‘Outstanding Senior Citizens’ exemplify volunteer service

Ron Wooden, left, and Pinky Manlick of Little Falls were presented with the Morrison County “Outstanding Senior Citizen” Award at the Morrison County Fair, Aug. 10.

It was honoring and at the same time, embarrassing for Ron Wooden and Pinky Manlick of Little Falls to be named Morrison County’s “Outstanding Senior Citizens,” they said.

To them, volunteering and being involved in the community is not about being recognized, but simply doing the right thing and being there for people.

“But if it encourages someone else to volunteer, than something good can come out of this award,” Wooden said.

Wooden started to volunteer two years ago after his best friend of 44 years died. At first he wasn’t sure about volunteering, but has since changed his mind about it.

“Deciding to give back was the best thing for me. I have met so many nice people,” he said.

Wooden looks for opportunities to volunteer in the community. One of the first places he started to volunteer at was in hospice at CHI St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls.

“I thought it would bother me, since my wife was in hospice (at home), but surprisingly it didn’t,” Wooden said.

He attributes the ease of volunteering in hospice to that it is a different environment and a different person.

As a hospice volunteer, Wooden visits clients. offers support for the families and clients at the end of life and was instrumental in the development of the CHI Health at Homes We Honor Veterans programs.

Another thing he discovered when he went through training to volunteer in hospice was the book that described what to say and what not to say to family members or the patient.

“I was absolutely shocked that somebody put into writing exactly how I had felt. It made me realize I wasn’t alone and that my thoughts and feelings were normal,” he said.

Wooden finds that his own experience of being a caregiver helps when he interacts with other caregivers. He knows what it’s all about.

Wooden also volunteers for the Faith in Action program and provides transportation to seniors who need rides to doctor visits, to pick up groceries or medications.     He also helps out with maintenance at Linden Hill sometimes.

Wooden volunteers at the New 2 You store in Little Falls. There he helps manage donated items and encourages community involvement. All proceeds of the store go to support the Boys and Girls Club program.

As Wooden is an “engineer of all trades,” he helped build the new addition at the Living Hope Church in Little Falls.

He’s also a member of the American Legion, the VFW, Minnesota Street Rod Association and the National Street Rod Association.

Wooden served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954-1958, held top secret clearance and had 2,000 hours of flying time.

“I was a crew man on a B-36 bomber, which was one of the largest bombers ever built,” he said.

Wooden still holds a private pilot’s license and though he no longer has his own plane, he has several friends who do, he said.

Wooden finds volunteering very rewarding; not only for himself, but also for the people who benefit from it.

The nomination for Wooden said, “Ron likes to keep busy and is always willing to help others at a moment’s notice. He has a positive attitude, an approachable personality and often shares stories with clients. Those of you who have met Ron, know he always comes prepared with a joke.”

The person who nominated Manlick said, “Pinky is an exceptional individual who has long gone above her call of duty in her volunteer efforts throughout the community. She has demonstrated flexibility, selflessness and a team-oriented approach when working with others. Those of you who have had the pleasure to meet Pinky notice the creativity and commitment in her work.”

“I still don’t know why they picked me. I’m still kind of shocked about it,” Manlick said.

She has volunteered at CHI St. Gabriel’s Hospital for more than 25 years. In the gift shop alone, she’s devoted 28 years of volunteering her time and talent and is now manager.

For the last 10 years, she’s also been the chair of the sewing group “Stitch in Time.” The group of six volunteers stitches items for the hospital, such as diaper bags, blankets, walker bags, eye glass cases and baby Christmas boots and more.

She also sewed blankets for group mission trips at the First Lutheran Church in Little Falls for four years.

Those who have visited the Pine Grove Zoo in Little Falls may have encountered Manlick. As she has managed the admission booth, she’s provided a welcoming environment to visitors.

About seven years ago, Manlick was named “Volunteer of the Month” by the CHI St. Gabriel’s Hospital.

This year’s Outstanding Senior Citizen program was held by Horizon Health in Pierz.

Previously the program was put on by Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and was funded by the U.S. government. However, this year RSVP received significantly reduced funding to the point that it wasn’t enough to run the program.

“We felt it was important to honor the senior citizens in the county for volunteering and doing good in the community,” said Kristine Hoheisel, director of the Faith In Action program at Horizon Health.

Seniors volunteering in the community is not something to take for granted. Few realize the impact their decision to volunteer has — not only now, but in the years to come, she said.

“They are invaluable. In the U.S. We have 10,000 seniors citizens who turn 65 each day,” Hoheisel said.

In 2010, the five-county area of Morrison, Todd, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Cass counties had 94,838 seniors. It’s projected that by 2030, the same area will have 260,000 senior citizens, because of the baby boomers retiring, Hoheisel said.

“It’s crucial we have these seniors volunteering, because we don’t have the infrastructure to take care of them,” Hoheisel said.

With volunteers helping others, the number of people who will need to stay in assisted living units is reduced.

“It allows them to stay home longer and that keeps them happier and healthier longer. Overall it makes the health of those seniors much better,” Hoheisel said.

Wooden and Manlick will represent Morrison County at the Minnesota State Fair.

“Ron and Pinky are fabulous people, so I’m excited to see what will happen at the State Fair,” Hoheisel said.