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Perham woman wins District Volunteer of the Year award

Joyce Koelln, 90, was recently recognized as a District Volunteer of the Year through Aging Services of Minnesota.

For nearly 20 years, Joyce Koelln has worked others into her weekly routine.

The 90-year-old's hard work and dedication isn't just appreciated by those on the receiving end of her Meals on Wheels duties - this month she was recognized as District Volunteer of the Year through Aging Services of Minnesota.

Koelln's reaction to the statewide recognition?

"Well, I just like getting out and being with people," she said.

At the annual conference, Koelln was recognized alongside 10 other volunteers from around the state, with the closest being from Alexandria.

Koelln didn't start the volunteer business for the recognition, but she also didn't waste any time hopping on the volunteer train after retirement. When preparing to leave her work nearly two decades ago, which just so happened to be in the kitchen at the nursing home, it was suggested to her that she stick around as a Meals on Wheels volunteer. And so she did.

Koelln set off delivering meals wherever she was told. On any given day, she delivers around 15-20 meals to area residents.

A typical week for Koelln will include one or two days of Meals on Wheels duties. Her first stop along the way is to the kitchen at Perham Living, where she prepares before taking the meals. She then heads out to meet and greet her clients.

Over the years, Koelln has gotten to know those she serves quite well. As someone who grew up in the Vergas area, moving later to Perham, she has quite a few connections in the area.

So while her official duty is to deliver food to area residents, she also tends to deliver something money can't buy: a smile.

"The residents absolutely love her," said Karen Mitchell, dietetic assistant at Perham Living.

And they're not the only ones.

"She's just a lovely lady," Mitchell said. "I just love working with her and love having her as a volunteer."

Koelln has also grown quite fond of those she has served and worked alongside of over the years.

"I just do it because I like doing it," Koelln said. "It makes me feel good when I get done, because I know I've done a good thing."

When she's not serving up food, Koelln spends time volunteering at Perham Health with activities. Or, if needed, she'll pick up an extra Meals on Wheels shift, just because she can.

A celebration for Koelln's award will be held 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15 at Perham Living, as Koelln did not attend the reception, held in Minneapolis.