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AARP AARP States Montana Volunteering

AARP Montana Announces Winner of its most Prestigious Volunteer Award


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Minkie Medora selected as recipient of 2018 Andrus Award for Community Service


AARP Montana announced that Minkie Medora of Missoula was selected to receive the 2018 Andrus Award for Community Service, the Association’s most prestigious volunteer award.  Each year AARP honors the legacy of AARP founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, with the AARP Andrus Award for Community Service. This award is a symbol of the power of individuals to make a difference in the lives of others. The award was formally presented to Medora at a recent ceremony in Helena.

In congratulating Minkie, Montana State Director Tim Summers said “Minkie Medora has always recognized the important role volunteers play in making things better for society.  It’s a pleasure to present this honor to Minkie, a person who has given of herself to make an important difference in the lives of others.  Her spirit of service has left an indelible mark on communities all around Montana.”

“Minkie Medora has made a difference for so many, not only in Missoula, but throughout Montana, said Outreach Director and Volunteer Program Manager, Nancy Andersen.” She has been a tireless advocate fighting hunger in Montana and she inspires others by her generosity, her spirit, and her energy.  I wish her warmest congratulations and thanks on behalf of AARP Montana.”

The depth of Minkie’s service to fight hunger in Montana is an extraordinary example of volunteerism. As Chair of the Montana Food Security Council for nearly 20 years, and a long-time Board Member of the Montana Food Bank Network, she helped to shape policy improving access to nutritious food for all Montanans. She has convened stakeholders, served on committees, and advocated directly with state and national decision makers and government officials. They hear from Minkie in person, by mail, phone calls, and in testimony, she leaves no stone unturned.


Additionally, AARP Montana wants to recognize her great work with the Public Policy Committee for the Montana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Minkie’s efforts to mentor dietitians statewide while also encouraging and training other citizen advocates have been applauded.

“AARP Montana takes great pride in congratulating Minkie Medora on all that she’s done for individuals, for Montana, and for society.  Minkie Medora is a proven advocate and leader with an impressive record of achievement that has impacted not just older Montanans, but residents of all ages," said Summers.  "I am thrilled that Minkie was selected to receive this prestigious award – she serves as a fitting tribute to the legacy of Ethel Percy Andrus’ motto – ‘to serve and not to be served’.”

Minkie was nominated by Fran Viereck of Helena on behalf of the Montana the Food Security Council. As part of the award, AARP Montana will donate $1000 in Minkie’s name to the Council in support of their mission to improve access to nutritious food for all Montanans through long-term, policy advocacy solutions.


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Also at the event, a special Volunteer Innovation Award was presented to Mike Michalsky for his work in Billings to partner with the Billings Resource Alliance to build a Grocery Pals food delivery program for their community. Mike had recently retired after a career as a grocer, both managing and owning a grocery store. He brought with him the business knowledge and contacts to help develop a successful and innovative grocery delivery program now known as the Alliance Pantry Pals Program. Because of his extensive background, Mike was able to provide guidance, foresee obstacles and engineer solutions long before the program was introduced.

Mike partnered closely with Pam Makara, Alliance Volunteer Program Director to develop the program patterned in part after a successful program in Boulder, Colorado. Mike educated the grocery community about food security issues and the barriers facing the homebound population that includes frail elderly and disabled Montanans; barriers such as limited income, isolation, rehabilitation, lack of transportation and physical or mental barriers. He also emphasized the economic value of providing services for keeping this population in their homes rather than in assisted living or nursing homes.

The program launched in 2017 serving 38 seniors that first year. During a similar time period, Mike logged more than 300 volunteer hours developing this program along with his service as a Meals on Wheels delivery driver. AARP Montana is proud to honor Mike for this innovative approach to fighting hunger. AARP and the AARP Foundation have long recognized the importance of developing long-term solutions to end hunger for Americans over age 50. Fighting Senior hunger has consistently been a priority for AARP Montana and many other groups throughout the state.


The following three Montanans also received awards during the event:

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Ann Groth, Missoula, Montana – AARP Montana Outstanding Community Service Award

Since January 2003 Ann has volunteered at Rattlesnake Elementary School in Missoula and she has served as a Foster Grandparent there since 2010.  In all of those years, she has never received a less than a perfect score in any of the 28 categories of her evaluation by her teacher partners.  For the past 5 yea

rs Ann has also served on the Missoula Senior Corps Task Force; committing to being a mentor, going the extra mile as a volunteer, being a model representative and ambassador of the program and helping her Volunteer Coordinator in any way that has been needed.  Ann has given more than 11,000 hours of service as a Foster Grandparent helping at-risk children achieve grade level and leading other volunteers to succeed in their service.


Bob Olson, Great Falls, Montana – AARP Montana Outstanding Driver Safety Volunteer (Unable to Attend)

Bob has served in the AARP Driver Safety Program more than 21 years and has trained more than 1,100 classroom participants. In addition to his work as an instructor, Bob is the District Coordinator for Montana’s largest geographical Driver Safety region that includes Glacier, Toole, Liberty, Hill, Pondera, Teton, Cascade, Fergus, Blaine, Phillips, Judith Basin and Petroleum counties! He has also served as the District 6 trainer since 2005 and the Zone Coordinator since 2013. Bob has been an inspiration to others in the Driver Safety Program and his work has helped so many become safer on the road while saving money on their auto insurance.


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Elva Pilling, Great Falls, AARP Montana Outstanding Retired Educator Volunteer

As Scholarship Chair for the North Central Montana Retired Educators Association for the past 10 years, Elva Pilling has helped make a career in education a little more attainable for so many high school seniors. Not only did she chair the selection committee, but she also helped raise the money for the scholarships. Elva has also been active in the Back Country Horsemen, Women of the  Moose, Delta Kappa Gamma, and Project Linus where she has donated 20 quilts or blankets to needy children in the United States and worldwide. Through her volunteer service, Elva has made a difference for generations to come.


The following six Montanans received recognition as the 2018 Montana Andrus Award for Community Service Finalists

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Bev Allen, Helena, MT – Andrus Finalist

As a 40-year volunteer for Helena’s Grandstreet Theater, Bev Allen has demonstrated an unsurpassed dedication in the volunteer realm. While she has appeared several times onstage her primarily volunteer contributions have been as a painter and set builder behind the scenes. Her nomination highlights that her dependability, perseverance, dedication, infectious humor and intellect inspires other volunteers to emulate her. Even when her husband was going through chemotherapy recently, she still came in regularly to help with the sets. She has given countless hours over the last 40 years and consistently volunteers despite her own health problems, while also operating a family business, and co-authoring two books. Her commitment and enduring love for community theater are unparalleled. Bev has significantly contributed to making the Grandstreet Theater experience a true Helena treasure.


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Gerri Backus, Kalispell, Montana – Andrus Finalist

Gerri is in charge of the Kalispell Senior Center’s ‘Warming it up Program.’  This program focuses on keeping children and community members warm during the Montana winters while also helping seniors knit. Gerri finds and coaches the knitters, inventories the items, arranges for the yarn to be donated and spearheads the delivery to those in need. Many Kalispell community members reap the benefits of this unique program and stay warmer in the winter because of it. The program, under Gerri’s leadership provided more than 2,000 total pieces of hand knit mittens, hats and scarves in just one year to more than 20 area schools, valley hospitals and other organizations that help children, senior citizens, and Veterans. Gerri has made a difference in Kalispell and in the lives of so many.


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Eleanor Bowen, Helena, Montana – Andrus Award Finalist

When Eleanor walks in the door at Helena Food Share, their world becomes a little brighter. As a greeter, she is often the first person a Food Share customer meets, Eleanor is the perfect role model demonstrating customer service. She treats everyone with dignity and respect and she exemplifies the organization’s philosophy. Eleanor has volunteered for Helena Food Share for over 10 years. She has played a key role in so many Food Share programs that she has significantly contributed to the success and the growth of the organization. Eleanor has helped increasingly more people access food in the Helena community.


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Everett Jones, Billings, Montana – Andrus Award Finalist

Everett Jones has been a retired History teacher for 20 years and it seems like he’s found a great second career as a volunteer in the Billings community.  A 19-year-member of Billings Golden K Kiwanis Club, Everett currently serves as the Montana District Administrator for Builders’ Cub, a leadership program for middle school students, and Golden K Kiwanis Advisor for the local Riverside Middle School Builders’ Club where they focus on distributing food to the homeless, working at the Billings Food Bank, ZooMontana and the Audubon Center.  He’s also an 18-year Hospice volunteer, providing support as patients deal with end of life issues. Everett is also a member of the Shrine and a blood bank driver. Everett’s important contributions have made Billings an even better place to live.


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Klairaine Nichwander, Missoula Montana, Andrus Award Finalist

Since December of 2006 Klairaine Nichwander has given 1,833 documented hours of volunteer time to Missoula Aging Services internally and throughout the community with the RSVP Program. Over the years she has work with many local groups including the Missoula Symphony, Project Homeless Connect, Habitat for Humanity, YMCA, March of Dimes, AARP Tax Aide and the Montana Audio Informational Network to name just a few. Klairaine’s many contributions in the Missoula community are greatly appreciated.


Dorothy Willems, Miles City, MT – Andrus Award Finalist (Unable to Attend)

Dorothy Willems’ volunteer activities seem to blanket the entire Miles City community. Dorothy volunteers as an AARP Tax-Aide Coordinator and Tax Preparer, as well as with the Airport and Custer County Commissions. She serves as Treasurer for the Drop in Center and the Custer County Food Bank Board.  Dorothy has been instrumental in organizing the Senior Drop-In Center monthly lunches that raise funds for maintenance and repair to the Senior Center. According to her nomination, Dorothy embodies the quote from John F. Kennedy “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”


We’d like to  acknowledgement a few of the Helena Community Actions Team members (also referred to as HCAT) that were recognized by their teammates as our “super” volunteers for the year.


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Barb Arthur receives her award

We’d like to  acknowledgement a few of the Helena Community Actions Team members (also referred to as HCAT) that were recognized by theirteammates as our “super” volunteers for the year.

Barb Arthur was our very first new HCAT volunteer in 2017. She joined the team after attending our first Movies For Grownups screenings as a guest and hasn’t missed a beat since.Val Flansaas and Nina Martello both joined the team shortly after Barb and they have helped us at a wide variety of events and activities – too many to mention here. Deb Nason led the Movies For Grownups team for much of 2018 before becoming the HCAT Volunteer Lead along with staffing many events and helping in the office.

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Val Flansaas and Nina Martello receive their award

This special HCAT recognition concludes by thanking Jim Andersen, an AARP volunteer for nearly 18 years who has traveled throughout Montana to various events as well as staffing numerous local Helena events . . . pow wows, community fairs, conferences, fraud presentations, movies, baseball games, concerts . . . Jim has done it all and we appreciate his many contributions. Thanks again to all these terrific volunteers!

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Deb Nason receives her award


“AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions AARP volunteers make to their communities, neighbors, and the programs they serve.  It’s a pleasure to present these awards to so many wonderful volunteers who have made an important difference in the lives of others,” concluded Summers.


AARP’s commitment to volunteer service can be traced back to the life and vision of founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. From the beginning, her motto, “To serve, not to be served,” has shaped AARP’s community service efforts at the national, state and local levels. Andrus Award winners are nominated by their peers and the award recipient is chosen by a special committee of AARP Montana volunteer leaders.

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Jim Andersen receives his award









Our Volunteer Summit was a huge success this year. Thank you to all who made this event possible. View the video below. 



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