgeries done.

Wind, rain and snow, however, do nothing to stop her.

Nearly 10 years ago she recruited her husband, Vic, to volunteer there. A tax man nearing retirement had asked Vic to help him with a tax calculation. It was then that the man asked Vic to consider helping him on a regular basis. He told Joanne about the request. “You’ll have to volunteer,” she said quickly and matter of factly.

He has been a faithful servant, too, long after the previous tax man called it a career.

“All the ladies like him,” Joanne says, beaming with pride. “They like to call him Silver Fox.”

He’s done right by them, too. In one year, he helped them secure $33,000 in refunds for about 80 residents. He stops in on Mondays from February through April 15 and takes calls at home occasionally. “They’re good folks,” he said.

Waxon nominated the Arnolds for the highly competitive award from Aging Services given to a volunteer in a senior living setting who goes above and beyond in their volunteering to greatly enhance the lives of clients and residents.

The Arnolds received the award for their years of volunteer service to Guardian Angels of Elk River at the Aging Services annual Institute conference, held in Minneapolis Feb. 9–11.


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