Open house gives chance to learn about volunteer opportunities

Ten Blaine groups looking for volunteers were able to tell their stories at a March 30 open house at Blaine City Hall.

Blaine Central Lions Club President Terry Wold (left) visits with Coleen Severson of Blaine (center) and Marlys Hermansen of Crystal (right) about volunteer opportunities his organization has to offer. Blaine City Hall held a volunteer open house Saturday morning. Photos by Eric Hagen

Blaine Central Lions Club President Terry Wold (left) visits with Coleen Severson of Blaine (center) and Marlys Hermansen of Crystal (right) about volunteer opportunities his organization has to offer. Blaine City Hall held a volunteer open house Saturday morning. Photos by Eric Hagen

The Blaine Historical Society until recently only had three or four volunteers. After ABC Newspapers ran a story last November, six more people signed up, according to President Orville Lindquist.

Lindquist said some people may not be able to help too much because they go home to live their lives after getting off work, but it was nice to have the opportunity with this volunteer open house to tell more people that the city of Blaine is celebrating its 50th anniversary in December 2014 and the historical society needs help collecting stories and putting together a commemorative book.

Other groups at the open house included the Civil Air Patrol, Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View (SBM) Fire Department, Blaine Natural Resources Conservation Board, Blaine Central Lions Club, Mary Ann Young Senior Center, Good Shepherd Covenant Food Shelf, Blaine Public Safety Association, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and Blaine Police Explorers.

“Many residents are interested in volunteering, but they don’t always know what the opportunities are,” said Roark Haver, the city staff member who organized this inaugural volunteer open house. “Hopefully we can grow this into a bigger annual event.”

Mayor Tom Ryan and Councilmember Dick Swanson really pushed for this open house, with the backing of the council, after seeing that the percentage of Blaine residents who had volunteered fell below state and national benchmarks.

Blaine resident Leslie Sunder would clip newspaper stories about organizations looking for volunteers, but her busy schedule made it difficult to follow through. She now has more time available and attended the open house to learn what volunteer opportunities the community had to offer.

Leslie Sunder of Blaine (left) finds out more about the Blaine Natural Resources Conservation Board from board member Mary Jo Truchon.

Leslie Sunder of Blaine (left) finds out more about the Blaine Natural Resources Conservation Board from board member Mary Jo Truchon.

“It’s a good idea to have this,” Sunder said. “It shows me how much work volunteers do. There’s a lot of good people that live in Blaine.”

It was mere chance that Marlys Hermansen of Crystal met a friendly Blaine resident named Coleen Severson at Herberger’s and heard about this open house. Hermansen recently retired from Metro Transit and is looking to spend her free time volunteering.

“It makes you feel good inside to help people,” Hermansen said.

Severson has volunteered at Feed My Starving Children in Coon Rapids and has looked into other opportunities, but said reading through all the websites can be overwhelming and liked the opportunity to hear directly from volunteers what the time commitment could be.

Arlene Henderson and her husband Greg joined the Civil Air Patrol in 2004 when they were living in North Carolina. Arlene said she wanted to help in any way she could after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but she was in her 40s and having trouble finding an outlet in which to volunteer.

There are three components of the Civil Air Patrol. Its volunteers can help with recovery and rescue operations if a plane goes down, they lead aerospace education sessions and the cadets program introduces 12- to 21-year-olds to the Civil Air Patrol and the U.S. Air Force.

Anoka County’s Civil Air Patrol squadron has between 110 and 115 members, Arlene said. She is part of the critical incident stress management team that assists those traumatized from an airplane crash. She also does a lot of cooking for squadron events. Greg is one of the aerospace educators.

Bob Knowles has volunteered for SBM’s Fire Corps program since it started five years ago. SBM has volunteers to put out fires and respond to accidents, but the Fire Corps is another set of volunteers that take on many other tasks.

Knowles has mowed lawns, cleared snow, led fire extinguisher and child car safety seats demonstrations, transported vehicles to Fire Station No. 3 for maintenance and so on.

While city hall was not jammed with people an hour after the 9 a.m. start, there were more than a handful of people cycling through until the event ended around noon.

Knowles said the turnout was better than he expected considering the timing and the weather. Saturday was one day before Easter and the weather was rainy and overcast in the morning.

Like Haver, Lindquist hopes this volunteer open house is not a one-time event.

“I consider this a dress rehearsal,” Lindquist said.

Visit these websites for more information

• Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (www.beyondtheyellowribbon.org, or click here for city of Blaine webpage)

• Blaine Central Lions Club (www.e-clubhouse.org/sites/blainecentralmn)

• Blaine Historical Society (www.blainehistory.org)

• Blaine Police Explorers (www.blainepoliceexplorers.com)

• Blaine Public Safety Association (www.blainepsa.org)

• Civil Air Patrol (www.anokacap.com)

• Good Shepherd Covenant Food Shelf (www.gsblaine.org)

• Mary Ann Young Senior Center (click here for city webpage)

• Natural Resources Conservation Board (click here for city webpage)

• SBM Fire Corps (www.sbmfire.com/Fire_Corps.htm)

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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