A volunteer anyone would love to call on

January 21, 2008

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

It takes a special kind of person to volunteer his or her free time to help others, but volunteering at the equivalency of a full-time job is even more rare.

That is exactly what Donna Haglin of Howard Lake does, and has been doing for more than two decades now.

Haglin has been volunteering for, and is the coordinator of, the senior driving program in Howard Lake and surrounding areas for the last 20 years. She also has been a volunteer senior companion for the last 21 years, and if that weren’t enough, she has been coordinating the bloodmobile for Howard Lake for more than 20 years.

“She goes above and beyond – she’s a gift to me,” said Lucille Soderholm of her volunteer senior companion Haglin.

Soderholm, who lost her vision six years ago, can’t express enough gratitude for the help Haglin continues to give.

“We get around – we go shopping, and we even dance,” Haglin laughed.

“I look at it like this – the kids of these people would really like to take their parents to their appointments, but for some reason, like missing too much work, they aren’t able to. Of course they would like to drive their parents; they’re just tied down. Then, there’s those who don’t have kids in the area or never had kids,” Haglin said.

She is quick to point out that all three programs she volunteers for are in need of more volunteers.

Haglin was the first senior companion in Wright County when the program started. Currently, she has four seniors she spends time with, and each one has a special need.

“You become a friend. You do things for your companion that you would for a friend. You check up on them, make sure they’re eating a balanced diet, I read to them, make sure they’re taking their medications, write letters for them, and more,” Haglin explained.

“Sometimes I visit them weekly, sometimes more often, but a volunteer must spend at least 20 hours a week amongst their companions,” Haglin said.

For the senior companion program, volunteers are reimbursed for mileage and are given a tax-free stipend. A volunteer for this program needs to be at least 60 years old. Those interested in volunteering can contact Jeanne Fobbe of the Wright County Senior Companion Program at (763) 682-7486.

“It keeps people out of entering a facility. They’re happier in the home and it’s cheaper for the county,” Haglin explained.

Regarding the senior driving program for the Howard Lake area, Haglin says drivers are needed and they are reimbursed for mileage. Anyone of driving age may qualify as a volunteer driver and can call Haglin at (320) 543-2444.

Haglin has been coordinating this program since it started 21 years ago. This program is for seniors who need transportation to and from any type of medical appointment.

“I was in the courthouse for some reason when I overheard a conversation about the senior driving program. When I asked why it wasn’t offered in Howard Lake they told me it was because they had no one to head it up. I said, ‘Oh, that’s something I could do,’” Haglin said.

Just because a volunteer is called and asked to drive on a certain day, the volunteer is not necessarily committed and has the option to decline. There is flexibility for drivers.

When it comes to the bloodmobile for Howard Lake, Haglin recruits new people, schedules the dates, coordinates with the surrounding churches to provide lunches and dinners, calls the “phoners” and gives them lists of who to call, sends post card reminders to blood donors, and more.

She also follows up with those who give blood regularly and recognizes one-gallon markers. After each one gallon a person donates, they are given a pin.

The most a person has given while Haglin has been coordinating the Howard Lake bloodmobile is 12 gallons.

“We’re always looking for more blood donors, too,” Haglin said.

Haglin hopes more people will come forward and volunteer as well.

“For me, volunteering is full-time because I allow it to be,” but any amount of time a person could spare would be helpful to any of the programs.

“She’s the perfect volunteer. She leaves nothing un-turned,” Soderholm said of Haglin.