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'Something to live for': Bethesda volunteer, 75, presented award from Aging Services of Minn.

Mary Jane Stredde, left, received the District E Volunteer of the Year Tuesday from the Aging Service Minnesota Institute. Stredde was the guest of honor during a ceremony at Centennial Square in Willmar where Bethesda Health and Housing CEO Doug Dewane presented the award. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- Mary Jane Stredde was so busy greeting well-wishers Tuesday afternoon that she hardly had time to sip her coffee.

Stredde, 75, shook dozens of hands as friends and coworkers crowded into the community room at Centennial Square to see her receive the district volunteer of the year award from Aging Services of Minnesota.

The award is given to volunteers who go above and beyond in donating their time to serving the aging population. It was also announced Tuesday that Stredde will receive the presidential award from the Minnesota foster grandparent program as well.

For 30 years, Stredde worked in the housekeeping department for Bethesda Health and Housing, first at the Bethesda Heritage long-term care facility and then at Sunrise Assisted Living.

Now retired, she still walks from her apartment in Centennial Square to Bethesda Pleasant View most days of the week to volunteer with the intergenerational Head Start program, the memory care unit and in the gift shop.

Stredde says she's "gung-ho on volunteering."

"It gives us something to live for," she said.

Many of the people at Tuesday's reception had stories to share about Stredde.

Sharon Tack, development director, calls Stredde "the Energizer bunny."

She said Stredde works two to three days a week in the gift shop at Pleasant View and is one of the few volunteers who'll even come in on a weekend.

"She kn-ows so many people be-cause she's lived here all her life," Tack said. "Her presence is just awesome."

"Everyone knows Mary Jane. She could sell anything to anyone," said Bunne Frost-Johnston, outreach coordinator for Bethesda.

She's a favorite with the preschoolers who attend the Head Start classes housed at Pleasant View, said Doug Dewane, chief executive of Bethesda.

"All the kids call her grandma. She's there almost every day," he said.

Stredde didn't know she was nominated for the award.

When she was told she'd won, at first she didn't believe it.

Aging Services of Minnesota is the state's largest association of organizations that provide services to older adults. Its volunteer award is highly competitive, with recipients usually selected from among many nominations.

Stredde said she likes people and finds it rewarding to volunteer.

"You just feel like you've done something when you come home," she said. "It gives you a new outlook."

She issued a special plea for people to volunteer with the residents in the memory care unit at Pleasant View.

"They just like to have you sit and talk with them," she said.

Stredde said she plans to continue volunteering at Bethesda "as long as I can and as long as they'll have me."

"She continues to keep giving," Dewane said. "She's touched a lot of lives and I think we've all been better for it."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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