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In the Know: Volunteers show our community cares

It's that time of year again! The Douglas County Fair is over, signaling that summer is over and school and fall activities are underway. Thinking about the things I've been involved with recently really brings out the "Pollyanna" in me again. What a great area we live in! How much volunteers accomplish in this area because governmental and volunteer groups work together.

Our county fair certainly illustrates that. I took a riding tour of the grounds this year and couldn't believe what the fair has become. In many ways, it challenges the State Fair in rides, foods etc. It surpasses the State Fair in the area of exhibits, livestock, wildlife. The leadership, growth and direction of this event is in the hands of a 15-person volunteer board. In reality, it is set up like two events. There is the midway and fun foods area. They have also retained the old and traditional area and events. Many complain about paying to get in to the fair and say that other fairs are free. I grew up at county fairs. My dad, Jim LeRoy, had harness horses and I was part of the horse barns at every county fair. Most of those county fairs don't even exist anymore. Some have a one-day festival. Some may have a 4-H day. Ours is all together. The livestock barns, the wildlife building, the 4-H and Master Gardener building, the old schoolhouse, the home building, the log cabin and stage dedicated to our heritage. They are all there and accessible by a free shuttle from the free parking lot. You can be entertained and educated and watch all kinds of fun events without spending another dime. The grounds are immaculate and there are clean bathrooms and drinking water available throughout. What a job these volunteer leaders are doing! Most are still working and take a week's vacation to serve us at fair time. Thank you!

I had the benefit of joining the Senior Center's Veterans Chat Group on a trip to the Eagles Healing Nest in Sauk Centre. What an example of volunteer effort! Under the leadership of Melony Butler, volunteers have stepped forward to share her dream of assisting veterans having difficulty in returning to civilian life. They purchased the old girls reform school there and volunteers and residents share in restoring the buildings and bringing them up to code. Extensive counseling and training are provided by volunteers to enable the veterans to cope and have a future. It and its services are unbelievable! It is a positive force in our state. It is not part of the VA but works closely with that organization to provide the ultimate service to our citizens.

Currently the Pope-Douglas United Way is launching its fund raising drive to support the programs and services offered by volunteer leadership under their direction. A small group of staff is in place, led by Jen Jabas. With the help of this staff, volunteers are enabled to offer their many food programs like the Mobile Food Drop, the Food Shelf, and Backpack Attack for kids. Dolly Parton books, coat distributions, the Traveling Tree House and other free programs. They continue to partner, as they did in the old days, with non-profits and share the results of their fundraising with ones selected by community members and staff for the programs they offer. In my mind, the greatest gift they are giving us is their program of gathering all the groups together in various topic areas such as transportation, health, education, financial stability, housing. By working together, we accomplish more and can serve more people. And, they keep us working!

In closing, I have to mention the Alexandria Senior Center. There is no limit to how this wonderful facility, owned by the 800-plus members, can serve the community and individual groups. Volunteer effort at its best.

I am happy and proud to live here among people who care and step forward and volunteer!

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Kathryn LeBrasseur is board president of the Alexandria Senior Center. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.