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Do you know an Unsung Hero whom you would like to see honored here?
If so, download a Nomination Form here and mail it to the address listed on the form.

2018 Unsung Hero December

Ramsey County 4-H Shooting Sports Volunteers

The Ramsey County 4-H Shooting Sports volunteers have been selected as our Unsung Heroes.  The Shooting Sports program began in Ramsey County in 2005 with five kids.  Thirteen years later, the program enrollment is at 174 kids and nine of the past 13 years they have had participants advance to the National 4-H Shooting Sports competition.  This incredible growth and success is due to one single factor – AMAZING VOLUNTEERS!  In 2018 alone, the volunteers logged 1824 hours!

All of the volunteers have a great passion for the sport but one common thread among them is the pride they have in helping the kids develop skills that will make them successful in life.  Seeing the kids grow as individuals drives them to keep giving back.   “Our kids learn how to set goals, follow rules, become leaders, develop self-confidence and learn how to perform under pressure,” said volunteer Doug Darling.  “The program creates mature individuals with high integrity.  Characteristics that are developed just through doing something they enjoy.”

Operating a firearm isn’t something taken lightly by the volunteers.  Safety is their number one priority.  Countless hours are spent teaching the basics of safety and making sure the kids understand its importance.  Most kids don’t have experience operating a firearm so they are taught how to do it correctly from day one.  “By the end of their time in 4-H, a majority of the kids handle the firearms better than their parents,” stated volunteer Rick Jorgenson.  

The four main disciplines of the Ramsey County 4-H Shooting Sports are Shotgun, Archery, Air Rifle and Air Pistol.  Rick Jorgenson and Doug Darling are two volunteers that have been with the program since its inception and it doesn’t appear they have any future plans of retiring.  “When we started the first year, we just wanted to share our love of the sport with others.  This is a passion of ours, so we were glad to get involved,” said Jorgenson.  Little did they realize how the program would grow throughout the past thirteen years.  “We started small and laid the groundwork to accommodate as many kids as possible,” said Darling. 

More volunteers are always welcome because volunteers are the foundation of our programs.  Former 4-H members have even come back and started volunteering. “Having former students come back and volunteer brings a whole new perspective to the program.  They can share their experiences with others to help them succeed,” said Jorgenson.   New volunteers need to complete a one-day certification training program.  The air rifle and air pistol certification is administered by Jose Figueroa or Rick Jorgenson, both 4-H Shooting Sports volunteers that have went on for more national level training so they can help our community and the State get more people involved.  “I enjoy teaching so when there was an opportunity to become and instructor, I decided to give it a try,” stated Figueroa.

One of their biggest challenges is finding enough space to accommodate all the kids.  The club currently uses the Lake Region Shooting Sports shooting range for its Shotgun program.  The archery range is located on the south side of town behind Ed’s Bait Shop and the Memorial Building basement in Devils Lake is used for Air Rifle, Air Pistol and Archery in the winter months.  “We have a waiting list of kids that want to participate,” stated Cindy Olson, of NDSU Extension. “Because our program operates during the winter months, we only have a limited amount of indoor space.  We hold as many sessions as possible but basically we run out of time in the day!  It’s a great problem to have and we are always looking for ways to maximize the facilities we do use.” 

Many of the volunteers participate because they have children involved but it isn’t uncommon for them to keep volunteering once their children are finished with the program.  “My son hasn’t been in 4-H for eight years but 4-H has become party of my life,” said Darling.  Others participate to get involved and meet new people.   Jose Figueroa moved to Devils Lake from Puerto Rico 12 years ago.  “I enjoy the sport and have met so many people because of my involvement.  I truly feel a part of this community.  The smiles on the kids’ faces after they shoot keep me coming back every year!” stated Figueroa. 

Thank you to all of the volunteers.   

Air pistol instructors: José Figueroa, Rick Jorgenson, Doug Darling, Connie Jorgenson

Air Rifle Instructors: Rick Jorgenson, Norm Hanson, Matthew Mack, Doug Darling, Jose’ Figueroa, Derek Melcer, Russell Gerhardt, Jeff Hintz, Jeff Vaagen, Heath Alexander, Brad Deplazes, Al Stiven, Bryston Berg

Archery Instructors: Norm Hanson, Roger Fritz, Jason Hanson, Kelly Durbin, Heath Alexander, Colleen Graue, Dave McElhrany, Marcus Dahle, Melissa Elsperger, Dan Lebrun, Tammy Meyer, Rob Dahl, Dan Driessen, Jason Carlson

Shotgun Instructors: Doug Darling, Leo Locker, Norm Howard, Dave McElhrany, Darin MacDonald, Dave Steffen, Jeff Frith, Jim Wang, Devan Sundeen, Warren Blanchfield, Spencer Frith, Dylan Durbin

Your commitment and dedication to the youth in our community is remarkable.  Keep up the good work.

 

2018 Unsung Hero November

Beth and Leo Saylor

 

A passion for helping others is a phrase that describes Leo and Beth Sayler.  As with many Unsung Heroes, they were hesitant to accept the award because they said they really don’t do that much! 

 

Leo and Beth met while attending college at NDSU where they both graduated in 1972.  They have been married for 47 years and live on the farmstead where Beth grew up, near Minnewaukan.  Their three children (Jeremy, Jessica and Jason) all graduated from Crookston, MN, where they lived before moving to the Lake Region in 2001.

 

Both Beth and Leo had successful careers and are now enjoying retirement.  They are involved in many activities and Leo said, “It all started with our churches.  We both grew up with caring parents, going to church and getting involved.  So as adults, we followed the same path.  One thing lead to another and pretty soon we were involved in many things.” 

 

Beth has been a leader at Trinity Free Lutheran Church for the past 17 years.  She served as chairman for many years and is currently the treasurer, a position Leo held for ten years.  Leo is now a member of First United Methodist Church where he is chairman of the Finance Committee and is a member of the Administrative Council.  Leo is also a member of the choir and has assisted with the confirmation class and vacation bible school.  He has also been a delegate for the local church to the District Convention. 

 

Beth has been a major contributor to the Lake Region Community Shelter where she serves on the Board of Directors and has been involved since the beginning.  This is a project which is very close to her heart.  Beth’s professional career included providing guidance and support to women and children so she is able to pass on her valuable skills to those in need at the shelter.  Beth says “It’s very rewarding to help women and children.  Listening and offering advice comes natural to me and I find it easy to make a connection with our guests.”  Beth also coordinates the volunteers who prepare the meals for the guests.  Leo and Beth cover the over-night shifts at the shelter at least once per week where they come at 11:00 pm and stay awake for eight hours to monitor the welfare of the people staying at the shelter.  Beth also has grant writing experience so she has written grants to support the shelter.

 

Leo is on the Board of Directors at the Hope Center.  He volunteers on a regular basis and also helps to coordinate some repairs, bids, and other activities.

 

The Amachi mentoring program is one of Leo’s favorite activities.  Caring adults (mentor) are matched with a child (mentee) from the program.  “We spend time together each week and I try to teach him skills that will help him in life.  It’s very rewarding to see the child grow and mature.  This is probably my favorite volunteer activity!”  Leo encourages other people to get involved in this program because children are our future.

 

Leo and Beth have always shared a love for music and when their children were young, they would play piano and guitar and their kids would sing along.  It was easy for them to get involved in the Lake Region Concert Association where they have been members for several years.  Leo has served on the Board of Directors and has served as treasurer for the past five years.  Their involvement in the LR Concert Association led them to the Silver Sensations, a four-part harmonizing musical group.  This group sings at the local nursing homes on a regular basis.

 

Leo and Beth have both donate blood and Beth has worked with United Blood Services to coordinate local drives for many years.  They also ring the bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign each year, deliver meals to seniors and help with the regional 4H Youth Safety Camp.

 

They also have found time to give to the Sons of Norway.  Leo held the treasurer position for two years and was very active in the Sons of Norway 100 year celebration in 2017.

 

It is truly amazing how this wonderful couple so generously donates their time to help others.  Thank you, Beth and Leo Sayler!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Unsung Hero October

Dennis Olson

DennisOlson

Dennis Olson was born and raised in Devils Lake and remembers his father dragging him to volunteer activities as a child.  Little did he know what an impact this would have on him as an adult.

One of the first volunteer activities he remembers was helping his dad with Lake Region Winter Sports.  His father was the president in the early 60's and was instrumental in starting the Ski Hill which was located along Highway 57 on the Spirit Lake Reservation.  Dennis put in many hours as a child doing the grunt work to get the ski hill up and operating.  As an adult, Dennis took over managing the club and it was during this time he realized how a community can come together to get something accomplished.  The club wanted to purchase a t-bar but the cost was almost prohibitive.  Dennis worked with Lynn Hoghaug at Ramsey National Bank and they gave them a loan for about half of what was needed to get the t-bar installed and operating.  The other half was covered by people within the community who stepped up and gave of their time, money and talent to get the t-bar installed.  It was a lot of manual work and long hours, but they did it.  That's when he realized Devils Lake was a community where it's big enough to get things done but small enough to get people involved!  Unfortunately, the Devils Lake flooding caused the Ski Hill to close in 1997.

The Lake Region Community Fund was another volunteer activity where he served two-three year terms.  The LRCF supports many non-profits within our community and Dennis enjoyed working within the community to raise funds.  The annual golf tournament which has become a great fundraiser for the organization was one of his favorite events.

Dennis is entering his 43rd year as a volunteer firefighter for the Devils Lake Fire Department.  He was a truck captain for many years and has been the treasurer for the past 30 years.  Dennis has spent countless hours attending fire training as well as helping with the DLVFD annual fishing tournament.  He also became a licensed pyrotech so he and other volunteers could put on the annual 4th of July fireworks display in Devils Lake.  Dennis is disappointed the show has been discontinued but he said it's very dangerous work and the time commitment was getting to be too much.  People may not realize these volunteers put on shows in other communities to help pay for the show in Devils Lake each year.  They still have the equipment so in the future if people want it to start up again, it will be possible.

The Elks Club is another organization that benefits from the talents of Dennis.  He became a member in 1972 and fittingly, his father was his sponsor.  In recent years, the Elks membership has grown and Dennis is very pleased to see this happen.  Each Thursday he spends his entire day at the Elks helping the manager prepare the evening meal.  Dennis smiles and says, through this volunteering, I realized I have a love for baking!  Anyone is welcome to come and eat on Thursday evenings – no membership needed.  If people enjoy the food and good conversation, their mission is accomplished!

Dennis is also the Chairman of the Devils Lake Regional Airport Authority which just received the ND Commercial Airport of the Year!  He has been part of this for the past seven years and has thoroughly enjoyed it.  He said we always need to be doing, learning and keeping busy.

As we were wrapping up our conversation, Dennis remembered when the Lake Region Winter Sports ended, they sold their groomer to the Devils Lake Fire Department.  The money from that sale was used to set up an Endowment at Lake Region State College in memory of Lake Region Winter Sports and his dad, Cliff Olson.  Each year he enjoys presenting a scholarship to a student at LRSC.

Dennis and his wife Cathy are now both retired but slowing down doesn't appear to be in his future.  When he does have some free time, Dennis enjoys downhill skiing and spending time at the lake with his family and friends.  Thank you Dennis for all you have done and are still doing to make the Lake Region a wonderful place!

2018 Unsung Hero September

Vernon R. Moen

Lake Chevrolet Buick GMC and Ramsey National Bank & Trust are excited to congratulate Vernon Moen on being our newest Unsung Hero!

Vernon R. Moen, also known as "Vern" or "Uncle Vern" by most, is a well-known character whose family has deep roots in the Lake Region.

The Moen farm is located on the banks of Devils Lake on Six Mile Bay and has been in the family for 130 plus years. It's still in the family and his brother, Arnold, lives there.

Vern grew up in Devils Lake, the youngest of 10 children. He graduated from Devils Lake Central High School in 1965, attended two years at Lake Region Junior College (now known as Lake Region State College) and then went on to Valley City State Teacher College. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969, spending two years serving his country including one year overseas in Vietnam in artillery.

After returning home he worked summers at the State Highway Department and started his career working on the railroad in Aug. 1974.

He retired Sept. 1, his 60th birthday, after 33 years with the railroad, moving back to Devils Lake in November of that year, 2007.

Vern was always the guy who just popped up to lend a hand if family or friends were working on a special DIY project, roofing, siding, painting or some other home improvements.

An avid bicycle rider even now, he would cruise by and stop to lend a hand if he saw work needing to be done.

After a big snowfall, Vern would often just show up and shovel a sidewalk that needed shoveling, especially if he knew that the homeowner might need a hand, because they had recently had surgery or were getting "up there" in years.

He rigged up an extension for his leaf blower so he could also clean out debris from eve troughs and downspouts for numerous people throughout the community, never asking for pay and often running off before the homeowner could catch him to thank him.

On icy mornings, long before the sun was up, he would be out shaking ice melt onto sidewalks so his elderly friends and relatives didn't have to risk falling.

His volunteer help has extended to his church family where he is vital help for each rummage sale and bazaar at St. Olaf Lutheran Church. Some of the ladies he works with there threaten to cancel these events if Vern isn't able to help. He is also on his ninth year of a one-year commitment to be head usher at the 8:30 worship service at St. Olaf.

For a number of years he volunteered for RSVP at the college because Diane Gunderson asked him to help.

Throughout Devils Lake he is well-known for his random acts of kindness, cleaning snow off a neighbor's car, mowing, weeding and trimming lawns.

Many who aren't related to him call him "Uncle Vern" because they wish he was their uncle.

For the past five years he has helped with Aneta Days in many different ways, too, because he has a niece who manages the White Tail Bar and another who manages the Aneta Cafe (next door).

Wherever he can help, you'll find him there. He often says that although he's been retired for 10 years, he needs to get a job so he can take a day off. That about sums it up in a nutshell.

2017 Unsung Hero September

Stacy and Darin MacDonald

Unsung heroes for September are Stacy and Darin MacDonald. The MacDonalds have both been very active in community endeavors. One of the nominators said "Stacy tackles many projects that benefit our community and the individuals Lake Region Corporation serves."

As a 19 year plus Lake Region Corp employee, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty after hours volunteering to enrich the lives of people LRC serves. These activities have required her to organize and/or supervise dances or bowling outings. She has also been a member and captain of the LRC's Relay for Life team for many years.

As a Miki's school of dance mom and fan, she has worn many hats. She helped with organizing parents and assisted with ticket sales or serving treats. She was also a lead organizer in fundraising efforts to take the team to Disney World.

Stacy has been very active at St Olaf Lutheran Church. She serves on the St Olaf Church Council, Youth and Family Ministry board and Altar Guild. In 2015 she was the St Olaf Church Council President. She has dedicated many hours to family fellowship events and youth fundraising activities. Numerous times she has been there to help with an event when it is not her designated time to do so. She chaperoned for the ELCA youth gathering at New Orleans.

Stacy is a certified CPR and First Aid instructor, she was a Girl Scout troop leader for 3 years.

Darin was a founding member of the 4H Club Shotgun program. The program was founded in 2005 with the encouragement of Dan Driesen. Darin along with Norman Howard, Doug Darling, and Leo Locker founded this highly successful program.

They have entered many state and national meets and have not lost a state championship meet since they began in 2005. People at state meets wonder what is in Devils Lake that makes the program so successful. Those of us who know the participants and instructors can easily answer that question, it is the ability of these amazing teachers to inspire their students. They know how to instill excellence in a way that makes it fun.

A parent recently stated, I appreciate that my children have this exposure to excellence. How wonderful it is to be learning life skills such as self-control, respect for others and learning to work as a team.

The program started with 5 students and has grown to include 40 students. The staff is all volunteer and they contribute time four days per week plus weekends.

Darin and Stacy are the proud parents of a daughter, Elizabeth, who is now an Academic Advisor at college. Elizabeth participated in the shotgun program from the beginning when it was founded by her father and his associates. Their family has enjoyed being involved in the program together.

Volunteering in the community has been a tradition in the MacDonald family. This began many years ago with Darin's Grandparents. Their generosity was an inspiration to him. He was raised knowing the importance of contributing to the community. How fortunate for our community that Darin and Stacy are carrying on this great tradition.

2017 October Unsung Hero

Stella Papachek

October Unsung Hero, Stella Papachek was born and raised in the Warwick area. After graduating from high school and attending business school she was married. She and her husband lived in a number of places before returning to the Lake Region. Since returning home she has been an enthusiastic volunteer.

She has been actively involved at the Hope Center. Three times she stepped forward to help them out when they were without a Director. When a Director was hired she resumed her role as an active volunteer. Stella has also done grant writing for the Hope Center.

The Hope Center first opened its doors in 2014. Stella began her first stint as interim manager in 2015. At that time they had 100 families participating. It has now grown to serve over 300 households with 872 people in those households.

Some donations come from the Stuff A Truck drive and also from food collections from other local businesses. The local college class, Precision Ag raises a garden and brings their produce in the fall. Volunteers throughout the community are generous with their produce, donations of non-perishable food, money and their time.

She is active at St Olaf Lutheran church. She is currently the Stewardship Chairperson for WELCA. She also works with a group that makes quilts for international distribution and local crisis situations. There are 12 to 25 ladies who help every Tuesday from 9 am to 11:30 am. It takes many participants to create each quilt, Stella is a seamstress, however, it's not necessary to be able to sew, anyone is welcome to participate. All participants enjoy the fellowship as well as the good feeling of knowing they are helping to make a difference.

They are currently shipping 168 quilts to the Lutheran World Relief program. These quilts took the participants 6 months to make. Besides the time invested all the fabric is donated. Stella says "When I volunteer I feel I receive much more than I give". Sandra Lunde, another quilter says "we enjoy the fellowship, it makes volunteering so enjoyable while we are working together to make a difference for others.

Stella has been involved in Pioneer Daughters. She assisted in cataloging their antique articles and photos at the recently remodeled Fort Totten State Historic site. She has a passion for history. She is involved in the DAR, (Daughters of the American Revolution) and the Mayflower club, whose membership consists of people whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower.

Stella has co-authored a book named "Warwick Memories" published in 2002. Her co-authors were Cherry Monson, Cherrie Lane Anderson, and Betty Westby.

Her interest in history knows no bounds. Recently Stella participated in the investigation of an abandoned cemetery south of Warwick where graves have been found by using dowsing rods.

In receiving this award, Stella represents the great number of selfless people who give so generously of themselves. Whether it be the Hope Center, or giving quilts to people of the Lake Region and beyond, or preserving our history, they make a difference in so many lives. That's what unsung heroes do.

2016 December Unsung Hero

The Devils Lake Music Club, Unsung Hero recipient for December, was founded in 1906. This means that for more than a century, the dedicated members of the Music Club have been promoting music in the community.

The list of past presidents of the Music Club shows that a broad cross section of the community has held an awareness of the enlightening power of music and how important it is to our quality of life. (Can you imagine what Christmas be without music?)

Presently Dr. Kristin Kenner and Kathy Homan co-chair the Music Club. For the past ten years, Kathy has served on the Executive Board, as Secretary and also as Treasurer. Kathy says, "I enjoy music. It is an important part of my life. I want to do what I can to enable others to enjoy music as I do". This statement epitomizes the goal of all Music Club members.

The past 25 years, the Music Club has hosted the Federated Music Club Festival for students in the Lake Region. For forty years, the Club has given scholarships to local students to attend the Peace Gardens Music Club. For many young people, attendance at this camp has been a life changing experience.

Through the years the Music Club has sponsored a variety of projects to raise money for the scholarships. They serve cookies and bars during intermission at Community Orchestra concerts. They are always delighted with the generosity of those who donate. Kathy says, "We are grateful for the kindness and bigheartedness of the people of the Lake Region. Individuals and businesses give generously each year in support of the Music Club scholarships."

The Music Club has a history of defining needs and promoting projects that will improve the quality of life for the people of the Lake Region. In 1947 the Music Club sponsored a concert to raise money to purchase a grand piano for the auditorium at DL Central High School. They wanted to establish a Community Concert Association but this was not possible until the community had a grand piano. They achieved this goal and launched the concert series we enjoy to this day.

Kristin said, "Once again our community has a critical need. Our school offers many tremendous programs of study. But it seems unfair that the students who have worked so diligently must perform in the school lunch room…the ‘lunchatorium’, as it has been called! "

Music Club Secretary, Betty Soper, said, "It breaks my heart that these wonderful students have to perform where they do".

Kristin added, "The proposed facility can do much to improve the quality of life for everyone in the Lake Region. It will modernize the vo-tech experiences giving opportunities to pursue careers in TV, Radio, News, Reporting, Video production and the like. In short it will move the school into the 21t century."

Individually Music Club members of the Music Club are doing what they can to voice their support for the Fine Arts Center. As they have done through the years, these enlightened music lovers are doing their part to keep a song in the hearts of the people of the Lake Region.

2016 October Unsung Hero

When Trish Schindele, October Unsung Hero, was asked why she devotes so many volunteer hours to numerous organizations in the community, she said, "I believe in the Golden Rule." She wisely treats others the way she would like to be treated.

Verna Brown says, "Trish is a powerhouse! She has been a valued chaperone for several Musical Tours when her daughter has been involved. If you need something done, she is the one to ask."

This meant a trip to Europe with the Northern Ambassadors of Music, another trip to NYC for a Choral performance in Carnegie Hall and a trip to California when her talented daughter performed in concert in Long Beach for the American Kodaly Educators.

Trish grew up in Devils Lake and graduated for DLHS. She lived away from the Lake Region for a number of years. But it is our great good fortune that this capable individual decided to return home.

When she first returned home, she was a D.J. at KDLR. When she married Agronomist Jay Schindele in 1995 she became involved in the computer aspects of his business.

Jay and Trish are the proud parents of two children. Their son, Mathew is a student at NDSU and their daughter, Rachel, is a Junior at DLHS. When Matthew and Rachel were students at St. Josephs Elementary School, Trish enjoyed being involved with school activities.

Trish served as President of the saint Joseph School Board for one of her two terms on the Board and has been involved in their Strategic Planning Committee. She has served as coordinator for the highly successful Fund Raiser, Race for Education , that raises up to $50,000.00 yearly. She also likes being in the classroom working on computer skills with kindergarten students. Trish's skills at computer design are phenomenal. The same can be said of her desire to share and inspire.

She enjoys her involvement at St. Josephs Catholic Church where she has served on the Parish Council. Each week she volunteers time for he Adoration program.

She makes home visits for Make A Wish. She says, "I love Make a Wish." It seems that she loves anything that brightens the world for others. As her nominator said, "Trish is there anytime, anywhere someone needs a hand." This may be to assist a friend or an organization.

Trish serves on the Fine Arts Committee at DLHS and is a member of the North Dakota Chautauqua Board where she uses her creativity to design post cards and posters to promote events.

Trish serves on the Nodak Operation Round Up, a program offered by Nodak Electric Cooperative that puts funds into a special account to assist local individuals and non-profit organizations with crucial needs.

Commenting on her demanding schedule, Trish modestly says, "I like to be busy!" The nice thing is that this energetic, compassionate, generous person sagely uses her time for the benefit of the benefit of others. This award is to say thank you.

2016 June Unsung Hero

The Unsung Hero Award is presented to the VFW Neatherly/Simonson Post 756, at the North Dakota Chautauqua Old Time Picnic. How fitting that this award is being presented at this red, white and blue event, with flags proudly waving as the Elk Band plays rousing patriotic music, as only they can!

The Neatherly/Simonson Post was established in 1936. Since that day, they have had an important positive impact on this community. They continually do countless things to remind us to remember the courageous individuals who have served our nation nobly and well.

The existence of the VFW Post gives a constant reminder of the debt we owe to the selfless individuals who have served to make it possible for us to live peacefully in this great country.

Through the years, on Memorial Day, members of the Post have placed thousands of flags at our local cemetery on the graves of Veterans. VFW members march in the Fourth of July Parade, with flags flying. Their presence is evident in the community at significant times too numerous to mention.

And their contributions to the community do not end there, far from it!!! They provide the community with a friendly, comfortable club offering dinners and also gaming. The Club is capably run and managed by Trudy Jaeger and her competent staff. It is not only a place for Veterans to gather, it is a popular place for the community at large.

Perhaps not many are aware of VFW's great humanitarian and cultural efforts. Their Trust Fund allows them to be extremely generous with organizations in the community. Emery Fisher states, "We give ten to fifteen thousand dollars a year to student activities." Doug Mootz adds, "If a local charity asks, we give." The list of organizations that have received funding from that local VFW is long and impressive. (This extensive list is far too long to be listed here.)

VFW also sponsors a scholarship at UND Lake Region. This is just one of the many ways that they give enthusiastic support to the youth of the community. They involve ROTC students in the placing of flags on the graves of Veterans on Memorial Day. It is a way to help young people to begin thinking of the debt we owe to those who have gone before.

But it is not just at Memorial Day, or Flag Day or the Fourth of July that the members of VFW encourage us to say thank you. It is a continuous day-in, day-out, year-round effort.

This award is to say thank you to the members of this stellar organization for their great generosity and for their dedicated service to our community. We are grateful for the many ways that they remind us to say, "Thank you for your service." Read on for previous Unsung Heroes.

2016 May Unsung Hero

The Unsung Hero for May is Louise Oleson, Managing Editor of the Devils Lake Journal. She is well-known in the Lake Region and beyond for her skills as a journalist. But the extent of her giving as a volunteer is not as well known.

Louise grew up in Devils Lake. She graduated from DLHS and studied at Lake Region State College. She received a degree in Education from the University of North Dakota. Her first year of teaching was in Osnabrock, ND. The following year she accepted a teaching position at St. Mary’s High School in Devils Lake. She delighted in teaching English and Drama there, and was greatly saddened when the school closed in the late seventies.

Louise was known to be an excellent educator. While teaching, she became an active volunteer. She served as President of North Dakota Chautauqua, was a founding member of Pioneer Players and participated in theatrical productions at Lake Region State College, under the direction of Bill Holo.

She also has been actively involved in productions at the Fort Totten Little Theatre. She says, “I think I spent maybe fifteen seasons with the Fort Totten Little Theatre, but not always on the stage. Sometimes I did costumes or make-up or lights. I've enjoyed all of the different things you do when you love the theatre! You do whatever needs to be done!!!"

Her Christian faith has been another passion of hers. She was a member of St. Olaf Lutheran Church until her early 20s when she left to explore many different denominations. She says, "What I have found is that in the basics, we are very much the same. And while experiencing various denominations, I discovered that there were some things about each one that I really liked."

This wisdom, that began in exploration, gave Louise a desire to give others an opportunity to come together socially. So, she assisted in establishing the Christian Corner Coffeehouse, a place where individuals of various religions could come together for prayer and fun (and enjoy their commonality). It met in the Devils Lake Armory Saturday nights for a number of years.

Louise said, "It was fun! And it was successful. Everyone felt comfortable there. No one frowned on anyone because of their beliefs." In fact the endeavor thrived and expanded to include a variety of activities (including Friday night volleyball). A broad cross section of the citizenry attended.

After getting involved in TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreats, moving to Binford to teach English and continuing to explore different churches, newly-ordained Father Bob Kippley invited Louise to work as a volunteer at the Newman Center at Minot State University. The Roman Catholic Church, so like the church of her origin, felt like home. Louise says, "I just stepped out in faith. It was humbling and faith-building." This position, intended to last for one year, turned into 19-year career as a certified professional Campus Minister and a convert to Catholicism.

When her position with the Diocese ended and her aging parents, Millie and Leland, were in need of assistance, Louise decided to return home to Devils Lake. "I had to have a job, so I answered an ad in the newspaper for a reporter at the Journal." Two years later she was named the managing editor.

Because of the demands of her job, there no longer is time for extensive volunteerism, although she did serve as secretary for Chautauqua for over a decade after returning in 2003.

Through her work as a journalist, she is able to give support to countless local projects and organizations. Her contribution to groups like the Friends of Sullys Hill, the Fort Totten State Historic Site and the Lake Region Heritage Center may not be as a traditional volunteer, but those feature stories that she publishes about what's happening all around the region is her contribution to their efforts. "I really do make an effort to be at as many events as is humanly possible," she says, adding, "It is my way of furthering the wonderful things happening right here in my hometown. My own way of 'giving back'."

Back at St. Olaf Lutheran, where she was baptized and confirmed, she's come full circle, back home where she belongs. She presently sits on the Call Committee, a volunteer organization that is working to find a new pastor for their congregation. Each March she enjoys being involved in the World Day of Prayer, an ecumenical prayer experience with people around the world that rotates in several local churches the first Friday in March. This year it would have been skipped for reasons unknown, but Louise stepped in at the last minute when she heard about it and with help of a number of friends, World Day of Prayer 20derp16 took place at 2 p.m. March 4 in Devils Lake, pink flamingoes and all.

When Louise was a young girl biking around town with her sister, Lynn, on the tandem bike rented from the hardware store for 50 cents an hour, she likely did not imagine that one day she would help to chronicle the history of her hometown as editor of the newspaper. Is this not the American Dream?

2016 April Unsung Hero

When Alpha Lang sees a person without a smile, she will quickly give them one of hers. Her kindness exemplifies that of an Unsung Hero. Alpha is April Unsung Hero.

She was first of the nine children born to Esther and Alfred Berg. Therefore they named her Alpha. She has tender memories of her childhood days on the family farm near Starkweather, including the rides on bobsled to their country school. She says, "Even though we had a big horsehide blanket to keep us warm, we still needed to dress to the max."

When she recalls the delicious bread her Mother baked daily for the family, she says, "In those days it was a treat to have a slice of store-bought bread. Now it is a treat to have homemade bread! Times change."

Alpha and her beloved husband, Eugene, have been married for 55 years. Alpha says, "I was raised Lutheran, but when I married Eugene I became Catholic. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to embrace each of these great religions."

Eugene and Alpha have three adult sons: Todd, Troy and Trinity and daughters-in-law Shannon and Geralyn. They are Grandparents to ten grandchildren with a new grandbaby due in October. They also have one great grandchild.

When their boys were young, Alpha served on the School Board at Saint Joseph's School and was active with Home and School. She also volunteered time for Boy Scouts along with numerous other youth related activities.

She has served as Parish Council President at Saint Josephs Catholic Church. Alpha has always enjoyed involvement in church activities. She also enthusiastically served on as Key Personnel for North Dakota Chautauqua for ten years. She has a busy work schedule as well. Presently she works at the Police Department and also at Wal-Mart where customers appreciate her friendliness.

Her nominator said, "Alpha is always thinking of others. She sends cards to numerous friends and acquaintances on their Birthdays and other special occasions. Her kind-heartedness is not restricted to special times like Birthdays, Christmas, Easter or Valentine's Day. She brightens the world for others 24/7. Her kindness goes on and on. It is year-round."

While listening to the radio, when you hear Birthday greetings from Alpha, you may wonder how she does it. How she can remember all of those dates! Alpha explains quite simply,"Through the years I have enjoyed friendships with so many wonderful people. This gives me a way to let them know how special they are." Then with her radiant smile, she adds, "I just like to do it!"

Alpha's compassion for others makes a difference in many lives. Her thoughtfulness and her kind deeds brighten their days. We in the Lake Region are blessed to have someone like Alpha living among us.