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Volunteers honored during appreciation week

Time is precious.

And those who give their time to others, even more so.

Just ask Cindy Prokash, one of the activity directors for the St. Croix Health Center. She relies heavily on the 50+ volunteers that work with the senior residents throughout the year.

"If it wasn't for the volunteers, we would have a difficult time providing the quality of care in our home today," Prokash said.

April 27-May 3 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week - a time to say thank you to all those people who devote their time and talents to various causes.

John and Maureen Brunner are prime examples. They have been playing music and singing in nursing homes for the past 10 years.

"It's a true gift," Maureen said. "We're very blessed to be doing this."

Maureen has been playing the piano since seventh grade, mainly in church. As an adult, she worked at a shelter playing music and singing when she met John.

"He had been singing at nursing homes with another partner, but to taped music," Maureen recalled. "When he'd come to the shelter, he'd sing with me."

After they married, they moved to New Richmond where they kept active in church and the community. She is a home care professional and he runs the senior site. They volunteer to sing and play music at local nursing homes at least twice a month.

"I have a repertoire of 400 to 500 songs, mainly from 1920s to 1950s and church hymns," Maureen said. "Each month we do something different, like in March we did Irish songs, in June we do love songs - I try to have a theme."

The Sutliffs of New Richmond also volunteer their time. Angela, a homeschooling mom of four, has been bringing her children to the St. Croix Health Center for the past three months.

"They first came over with the Riverside 4-H group to play bingo," Prokash said. "Then they decided to come back on their own."

In addition to helping out with bingo, Ivory, 14, Kaylee, 11, Leife, 6, and Molly, 5, help with bowling. They set up the pins, fetch the rubber bowling ball, and help the residents line up for their turn.

"I need two pins, one shot, slow and easy," Ted Suennen, one of the residents said as he rolled the ball down the aluminum carrier toward the pins.

"By son of a gun, I made it," Suennen exclaimed as the pins came down.

"Good job, you did really good today," Kaylee said, retrieving the ball for the next player.

Ivory and Angela set up the pins as Leife visited with his "Grandma" Phyllis - a resident with whom he had forged a close friendship. Indeed, all the kids commented that making friends is a benefit of their volunteering.

"I like it, I already have friends and everyone is so nice here," Kaylee said.

If anyone is interested in volunteering at the St. Croix County Health Center, contact Cindy Prokash at 715-246-6991.

"There's a lot of loving, generous people out there," Prokash said.