Two Lake County seniors were honored for their continuing volunteerism at the annual senior luncheon at the Lake County Fair on Aug. 8. Mary Prestidge and Jerry Carlson were recognized for their years of volunteer work with Community Partners and other organizations.

The Outstanding Senior program honors those who volunteer past age 65. Lake County Fair senior luncheon coordinator Bunny Thompson said those selected are "pillars of the community."

"These are folks who go out, give of themselves and not really ask for anything in return," Thompson said. "I know from my experience, when you go out and do things for others, what I received back is tenfold of what I have given and I’m certain most of you feel the same way."

The two honorees are then invited to go to the next level of competition at the Minnesota State Fair for the chance to be recognized as outstanding volunteer for the entire state.

Lake County Fair senior luncheon organizer Bunny Thompson pins a corsage on Lake County Outstanding Senior Jerry Carlson during the luncheon on Aug. 8. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Lake County Fair senior luncheon organizer Bunny Thompson pins a corsage on Lake County Outstanding Senior Jerry Carlson during the luncheon on Aug. 8. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

Call Mary or Jerry

Dana Thewis, volunteer coordinator with Community Partners, presented Prestidge and Carlson with their awards.

"I get to work with these two people regularly. Between the two of them, they’ve volunteered at Community Partners for 24 years. They have served over 300 people and over 4,000 hours," Thewis said. "If ever we're not sure who we should call, it's probably Mary or Jerry."

Carlson has volunteered with Community Partners since 2008 and served over 100 individuals and over 2,000 hours. He spends his volunteer hours driving, serving with Meals on Wheels, planning social events, serving on the board, snow removal and grocery delivery. He also volunteered with the Salvation Army.

In the community, Carlson is well-known for playing Santa Claus for various events for the past 49 years.

"Back in 1969, I was asked by a fellow who did it if I would please fill in for him. And I said yes I would for one weekend. And I’ve been doing it ever since," Carlson said. "I do it because it’s a wonderful little hobby. The senior citizens enjoy it just as much as the little kids."

Carlson also credits his wife, Loretta, for her support in his volunteer work.

"The thing about volunteering, it’s a two-way street," Carlson said. "We enjoy doing it and we know that we’re helping people, but they’re helping us too. It’s really a wonderful opportunity."

Those gathered for the senior luncheon at the Lake County Fair on Aug. 8 applaud the newly awarded Outstanding Seniors. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Those gathered for the senior luncheon at the Lake County Fair on Aug. 8 applaud the newly awarded Outstanding Seniors. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

Prestidge said her family started her volunteerism. She and her husband Denny had eight children.

"When you have that many kids, you’re constantly volunteering for something or another," Prestidge said. "I even served as the volunteer coordinator for this fair, because when you've got eight kids in 4-H, you've got to keep the fair going."

Nowadays Prestidge volunteers mostly with senior citizens, for whom she said she has a passion. She owned and operated the Barross houses in Two Harbors for 25 years and continued to volunteer with seniors following her retirement in 2011.

"Once you start, it's easy to find yourself getting roped into more and more volunteer work," Prestidge said. "I started with Community Partners, then the food shelf as a senior liaison, then visiting seniors in their homes, and it just grew from there."

Due to recent knee surgery, Prestidge doesn't plan to visit the State Fair, but Carlson hopes to make the trip.