State honors Opdahl as its top volunteer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2001

When a tornado hit Glenville in May, Jeanie Opdahl was there within 10 minutes to help.

Saturday, December 08, 2001

When a tornado hit Glenville in May, Jeanie Opdahl was there within 10 minutes to help.

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When Farmland caught fire in July, Opdahl was on the scene, handing out water and Gatorade to overheated firefighters.

She’s on call 24 hours a day, and emergency services personnel are so used to seeing her that they often call her directly.

&uot;Most of them know my home number,&uot; Opdahl said. &uot;They just call. Even the sheriff calls my house.&uot;

Her efforts made her the Minnesota Red Cross Volunteer of the Year for 2001.

&uot;I was quite sure she would win,&uot; said Freeborn County Red Cross Chapter Manager Ann Pribyl. &uot;If she shouldn’t win, who should?&uot;

As an Emmons resident, she was nearby when the May Day tornado tore through Glenville. She was the first volunteer to enter the city, and she spearheaded the Red Cross efforts there as the center coordinator. The team fed meals to residents and other relief workers and helped people get lodging and supplies.

And she vividly recalls the night she spent at Farmland while firefighters battled the blaze. It was a hot, sticky night and the mosquitoes were terrible, but the Red Cross stayed and gave out so much Gatorade that a local grocery store ran out.

It was an extraordinary year, but Opdahl had plenty of experience coming into it. She has been volunteering for the Red Cross for 18 years.

&uot;She has been the backbone of the Red Cross in Freeborn County for quite some time,&uot; Pribyl said.

&uot;I’m thinking we couldn’t get along without her,&uot; said chapter Treasurer Geraldine Horswell.

Opdahl spends much of her time volunteering for a wide array of organizations. She is involved with 4-H, and is a member of the Emmons Lutheran Church Council, the Emmons City Council, the Freeborn County United Way board of directors, the Emmons Commercial Club, the Crime Victim’s Crisis Center, the Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee, and the Freeborn County Extension Office.

Earlier this year, she organized a bone-marrow drive in Emmons – population 400 – and got 105 adults to register. How did she do it? &uot;I called a lot of people,&uot; she said.

&uot;She puts out the call, and folks turn out,&uot; Pribyl said.

Opdahl said she was surprised and pleased to win the award during the annual state Red Cross conference last weekend in Rochester, but that the satisfaction of helping people is the only reward she needs.

&uot;Most of the time you get more out of it than they do,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s a good feeling to be able to help somebody, and if you can make a difference in somebody’s life, it’s pretty important.&uot;