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AARP AARP States Volunteering

Reflections from the AARP Booth at the Iowa State Fair


There’s lots to love about the Iowa State Fair.

From the butter cow to fried-anything-on-a-stick. From free musical acts to critters of all persuasions. From quilts that would make Martha Stewart seethe with envy to baked and canned goods you wish your grandmother would have made, there’s something for everyone.

For AARP volunteers, there’s also the time-honored pleasure of mingling with fellow Iowans and hearing stories about issues that are important to them. This year those issues were fraud and age discrimination in the workplace and, boy, do Iowans feel strongly about both issues.

For the third straight year, my wife, Linda, and I worked a volunteer shift in the AARP booth in the Varied Industries Building. This year we worked with another couple, John and Bev McCartney from Fort Dodge.

We knew that the booth location in the northwest corner of the building was prime real estate and the traffic was, indeed, heavy once the doors to the building flew open at 9 a.m., but the number of people who spent time at our booth was still surprising.

Some of them were just there for the nifty multi-use fly swatters (they also worked as mini-fans) we were giving away for participating in a fraud survey or for signing a petition in support of the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA).

But, frankly, taking the time to sign a petition to your U.S. Senator is quite a bit of effort for a flimsy piece of plastic, especially by state fair standards. But stop and sign, you did, over 2,100 of you. And you didn’t just sign. Many of you shared stories of how age discrimination had impacted your family or the families of people close to you. Most of you said you had seen age discrimination at work, knew it was morally wrong and thought it should be legally wrong as well. So you signed our petitions. Thank you.

The petitions are on their way to being delivered in Washington, D.C. to Senator Tom Harkin and Senator Chuck Grassley, but if you missed us at the State Fair it’s not too late to make your voice heard.

Thanks, too, to those of you who participated in our fraud survey. Fraud and identity theft are on the rise, across the nation and in Iowa. Not surprisingly, older Iowans are prime targets for scammers and con men. Whether on the Internet, on the phone or on your front porch, everyone who has something to lose is a potential target.

To stop these unscrupulous predators, AARP has launched the Fraud Watch Network. It’s free of charge to AARP members and non-members alike and people of any age. Check out the site yourself at

--Larry Lehmer of Urbandale, Iowa, is an author (The Day the Music Died), personal historian, former sports editor and AARP Iowa volunteer @larrylehmer


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