A people personAndy Struthers is a people person. He likes being around them, talking and being social. And he especially likes helping people – which isn’t easy when you’re in a wheelchair.
Andy Struthers is a people person. He likes being around them, talking and being social. And he especially likes helping people – which isn’t easy when you’re in a wheelchair.
Struthers, a Parkers Prairie resident, has spina bifida and has never been able to walk. He’s had several surgeries throughout his life, has two shunts in the back of his head, and doesn’t have any feeling from the waist down.
“Other than that it’s gone pretty well,” he said of his illness. “From my perspective anyway.”
Struthers graduated from Parkers Prairie High School in 2002. Although he has some slight learning disabilities along with his physical limitations, for the most part he was mainstreamed into regular classrooms.
In high school, he started working at Productive Alternatives (PA) in Parkers Prairie, a day treatment and habilitation program. He continued his employment there shortly after graduation.
For one year he attended the Alexandria Technical College dietary management program, but he returned to PA, where is does packaging work for various companies for five and a half hours a day.
Struthers, who lives on his own in an apartment, isn’t content to just go to work. He’s always looking for other ways he can contribute.
“Shortly after working here, I decided I would like to do volunteer work,” he said.
In 2002, Struthers offered his services to the local nursing home, because he likes to “visit with people a lot.” Three days a week he spends an hour playing Yahtzee and bingo with the residents. His eyes lighting up, he gives an emphatic nod when asked if he looks forward to his time with the elderly.
An uncle to seven, Struthers also likes spending time with children. Last November when he came across an article about World Kindness Day, he decided to help local preschoolers.
Since one of his goals at PA is to develop, choose and plan an activity once a month, Struthers decided to arrange a school supply drive.
“I called the early childhood person at the elementary school,” he explained. “I met with her and asked what supplies she thought they could use.”
Under his lead, notes were sent to the consumers and staff at PA, and the supplies started pouring in – everything from cotton balls to notebooks to games.
“You name it, we got it,” Struthers said with a laugh.
When the supplies were collected, Struthers went to the preschool to distribute them.
“Everybody had a great time with it,” he said. “All the little kids came running when they saw everything.”
Struthers spent most of the afternoon there, playing games with the kids and answering questions about his disability. And just like his work with the elderly, the thought of spending time with kids makes him beam.
“I always look forward to it,” he said, adding that he hopes to volunteer his time reading to children during story hour at the library.
Besides volunteering and being social, Struthers has another passion. He loves sports, especially baseball. And his dream is to someday be a sportscaster.
“I haven’t been able to go to college much for any of that, so I kinda got away from that idea,” he lamented.
Struthers gets his sports fix by attending almost all the high school sporting events, many times getting there himself in his power chair. And he is the co-announcer at the annual PA softball tournament.
Struthers is also on his church council and wants to join a young adults group at another church. He also is in charge of reading the local newspaper and other stories, poems and sports news to his fellow consumers at PA.
He’s unsure about his future plans at this point, but one thing is probably for certain: This man who describes himself as an outgoing, hard-working people person, will probably do all he can to help others.