Irene M.

Sioux Falls, SD
Nominated by Lisa Howard

Volunteered for:

Active Generations

Length of Service:

35 hours per month for 13 years

Volunteered for:

Stanford Health and R.S.V.P.

Length of Service:

15 hours per month for 12 years

March 1, 2014

Active Generations is a community center geared toward active older adults in Sioux Falls, SD. This membership organization is unique in the fact that the majority of all our programs are led by volunteers. This includes all recreation/leisure clubs, our coffee shop, gift shop, classes, special events and much more. Our center relies on membership and user fees and does not get State and Federal Funds to run our programs. We also rely heavily on fundraising events. Helping with both programs and fund raising is member Irene Mehlhaff. Because of her many years or service and thousands of hours of service, Active Generations would like to nominate her for the Salute to Senior Service Award.

Irene grew up in Hutchinson County and graduated from Parkston High School. She graduated from Sioux Falls College (now USF) with a degree in teaching. Irene made teaching and children her life career. She taught elementary classes in Council Bluffs and Le Mars, Iowa, schools and taught for 38 years in the Sioux Falls School District. After she retired, she then continued to stay involved by volunteering in the classrooms for many years.

Irene first joined Active Generations in 2000. As soon as she joined, she wasted no time in getting involved with our crafting group. She brought and endless stream of new ideas to this group and offered her talents in embroidery, crochet and more to help make crafts and creations to sell in our facility's gift shop. She has become a leader and great ambassador in the craft room welcoming new members and volunteers and helping them get involved. The crafters also help to organize an annual Fall Craft Bazaar with all proceeds helping to fund the activities fundraising efforts each year. Her first year with Active Generations the Fall Bazaar raised $930. By 2013, this amount had multiplied x 5 and the event brought in $5,424. Since 2000, the event, with leadership by Irene, has made over $40,000 to help support programs and services for Active Generations members. Irene also gives volunteer hours helping in Active Generations' Coffee Shop once a week.

In 2011, Active Generations started a new community event, the North Pole Carnival. This event transforms Active Generations into the North Pole for the children of the community. Families can enjoy free pictures with Santa, decorate cookies in Mrs. Claus' Kitchen, go to Elf School and become an official elf, play Reindeer Games (Carnival games with prizes) also find the North Pole Workshop and do fun Christmas crafts. Irene has taken the lead Elf Role in this Workshop and has created and supervised this part of the North Pole for the past three years. She decides the appropriate Christmas crafts to offer to the children and, months before, starts making hundreds of kits to be ready for the children on this day. She makes kits for the younger aged children as well as different ones for the older ones. She also recruits friends to help with this event. With Irene at the helm of this North Pole Department, the staff is confident all will run smoothly and are able to oversee other aspects of the event.

Throughout the past thirteen years, Irene has given 5,666 hours of service to our organization alone. Irene has also been a very active volunteer for Sanford for 12 years and has served over 2,400 hours for this organization as well. She currently is volunteering with the Sanford Foundation Network, opening mail and data entry for this important cause. Other organizations she volunteers for include: RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), Sioux Falls Seminary, The Sioux Falls Ronning Library and her church Trinity Baptist.

We believe that Irene exemplifies what an everyday hero is. She has made it her mission in life to help others and her community with her time, talents and knowledge! Please consider Irene to for this worthy award.

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Prize Description

The National Winner’s designated non-profit charity will receive a $5,000 donation, courtesy of Home Instead, Inc., the franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise network. Each Local Winner’s designated non-profit charity will receive a $500 donation. All Winners will receive a certificate and a spot in the Contest’s “Wall of Fame” here on in recognition of their outstanding service.

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