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Christmas 2016
Continuing the Conversation  
Hopkins Class of 1962

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~Legend  of The  Christmas Cactus~
LEGEND has it the Christmas Cactus dates back many years to the land now known as Bolivia and a Jesuit missionary, Father Jose, who labored endlessly to convert the natives there.  He had come across the Andes Mountains from the city of Lim nearly a year before.  But he felt the people of this village on the edge of the great jungle were still suspicious. He had cared for the sick and shown the natives how to improve their simple dwellings, which leaked dismally in the rainy season.  Most important, he had attempted to teach them the story of the Bible, especially the life of Jesus, though much seemed to be beyond their  comprehension.  He had told them about the beautifully decorated altars in cities during holidays, yet here it was Christmas Eve and he was on his knees alone in from of his rude altar. Then he heard voices singing a familiar hymn he had taught his flock.  He turned to see a procession of the village children carrying armfuls of blooming green branches (which we now know as the Christmas Cactus) that they had gathered in the jungle for the Christ Child. Father Jose joyfully gave thanks for this hopeful budding of Christianity.  Today the Christmas cactus still blooms each winter with its message of faith and hope.


Sending you greetings of the season!

In this holiday season of giving, our attention turns to giving to our loved ones, our families, and grandchildren.  Beyond that, and throughout the year, we give as we are able, in whatever ways possible.

In our last newsletter a call went out for those of you who volunteer, to share your stories.   I want to thank Mary McLeod, who initiated the call, Nancy Herfert Pascoe, Jerry Anderson, Sara Turngren Lohaus, Jill Koellen Brown, and Ron Axel for sharing their stories of ways they have found to "give back". and also thanks to Bob Hillman, for his ongoing contributions of humor.    


 
Nancy Herfert Pascoe

I have been a reluctant joiner  of our past events.  However, after joining the ASSISTANCE LEAGUE OF MPLS/ST.PAUL, a group that I fully support and am active in several areas, I would like to tell you about this fantastic group and many of its many wonderful contributions to the children in the twin cities. We raise money through many venues, including our thrift shop on Penn avenue in Richfield. We pack food  for a family of four that will feed them for the entire weekend. We also provide uniforms for elementary aged boys and girls in several schools in both cities.  We spend $100,00.00 on these uniforms. We have a dedicated group of women and a few men who read with children once a week, encouraging literacy. We also have a fund that reaches out to those in need during a crisis. My favorite project is packing assault provider kits for over 1000 persons who are victims of assault of not just women  but some men and children, as well.

This group of almost entirely women is a very strong professional group that runs a monthly meeting in a very businesslike manner. I may have have forgotten to mention that we have fun along the way while volunteering. We always are looking for persons who want to "give back" or
wish to donate to a great cause. If you are interested you can find more information at ASSISTANCE LEAGUE OF MPLS/ST.PAUL.Thank you for letting me share my enthusiasm about this great volunteer group.


 
Ron Axel
 
I have been asked by some classmates to share a story of service that my wife Donna, Jim Justus and I have been involved in for years.  First of all, two disclaimers. One, I was raised on Farmington Road and was told by my mother not to ever brag. Secondly, I am not soliciting donations although any would be welcomed.
 
The back story starts with Jim and my membership for 45 years in Rotary, an International service organization. This scary fact – nearly 6,000 children in the world under the age of five die every day mostly from diseases caused by drinking contaminated water.  Rotary had done a water well in Santa Barbara, Honduras where over 13% of the children died from diseases caused by drinking contaminated water. In 1999, we went back to the village to see how things were progressing. A local women saw us at the well and said the six most powerful words I had ever heard “Since Rotary, The Children Stopped Dying.” We shared these words back in Apple Valley where a Rotarian approached us and said “we need to do something about these children.” He wrote a check for $100,000 (a lot of money to a kid from Farmington Road) with only three strings attached 1. We needed to get the money matched 2. All funds would be used to provide safe drinking water in developing countries 3. He was to remain anonymous. Within six weeks, we had $156,000 in matches for a total of $256,000 and no clue how to do water projects. 
 
Over the next four years, we did 10 pilot water projects throughout the world to learn how to be most effective. The pilot projects cost nearly $300,000 which we were able to fund through donations and grants without having to touch our original $256,000.
 
Some important issues that we learned were: Demonstrating Sustainability was most important – Community Development must come first – Community Health and Sanitation Education was a top priority – The community had to have some skin in the game.
 
We next started a water project in Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere. Using our original funds, additional donations and matching grants, we were able to start a $3 million project to drill 142 wells, build 950 latrines and provide health and sanitation education for over 50,000 Haitians. Our partners in this project were Rotary International, World Vision and Haiti Outreach (head-quartered in Hopkins.) The wells are a simple hand pump. The villages have typically 300-400 residents. There is no electricity and they survive as subsistence farmers. Their water is collected from streams and ponds often as much as 2-3 miles away. The water is extremely contaminated with bacteria and diseases from animal and human waste. The steps in our community development model are:
1.     The community selects a water committee to raise funds and to assure that the well is maintained 2. The entire community attends many educational training session by our animators on health and sanitation – remember this is a country mostly without toilet paper and sewerage treatment. 3. The community is required to provide sand, rocks and labor for the well and pit latrines 4. Haiti Outreach, using local Haitians, drills the well. 5. A gated, concrete block structure is built around the pump. 6. Twice a day, a guard opens the well for people to fill Clean, Covered containers with safe water 7. The water committee collects funds from the people to use the water well – merely pennies a month. This assures that the people will have funds to maintain and repair the well. This gives them skin in the game which leads to long term sustainability. 8. Lastly, the community has a big inaugural celebration.
 
We continue to follow up with the communities to assure that the wells are still functioning. Our follow ups have shown the impacts of clean water in changing the culture of poverty. Women have time to develop cottage businesses with the extra time available since they and their children are not walking 2-4 hours a day to collect water. The death rate in children has dropped drastically – in many areas the death rate for children was as high as 23%. 
 
Since the completion of this original water project, we continue to drill wells throughout the Central Plateau. We have expended nearly $5 million dollars on projects to date. We have completed over 260 wells, built over 5,000 pit latrines, built three secondary schools and led over 20 site visit trips to see, taste and smell the needs in Haiti.
 
Each well costs between $10,000 and $15,000. Our goal is to drill about 50 new wells per year. Currently, we are putting the final funds together to drill 30 wells in the Pignon area in the north central part of the country.
 
I have added a few photos below of a recently completed well. If you want to see more information on our projects, please go to haitioutreach.org.
 
Donna, Jim and I will always hear the words of the women at the well and know that Water Is Life in Haiti.

 
Mary Zakariasen McLeod

HOW GREAT IS THIS?
 
Do you remember when learning something was its own reward?  That's true in spades for those who are teaching!  So far, the most rewarding, enjoyable thing I have done as a volunteer in retirement is to tutor grade-schoolers for AARP/Experience Corps — more satisfying than working with homeless citizens or handing out food at the food shelf.  
 
This fall, I began tutoring kindergarteners and first-graders at a primarily Latino school in Minneapolis, to help them catch up with their classmates, also mostly Latino.  They are eager, sweet, work very, very hard.  Two of my seven tutees have already moved back into the classroom full time — which is a tribute more to their hard work than my help.  But oh, how those milestones make it worthwhile.  With plenty of training and resources, I have learned to help them master the alphabet, or or improve their reading fluency and comprehension, or learn to write their names.  Once they have finished mastering those skills and a few more, they are off and running, and galloping ahead, so proudly and earnestly. 
 
These schools can always use more tutors.  When two of my kids “graduated,” there were two more ready to take their places immediately.  I had to coax a few to smile, because they are dead serious about learning, but eventually they all had to admit that learning was really fun.  There couldn’t be anything more important, or a better investment of my time than this, and those smiles are irresistible.
 
Jill Koellen Brown 
 
I am a Hospice volunteer at the Porter Residence Center in Centennial, Colorado. It is a wonderful residence with 17 private rooms with everything to make it a home for our patients.  My friends and family ask me "how I could ever do that" or say "I could never do that".  Although it is difficult, my reason is simple but heartbreaking; my father at age 54 died in a hospital where I thought his care was adequate but not personal.  
 
My goal is to always have a smile on my face and to spend time with each of the patients by sitting by their side: whether it be a gentle touch, chatting or complete silence. It is a privilege to help my patients make the transition.
 
I keep thinking that if everyone gave of their time and helped in any way they could, this would be a magical country and world.
 
 
Sara Turngren

Following my retirement from career counseling at the University of Colorado, I volunteered for 10 years with DenUM, an agency offering services to people struggling to maintain balance in the face of major personal and economic barriers.  I facilitated Employment Empowerment workshops for people who had felonies or misdemeanors for relatively minor offenses.  Participants shared troubling stories about their struggles to find jobs in a very unforgiving world.  Struck by their resilience and resourcefulness, I wondered how I would fare if faced with similar obstacles. 

This volunteer experience was a real eye opener to the injustices of our justice system.  A woman who served time for stealing minor items as a retail clerk 15 years earlier was still being black-balled from even minimum wage jobs.  She felt forced to find employers who would pay her under the table, realizing she would never qualify for Social Security with no real record of employment.  Another person was sentenced to three years in a sexual assault case filed by his former wife, who he claimed framed him.  He learned that discrimination of sex offenders was standard procedure in most prisons.  At the whim of prison staff, he was continually refused attendance in rehab and anger management workshops required for discharge.  After serving two years beyond his sentence, he finally completed the requirements and was released to a halfway house.  Then, he faced rejection by employers for his criminal record.  A skilled machinist, he fortunately got hired by a local employer desperate to fill a job that had been open for months.  His story has a happier ending than most.  
The majority leave prison without employable skills, which sets them up for failure when they try to jump the hurdles of parole, like getting a job to pay rent at a halfway house.  It is no wonder that recidivism rates are so high – 2/3rds are re-arrested within three years of release.  Where is the justice in a system that guarantees more repeat offenders than rehabilitated citizens?  A sentence is completed, but the punishment continues.

That workshop attendees stayed positive was a testimony to the strength of the human spirit.  Their camaraderie and willingness to share tips and information touched my heart.  Friends asked me if it wasn’t depressing working with people with such overwhelming problems. To the contrary - it lifted me up.  I was frequently reminded that we are all only steps away from incredibly bad luck.  These amazing folks revealed to me the spark that exists in every person to keep going, even when that little bit of light almost burns out. 

Closing thought: when speaking of someone with a felony in their background, please consider using words like “a person with a felony,” rather than the shortcut “felon.”  The individual is so much more than just their felony, and most of us likely know someone who has encountered such challenges.  
 
Jerry Anderson

Sometimes life presents volunteer opportunities when we least expect it.  Jerry was riding with a friend into Minneapolis from his home in Grand Rapids, and in the course of conversation, his friend talked about how he did volunteer driving for veterans, and they were looking for drivers.   Jerry was interested, his friend sponsored him, and Jerry took over his friend's job in 2006 and has been driving ever since.   

He is scheduled to drive 3-4 times per month to the VA Hospital in Minneapolis.  He gets up at 3:00 AM, meets his riders at 4:00 AM, in order to get them to their appointments at the VA at 8:00 AM.   They make one stop on the way down, one on the way back.  Jerry enjoys the company and conversation with the vets, which mainly consists of things they did before or after their service, interesting jobs, and businesses they ran.  He drives a veterans van - the VA Veteran Service,  VFW, and  American Legion all contribute to buying a van that is decorated with sayings.  He also drives the van to St. Cloud.  Veterans can get treatment in clinics throughout Minnesota but need to go to St. Cloud or Mpls for services such as x-rays and cancer treatment.  Veterans Service provides a gas card.  The VA pays for the ride down and back if the veteran has a disability that is service connected.  The money helps pay for vehicle upkeep and fuel, and a new vehicle every three years.  Jerry is one of five drivers to the VA facilities.  He says every drive down to the VA  has a new and interesting conversation

Jerry also drives for the Elder Circle, which is a local organization for adults and senior citizens which helps people who are handicapped by taking them shopping, helps with meals on wheels, and provides transport for other services needed.  He also drives for AEOA, the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, which provides transportation locally to take people to work, shopping, medical and dental appointments, and for these organizations he uses his personal vehicle but is reimbursed for mileage.  

Jerry says that being able to help people out in this way is rewarding for him...that's why he does it.  


And...a bit of advice from Bob Hillman:

THESE REALLY WORK!!
I checked all of these out and it's for real! 
 
AMAZING, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR SOME COMPLEX PROBLEMS:
 
1. AVOID CUTTING YOURSELF WHEN SLICING VEGETABLES BY GETTING SOMEONE ELSE TO HOLD THE VEGETABLES WHILE YOU CHOP.
 
2. AVOID ARGUMENTS WITH THE FEMALES ABOUT LIFTING THE TOILET SEAT BY USING THE SINK. 
 
3. FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SUFFERERS ~ SIMPLY CUT YOURSELF AND BLEED FOR A FEW MINUTES, THUS REDUCING THE PRESSURE ON YOUR VEINS. REMEMBER TO SET A TIMER.
 
4. A MOUSE TRAP PLACED ON TOP OF YOUR ALARM CLOCK WILL PREVENT YOU FROM ROLLING OVER AND GOING BACK TO SLEEP AFTER YOU HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON.
 
5. IF YOU HAVE A BAD COUGH, TAKE A LARGE DOSE OF LAXATIVES; THEN YOU'LL BE AFRAID TO COUGH.
 
6. YOU NEED ONLY TWO TOOLS IN LIFE - WD-40 AND DUCT TAPE. IF IT DOESN'T MOVE AND SHOULD, USE THE WD-40. IF IT SHOULDN'T MOVE AND DOES, USE THE DUCT TAPE. 
 
7. IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM


Wishing you all a Holiday Season with Many Blessings and opportunities for Giving!!!

Karen 

Look for the next newsletter in June 2017.  A 55 year reunion is in the planning stages for Fall 2017, details still to come.  Send questions, comments, or writing contributions to karenstenback@gmail.com. 
Copyright © 2016 Hopkins High Class of '62, All rights reserved.


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