March 5, 2007

Delano's Citizen of the Year - Donna Anderson

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Lonely and helpless, a single father enters her room with one need.

Tears slide down his cheeks as he looks toward the only person he feels he can turn to.

“What can we do for you?” the woman asked. Looking up from her desk, she paused as he answered, “I need a friend.”

Approaching the man with all the hope and love a person can offer, compellingly, she knelt down saying, “I’ll be your friend.”

Like this man, Donna Mae Anderson also came to Delano with a lonely heart, but she has spent her entire life working to ensure that no one is lonely.

In touching so many through her simple acts of kindness, the Delano General Federated Women’s Club considered Donna Anderson to be an absolute standout for the award of Delano’s 2007 Citizen of the Year.

Even when she was young, Anderson always wanted to do something great in her life.

“I wanted to do something significant for God,” she said.

Feeling distraught, she prayed, “Lord, I don’t see anything in me that you can use.” At that point in her life, she believed “that in order to do something great, you had to be able to speak, sing, play piano, or sew.”

Still, she continued to pray, knowing that God would take care of her and “that He could have whatever He saw He could use.”

It was God who guided her to foster children. In her mind, she had thought, “I could never take disabled children.”

However, the Lord had different plans.

Thirty-eight years ago, Donna and her husband, Robert, adopted two special needs babies. Really, what Donna was afraid of was being able to care for them. Trusting in the Lord, she recalled, “He just gave me the knowledge to know what to do.”

Her children have been one of her greatest blessings in life. With tears welling in her eyes, she can still remember the day she walked into the hospital to pick up her foster children, and the doctor explained to her that the girl, Irene, would only live a few weeks.

Irene is now 37, and enjoys her job at The Pizza Ranch in Delano.

“Being able to watch this baby, not only live, but be self-sufficient,” Anderson said was remarkable for her.

Throughout her life, she took on many jobs, such as cleaning houses and buildings, but “there was a desire in my heart, so deep that I hadn’t even admitted it to myself and that was to be on staff at a church,” she said.

She received that unforgettable phone call in 1985. She thanks God every day for the opportunity to serve the Evangelical Free Village Church. To Anderson, receiving that phone call “was something that was just beyond words.”

Some of the many projects she has undertaken include serving on the advisory board for the county commissioners. She has also volunteered as a county nurse, became the children’s director at her church, and has done a lot for Delano Schools. She has also been involved with Iwana.

Over her many years as a volunteer and church leader, Anderson had started numerous programs to better the community, but there was still something missing.

“My heart was always aching to help the poor,” she said.

She founded the Good Neighbor program.

“I love to give. That’s my whole goal in life,” she said.

Love INC (In the Name of Christ) in Delano has also made a huge impact on her life, as she worked with Terri Harris to spread God’s grace throughout the community.

Anderson said Love INC networks churches. Love INC is designed to transform communities into the mode of Christ, she said.

“One church can’t do it all,” she added. “We are all one family.”

No matter what denomination a person is, Anderson has welcomed all followers of Christ into Love INC’s family of faith.

“As long as we really focus on the love of Christ, there aren’t any differences,” Anderson replied.

Anderson’s close friend and co-worker, Harris, said, “I have seen her model the love of Christ in all sorts of ways. Donna is all heart, her dealings with people are drenched in love.”

Anderson considers one of her greatest joys in life to be the ability “to give people hope and believe that all people can do good. If we can reach out to others, we will get far more back than we give.”

For many, accepting an award such as this is easy, but Anderson had been struggling with accepting the publicity and honor.

It was not until the Lord revealed to her days later, “the worth of a good reputation and a good name is a treasure.”

“I’m used to helping others, and it’s hard for me to learn to receive. It’s a gift from the Lord,” she said.

She considers this award to be a huge honor, and the first time she heard about winning, it was a shock.

“To be told that I was citizen of the year was beyond anything I would have dreamed of,” she said. “So, it’s an incredible honor for me, but I sure want to give all the glory to God.”

Anderson will be retiring late May this year.

When asked what she will plan to do with some of her free time, she responded, “I really want to work one day at the chaplin’s department at the Waconia hospital.”

Anderson said the Lord has been calling her to work at the hospital for quite some time now. She will still continue to contribute her time to Love INC and Good Neighbor.

Harris said, “Whether it was during the years she took in foster babies, special needs and all, or if it was the decades she helped with children’s ministries at Village, Donna has been a spiritual beacon in Delano for many years. She always has a kind word and an encouragement. The Bible says to ‘encourage one another daily,’ and Donna does.”

Anderson has lived in Delano since 1968, and her four children all graduated from Delano Public Schools. Anderson also has six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

From the start, she loved the community of Delano and friendly environment that it still shows today.

“It has always kept its very special community feeling and small town feeling,” she said.

She longs keep the community of Delano the way it is, a warm and its friendly environment filled with Christ’s love.

Anderson believes that she has had an “incredible life” thus far, and she knows in her heart that it was all because of God.

“To me, Donna Anderson and her loving kindness has been a dream come true to the hundreds of families, individuals, and especially children that have been helped and enriched by knowing Donna,” Harris said.

If Anderson could offer any advice, she recommends that you ask God what He wants from you and do it.

“Delight in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart. And that’s what He’s done for me,” Anderson said.

Drawing her eyes up to the heavens, Anderson smiled as she said, “It’s about showing His love to others and delighting in others, which are God’s creatures.

“It’s so simple. We make it so hard. I think the greatest gift we can give is to get involved relationally with people and find out who they are and encourage them and help them become happy in themselves.

“Joy has to come from within you. Nobody can make you happy. Happiness has to come from within you.”

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