Aug. 14, 2006

Joan Benson honored for volunteering

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Joan Benson of Dassel proves to be a busy woman as she accepts the Outstanding Senior Citizen award at the Meeker County Fair.

On behalf of the Meeker County Council On Aging, Benson was chosen for the senior citizen of the year for volunteering her time and services within the county.

A person is nominated by individuals within the churches and organizations they participate in, according to Donna Whitcomb, the coordinator for the Meeker County Council On Aging.

“I’m overwhelmed with the idea,” Benson said.

Last year, Benson had been nominated for this award, but it went to a senior citizen couple instead, she said.

Judges for the award look for a person with leadership, diversity of accomplishments, variety of services performed, quantity of accomplishments, and quality of activities, according to Whitcomb.

The Aug. 4 award ceremony was supposed to be a surprise for Benson, but with her busy schedule, the only way the family could get her there was by telling her, she said.

Fridays, Benson takes care of her 92-year-old aunt, Dietta, by taking her to get her hair done and groceries.

Benson spends most of her time volunteering around Dassel and Cokato.

She stays active as treasurer for the Dassel Senior Center. Recently, she organized a fundraiser to help with the center’s expenses.

She spends much of her time volunteering and participating in the West Central Christian Seniors, where she is in charge of music.

The group meets every third Thursday of the month at the First Baptist Church in Cokato.

“I love it,” she said.

Last month, there were 210 attendees, “It was wonderful,” Benson said.

She’s happy the group has gotten as big as it has, since it includes surrounding towns like Annandale, Howard Lake, Dassel, Cokato and more.

Benson tries to get someone from each denomination to attend, she said.

Benson’s husband Leslie, passed away five years ago, and after spending 54 years with him, she needed to keep busy to get her mind off of it, she explained.

“I need to be with people,” she said.

After her husband died, she began having 7:30 a.m. coffee with her friends. “That was the best therapy,” Benson said.

“When you’ve been with someone almost all your life, and they are no longer there, you need things to keep busy,” she said.

Her four children keep her busy as well, Shari Forsman, Jon Benson, Scott Benson and Bonnie Baumetz. They sing together for different events around the community, she explained.

Benson even enjoys following baseball. Her son-in-law, Mark Forsman, is the coach and manager for the DC Saints. “I’ve been watching them since he (Mark) was playing, and now he’s coaching,” Benson said.

She even had to subscribe to cable TV so she could watch the Twins and other sports, Benson said.

Now, Benson and Don Berkstrand from Litchfield (the male senior winner) will be representing Meeker County at the State Fair.

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