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First volunteer fair makes connections

Gloria Markkula, left, with the Menahga Museum visits with Helen Phalen at the booth for Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

A free volunteer fair Tuesday at Calvary Lutheran Church brought together approximately 75 current and potential volunteers for more than 20 non-profit organizations.

Sponsoring the organization were Living at Home of the Park Rapids Area and CHI St. Joseph's Health. Volunteer Park Rapids Area was among the 22 vendors offering opportunities for volunteers — groups whose approximately 30 representatives were mostly volunteers themselves.

"Approximately 45 potential volunteers came through the door," Connie Carmichael with Living at Home said after the event. "I consider it a success."

She added that about 65 people attended the luncheon and heard keynote speaker Eric Bergeson, author of "A Treasury of Old Souls."

"I think we at Living at Home got four really good possibilities for volunteers," said Carmichael. "It was awesome. We'll be interested in doing it again. I think people made some really good contacts at the event."

Kathy Wenner of Menahga called the event "a one-stop shop" for volunteering opportunities, adding that she and her husband are not quite ready to retire, but are looking for things to do as that time comes closer.

Laura Johnson, executive director of the Developmental Achievement Center, was there representing the DAC's new adult day services program, which opened on May 21. It is geared toward offering a respite to caregivers of older adults and to give homebound seniors a chance to get out and socialize.

"We're looking for people who would be interested in coming in and sharing their talents," said Johnson, "even just playing games and chatting" with the program's clients.

Lou Schultz was there to represent SCORE, a program that provides free mentoring for small businesses. He said SCORE was looking for "people with management experience, who are willing to spend time helping small businesses."

"I've been very pleased to see the turnout, not only of community members, but also the number of vendors here," said Helen Phalen with Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging. "It's very beneficial to me to be able to network with the other agencies."

Park Rapids Community Education Director Jill Dickinson was looking for volunteers to help with the Frank White Preschool, field trips and an after-school care program. "It's fantastic," she said. "Lots of fun conversation, lots of ideas."

Jeff Siebert hoped to book volunteers to man (or woman) the All Veterans Memorial, while also selling tickets for a quilt drawing to raise money to operate the memorial. He noted that replacing flags worn and torn by high winds cost the memorial $1,800 last year.

"I think the volunteer fair is going great," said Kim Donahue of Volunteer Park Rapids Area, which manages a website connecting community organizations with local volunteers. For more information, see