Paul Hedin named 2023 Outstanding Senior at Life Connections in Willmar
Paul Hedin, a volunteer with CentraCare Hospice, was named the 2023 Outstanding Senior in west central Minnesota after volunteering for more than 11 years.
WILLMAR — Life Connections, for the 13th year, has recognized a member of the west central Minnesota community for going above and beyond in caring for their neighbors.
Paul Hedin, of Willmar, was nominated by Deb Van Buren, volunteer services manager for CentraCare Hospice in Willmar, for the 2023 Outstanding Senior Award. He was honored Friday, April 21, at the annual event at the Willmar Civic Center.
"His name was the first name that came to mind when I heard that the West Central Tribune was planning to honor a senior volunteer of the year again at the 2023 Life Connections event," Van Buren said in her nomination letter. "Paul is a such an amazing volunteer, and we are so blessed to have him as one of our CentraCare Hospice volunteers working in the Willmar service area for the past 11 years, donating more than 200 hours of loving, compassionate service to those in need of support in the final stages of their final journey on this side of glory."
Hedin, who served in the United States Air Force from 1969 to 1972, currently serves as a veteran volunteer for CentraCare Hospice. Specifically, Hedin is involved in CentraCare's "We Honor Veterans" program, which is designed to recognize and thank veteran patients for their service.
"As a veteran volunteer, Paul has performed dozens of ceremonies for our veteran patients as we salute and recognize them for their service to our country — whether that be on the front lines or more behind the scenes," Van Buren wrote. "Paul is able to provide critical support, compassion and companionship to the veteran patients, as he is able to reminisce with them and create a special bond sharing their experiences in military service."
In addition to his duties as a veteran volunteer, Hedin also works as a patient volunteer, making weekly visits to hospice patients and helping to coordinate final wishes, whether it be one final airplane ride, one more opportunity to catch a big fish, or just a trip to the cemetery to visit a patient’s spouse.
"Paul has initiated many such journeys for the patients he has met — and they were able to fly the friendly skies, catch a fish on Green Lake, and visit their wife’s (grave) in a cemetery 60 miles away. These journeys are so very special and it is not uncommon for the patients to pass just days following as their final wish was met and they are ready to go to the next place," Van Buren said.
"Thank you, Paul, for making so many lives better — including mine! You are appreciated and thanked and deserve recognition for the role you play as a volunteer in the Willmar Lakes Area."