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Hansen receives 2017 Minnesota Andrus Award

Kate Schaefers, AARP Minnesota State President, presented Bob Hansen with the 2017 Andrus Award for Outstanding Community Service during a program at Calvary Lutheran Church on Nov. 10. (Vance Carlson/Enterprise)

Bob Hansen walked into his house the last Sunday in August and his wife Sharon told him a lady from AARP had called and left a message to call her back.

"I thought they wanted me to do a survey," said Bob Hansen. "I didn't call back."

A couple days later, there was another phone call that Bob didn't want to answer.

"I think it's the same lady from AARP," Bob's wife told him.

This time, Bob reluctantly picked up the phone. It turned out to be an award-winning decision.

Hansen found out he had been selected as the 2017 AARP Minnesota Andrus Award for Community Service recipient. The award honors Minnesotans over the age of 50 who are sharing their experience, talent and skills to enrich the lives of their community members. The Andrus award honors AARP founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, whose motto was "to serve, not to be served."

The Park Rapids volunteer was presented with the award at this year's Minnesota State Fair in September.

"They gave me the award and then they took it back," said Hansen. "They said they wanted to present it to me in Park Rapids."

Hansen was locally recognized and presented with the award during a reception at Calvary Lutheran Church Friday afternoon.

"This is a really humbling experience," said Hansen. "I feel there are a lot of other people who deserve this award more than I do."

Hansen has been a dedicated volunteer for Hubbard County's Lutheran Social Services (LSS) Senior Nutrition Program for 16 years. He has chaired the local Nutrition Council for more than six years, displaying outstanding leadership while building and inspiring a strong team of leaders and volunteers. Hansen has helped raise awareness of senior hunger as well as dollars for the program and recently took over the role as Director for the Hubbard County Food Shelf.

"This is one of our best days of the year when we honor a person for exemplary volunteer work. Bob is a great example of spending time — after retirement — providing service to others," said AARP Minnesota State Director Will Phillips. "As an organization dedicated to social change and making MInnesota an even better place to live for people of all ages, we cherish the opportunity to recognize outstanding volunteers like Bob."

"This is the most prestigious award AARP gives out. AARP gives this award to one person a year who is a role model who inspires others to volunteer," said Kate Schaefers, AARP Minnesota State President. "Bob stood out with his dedication and what he has offered to the community."

"Bob and his wife, Sharon, are such wonderful volunteers. Bob rarely says 'no' to anything," said Monica Douglas, Director of Hubbard County's LSS Senior Nutrition Program. "Bob had faith that he could help bring life back into the Nutrition Program. Now it's a strong and vital program. It's an example of how one person can make a difference."

"Bob puts in a lot of hours at the Food Shelf," said Denny Ulmer, a volunteer at the Hubbard County Food Shelf. "I found a role model in him. This honor is well deserved."

"Bob does a lot of things and he does them right and he does them well," said Steve Norby, pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church. "He's definitely a person who makes a difference."

Along with the honor, AARP Minnesota made a $1,000 donation in Hansen's name to a charity of his choice. Hansen chose the LSS Senior Nutrition Program, which is in need of donations to help reach the yearly budget. In addition to funds, more volunteers are needed for the Senior Nutrition Meals on Wheels program. Hansen says the food shelf can also use more volunteers.

"We get great support from the community, but it's a challenge to keep both programs strong," said Hansen. "We're always desperate for funds and volunteers. This check will help, but we still need more financial support for the Nutrition Program. The food shelf serves 340 to 360 families a month and over 14,000 individuals a year and we go through tons of food. We have 100 volunteers, but we need 15 to 20 more."

Even though he puts in a lot of long hours and hard work, Hansen enjoys making a difference in the community. He doesn't plan on retiring as a volunteer any time soon.

"Volunteering can be fun and I've made a lot of great friendships doing it. I get a lot of rewards out of it. It's really rewarding working with great volunteers who are making an impact in the community," said Hanson. "I'll keep volunteering as long as my health holds up and I encourage others to volunteer. There's real joy in giving. The more you give, the more you enjoy it."