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Outstanding Senior Volunteers named at county fair

Gladys Vredenburg of rural Akeley and Dave Long of Park Rapids are this year's Hubbard County Outstanding Senior Volunteers. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

For years, they have provided the basics - food and clothing - to people in need.

Now the volunteerism of Hubbard County Food Shelf director Dave Long and Akeley Regional Community Center clothier Gladys Vredenburg has been formally recognized.

Both were named Hubbard County Outstanding Senior Volunteers, applauded by their peers Friday at the county fair.

Providing direction

Long, a retired Park Rapids business education teacher, wears many hats in his role as a volunteer.

For more than a decade, he's served as director of the Hubbard County Food Shelf, administrating the initiative and raising community awareness as to the ever-increasing need.

He's served as chair of the Park Rapids Area Library's endowment committee, responsible for distribution and investments of money donated. He also assists with the Friends' book sales.

He is a member of the Calvary Lutheran Men's Group, providing maintenance support for Camp Emmaus.

Long is a member of the Eagles and Legion. He has served as chairman of St. Joseph's Area Health Services community board.

Boy Scouts have benefited from his volunteerism, Long serving on the district Eagle Scout Board of Review.

He offers leadership and direction to the Mahube Community Council, the local action agency for low income and elderly residents.

"Dave has been an outstanding example of community volunteerism," said Karen Lenius of Mahube, who nominated him for the award.

"He is a leader in many of his volunteer activities, responsible not just for the direct work of organizations, but also for the coordinating and directing.

"During the winter of 2009, on a very cold day with temperatures below minus 20 degrees and a potential for a winter storm, Dave and his volunteers were busy unloading a winter truck when all area schools and some community agencies were closed because of the weather," Lenius recalled.

"In spite of the cold and snow, they were wheeling and carrying boxes of food staples to restock the shelves.

"Dave was absolutely the director of the operation - at least six engaged volunteers were counting on Dave to provide structure and direction."

'Never idle'

At 74, Vredenburg is the veritable rural volunteer - "faithful and loyal in each endeavor," according to Kathleen Conger, who nominated her for the distinction.

When the former Akeley School was converted to the ARCC, Vredenburg and Ruth Spicer were at the helm of the Corner Clothing Store, "recycling" used clothing and other items.

The store's profits have been the major funding source for the ARCC.

Vredenburg assists an elderly neighbor, Grace Hemerick, so her son can head off to work.

She volunteers at the White Oak Bible Chapel each week and is a member of the Community Ladies Aid, playing a key role as a pie baker and ticket taker. She welcomes children arriving for Vacation Bible School, assisting with kids' crafts projects.

Vredenburg helps with the White Oak Bible Chapel bake sales and garage sales.

She helps orchestrate the Harvest Dinner in Deerfield, raising money for community initiatives.

She's also a member of the White Oak Cemetery board.

"Gladys helps out everyone, everywhere," Conger said. "She spends an entire day on her feet working at the ARCC" - despite uncooperative knees and legs.

"She helps all her 11 children, many grandchildren and many others," Conger said.

Vredenburg took in a family of five after their house burned, proving to be a "graceful, positive hostess."

She opens her home to neighbors for meals on a regular basis - and offers tutelage.

"She has helped me learn to garden, cook for my large family, can and freeze my produce (she still gardens, cans and dehydrates) and be a better mom and volunteer," Conger said.

"It's amazing to know someone who gives of her time, money and knowledge all the time. She is never idle... all while suffering from osteoporosis. She is my hero!"