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Volunteers lend a helping hand for Day of Caring

Volunteers Dawn Doyel, left, Corrine Johnson, center, and Jackie Rogness, left, help winterize Clara Heimbuch's yard Thursday during the United Way of Cass Clay's Day of Caring.

It's important for some individuals to give back to the communities in which they conduct business and live.

Employees at Otter Tail Corporation, Fargo, believe in this philosophy, reinforcing it Thursday, Oct. 14, with their involvement in the United Way of Cass-Clays 19th annual Day of Caring, one of the community's largest volunteer events.

George Koeck, Jackie Rogness, Michael Olsen, Corrine Johnson, Pat Murray, Dawn Doyel and Karla Koenig were happy to be assigned to the Clara Heimbuch residence, located on the west side of West Fargo to clean up her shrubbery and yard, preparing it for winter, before moving onto their second West Fargo project at the Esther Hummel home, where they also did yard work and some indoor cleaning.

"At Otter Tail Corporation, we think we should give back to the communities we are in," said George Koeck, general counsel and corporate secretary, who served as spokesperson for the day of caring volunteers. "We do it both monetarily and with projects like this where we can give of our labor," specifically mentioning the Day of Caring and other recent occurrences including the Fargo Marathon and the devastating spring flood.

Among Otter Tail Corporations local affiliate businesses are DMS Health Group and Northern Pipe, Fargo, Aevenia Company, Moorhead and DMI Industries and E.W. Wylie Corporation, West Fargo.

Koeck said the employees always look forward to their involvement in the Day of Caring. "We've done it for many years and we really enjoy it. It is really fun, particularly when you get a day as beautiful as this," touting the sunny skies and relatively warm temperatures. He said the goal was to spend two hours working in the yard "and having the outside of the house looking sharp" by the time the volunteer crew left.

Last year was Clara's first encounter with the Day of Caring crew and she was excited to have a visit this year from the Otter Tail employees. "I had four girls from Scheels last time and they were excellent, just like these people are here today. You can see they all know what they are doing," she added with a big smile.

Clara became involved with the program last year following an illness that left her unable to walk well. She is doing better and her condition is improving, but she is still unable to do her own lawn work, so welcomed the group this year again with open arms.

"I am just overwhelmed. What they do is wonderful. I looked at this mess (yard work) all summer and there was nothing I could do, so I am very appreciative. I have a yard man, but he just mows. He's going to be very surprised."

As her way of saying thank you, Clara made sure the crew was treated to Gatorade and cookies that she had set up in the garage for them while they worked.

Clara has lived in West Fargo for almost 30 years. She said she is also grateful to another group of local volunteers, those who deliver her lunch daily through the Valley Seniors Meals on Wheels program.

She and her late husband, Gust, raised three sons and two daughters, and have a dozen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In her spare time, Clara also enjoys painting, especially farm buildings, as is evidenced by favorites in her collection decorating the walls of her home.

A total of 1,335 volunteers participated communitywide during the Day of Caring in the homes of 447 senior citizens throughout Cass and Clay Counties with 96 businesses and organizations providing the volunteers.

Kristina Hein, marketing and brand management director for United Way of Cass-Clay, said she is always inspired by the number of volunteers that step forward for the Day of Caring to give of their time to change the lives of senior citizens that live in the community. "It is very heart warming to see the affect it has on the lives of the seniors that are helped on this day each year - they truly appreciate the volunteers taking time to spend the afternoon with them. Not only do they appreciate the help with indoor and outdoor projects they are no longer able to complete, but also the chance to visit and have companionship for the afternoon. Most Day of Caring experiences end with treats and coffee and conversation after the raking, cleaning, yard work and other projects are done and the seniors truly enjoy the time they get to spend together with the volunteers."

Hein said it all goes along with the United Way of Cass-Clay mission, part of which encourages members of the community to 'live united' by giving, advocating and volunteering. "When more than 1,300 people step forward to help more than 440 senior citizens, this is a great example of what it means to 'live united.' We appreciate those who give financially to our community, but giving of your time to volunteer for a senior citizen is also important as well."