Larry Lubben has been basking in the spotlight lately, first retiring from his almost 34 year run July 8, from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Dakota; and most recently being honored by the West Fargo Exchange Club as their Exchangite of the Year for his service from July 2008 through June of this year.
Lubben said he is both humbled and gratified by all the attention and extremely proud of both 'life' achievements.
The exchangite award is presented annually to a West Fargo Exchange Club member who displays exemplary efforts in their contributions to the club during the past year. The individual is selected by the club president with input from members.
An active West Fargo Exchange Club member since 1992, Lubben is more than deserving. Presently engaged as the organization's secretary, he is a two-time past president, is the Web site coordinator - keeping it updated and current (www.wfexchangeclub.com); is Youth Committee chairman - coordinating the Student of the Month and Student of the Year programs; and has also overseen and participated in a variety of other club programs the past year including the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign; One Nation Under God banquet; Real Care Babies for the high school; Meals on Wheels; Night to Unite; and a number of fundraisers, as well as providing several programs for the weekly meetings.
He is also an award winner, recognized at the district convention held in June in Grand Forks for being the only member in the entire district receiving the award for 100% attendance at this past year's WF Exchange Club meetings, and also receiving the District Award for designing the top newsletter/Web site for the year.
Lubben said his commitment to the Exchange Club runs deep. "It's a West Fargo community service type organization. I like the idea of it being West Fargo and the fact we specialize in youth endeavors, like prevention of child abuse dovetails with other things I'm involved with in the community and schools, which helps tie it all together. Our membership consists of an excellent group of men and women who really support and are committed to our community."
He especially enjoys the camaraderie, in particular during the April fundraiser (the groups largest money raising and most popular event) because it's the one time during the year everybody is involved with the same project. "It really is a nice thing in that it is an event that we can all participate in at one time and raise funds for the community."
As a result of such programs, the clubs financial contributions are also strong and consistent with donations of approximately $30,000 yearly to a variety of community programs. Here, Lubben mentions just recently visiting Sam's Club to purchase a variety of snack items personally taken to West Fargo schools to be used for children who would otherwise go without; as well as a selection of clothing, i.e. sweatpants, mittens, gloves, hats, snow boots so the schools have an adequate supply for children who forget them or simply don't have them.
With close ties to child abuse issues, the club also recently purchased a special doll that exhibits what happens with 'shaken baby syndrome.' The doll will be loaned out for various projects or presentations. Lubben noted that MeritCare has already signed on to use it for a training session and they welcome other inquiries. "We hope to get it out in the community more, where the training will have a really significant impact."
As for his retirement from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Lubben was recently recognized at a special open house hosted by his wife, Sheila, and their children and families - Lia and Lee Dobrinz, and Ezra Larry, Sophia and Olivia, of Mapleton; Matt and Teri Lubben, and Mattie, Mya, Patrick, Elise and Evelyn, Buffalo, Minn., John and Becky Lubben, and Joseph, Columbus, Ohio; and Dave and Maggie Lubben, Alissa, Noah, Selah, and Lydia, Portland, Ore.
Lubben began with Blue Cross in the fall of 1975 as a computer programmer. In 1991 he became manager in the membership area, ultimately retiring as assistant vice president of membership and underwriting.
In retrospect, Lubben said Blue Cross "has been a great place to work with a lot of good people providing a much needed service for our customers that we always tried to take care of the best way we could."
He said he was overwhelmed by the number of family, friends, and co-workers who attended the open house, with the big surprise of the evening the arrival of his 86-year-old mother, Leone, who for the most part is confined to the nursing home in Wheaton, where Larry's father, Walter, also resides. "Sheila and the kids did a really nice job of planning and putting it all together," Lubben said beaming.
In retrospect, Lubben said the decision to step down was the right one as he relishes newfound time to devote to school projects, filming weddings, remaining active and involved in the Exchange club and visiting his family scattered all over the country, tasks that before had to be tucked into evenings and weekends or on planned vacations. Another huge area of emphasis will continue to be the recording and play-by-play of Packer sports televised on local public access, with Lubben now entering his 27th year of this 'work in progress.' Lubben said the plan is to continue in this capacity for a year at a time as long as he feels he can still do it. "What's so nice is that everybody is so willing to volunteer. I never have to beg anybody to help, they are always so willing," a reference to his three cohorts, cameraman Roger Eckert, involved for 17 years; Greg Warren, who has helped with the football all 27 years; and football coach Jay Gibson, who has been part of the ride for 19 years. "To have this kind of support is just great. And to be doing it in a little less hectic pace is even better."