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Volunteers Honored at Institute & Expo

Volunteers were honored at the statewide and district levels at the recent Institute & Expo. The award recognizes individuals who volunteer in older adult services for their dedication, commitment, and positive impact on the lives of seniors and their communities.

Gigi Rysdahl, a volunteer with Oak Hills Living in New Ulm, was honored by LeadingAge Minnesota with the Statewide Volunteer of the Year Award.

Rysdahl has volunteered for more than 25 years tending to the Courtyard Gardens. She often brings her pug dog, Rosie, who has made special friends with residents and sits on their laps. The residents look forward to seeing Gigi and Rosie almost daily during the season when they come to make sure the garden is weeded and looking its best.

"She quietly gives day after day for our residents to have a space filled with beauty and nature to enjoy," says Rachal Becker, Recreation Director. "We also have residents that have a green thumb of their own and like to talk about the different plants and flowers. Some are even able to help in the garden with some light weeding and trimming. Gigi takes those residents under her wing and shows them what they can help with. The residents feel a sense of purpose helping Gigi in the garden."

Rysdahl was also recently chosen by the New Ulm radio station as a hometown hero for her gardening efforts at Oak Hills.

Watch Gigi’s Award video to learn more about her story.

Joanie Betsinger was named District F Volunteer of the Year for her contributions to Spring Valley Living in Spring Valley.

A registered nurse by training, Joanie uses volunteering as a way to personally touch the residents at Spring Valley Living. She has been known to provide songs to those who cannot sleep, massage those in pain, and sit with those who are lonely. After a long career in public health in Fillmore County, she also helps out by taking shifts at the nursing home.

"Joanie is selfless in her volunteer services. She will go above and beyond as the need arises. She places the needs of others first with her attitude of enriching the lives of others," said Heather Sellers, Vice President of Nursing Home Services, Spring Valley Living. "She is an exceptional human being and inspires others to strive to be better members of the community."

Marie Christianson received the District G Volunteer of the Year Award for sharing her time and talents with Augustana Regent at Burnsville.

For more than 13 years, Marie keeps coming back to the Regent because it is her calling. She builds a relationship with the residents, taking time to hold their hands and listen to them during their journey. They become family to her. She says she feels revitalized every time she comes and is always asking for additional things that she can do to make the lives of residents, families, and staff easier.

“Marie lights up the room with her positive attitude and her zest for life, which puts our residents at ease and comfortable when she is around,” said Vicki Tobroxen, Executive Director, Augustana Regent. “Her strong faith also helps residents in difficult times. She helps comfort families by sharing with them how their loved one made a positive difference in her life.”

Meet all the 2022 Stars Among Us Award recipients here.

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