Amongst many she knows and has supported in the audience, Louise Amberg-Jokela received the 2021 East Otter Tail County outstanding senior citizen award. She loves bringing people together, and her friends in the audience couldn’t agree more that she deserved the award.

“From the very moment I spoke about this at the New York Mills Senior Center, one name kept coming up for all that she does for the community as a whole and at the senior center. She is an individual who works tirelessly for others,” said Melissa Dahl, Otter Tail County Public Health coordinator on aging. “She is the first to call and check in on people to make sure they are doing OK.”

Amberg-Jokela helps with bookkeeping, Meals on Wheels, birthday parties and monthly breakfasts at the senior center. She also volunteers at Finn Creek Museum and the New York Mills Apostolic Lutheran Church as the bookkeeper and organist. And after 36 years working at a bank, Amberg-Jokela still says “I like to work with figures.”

“I’m humbled, honored and … whatever they read on there why wouldn’t I do that?” Amberg-Jokela said about the award.

Amberg-Jokela thanks the audience members, including many she knows, for the honor of the outstanding senior citizen award on July 23, 2021 at the East Otter Tail County Fair. (Rebecca Mitchell/Focus)
Amberg-Jokela thanks the audience members, including many she knows, for the honor of the outstanding senior citizen award on July 23, 2021 at the East Otter Tail County Fair. (Rebecca Mitchell/Focus)

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After her husband passed away eight years ago, Amberg-Jokela started volunteering at the senior center where she said “it’s fulfilling a purpose in life.”

“You’ve got to have something to do. And it not only helped my grief but a purpose to go on,” Amberg-Jokela said. “During COVID, wow, it was good to be able to still deliver meals for people that couldn’t get out.”

While preparing one of those meals, the main oven broke just when eight dishes were set to go in. She quickly added four in a slower oven at the center and four in her oven at home. But no matter the situation, Amberg-Jokela’s goal is “I don’t want to send anybody away without a meal.”

Seniors also enjoy the coffee breaks where “it’s just communicating together” as an important space for people who are widows and widowers, as Amberg-Jokela said.

“It’s important to make them (seniors) feel like they’re part of the group and that we appreciate them coming to the center and that they enjoy themself at the center,” Amberg-Jokela said. “And we do have fun.”

When the “so hard” aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she printed song sheets, instead of using the communal hymnal books, each week for church members. She hoped to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible at church.

With all her community service, Amberg-Jokela said she is “deeply grateful” for her health and being able to offer services at the senior center.

“I love what I’m doing,” Amberg-Jokela said.

The New York Mills Senior Center is at 12 North Walker Ave. and is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.