Peace Corps leader makes unexpected visit

Published 9:52 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

Creative Connections by Sara Aeikens

Using the phrase “remember when” most often brings an immediate smile to my face.

I remember when the words Peace Corps gave me that response just recently. After a weeklong stay in May in the local hospital, I received a phone message on our home answering machine in response to an article I’d written about both my health situation and my former service in the Peace Corps in 1964 through 1966 in Venezuela.

Sara Aeikens

Sara Aeikens

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The deep voice identified himself as Glenn Blumhorst, the present president of the National Peace Corps Association in Washington, D.C. I immediately wondered what branch of the Peace Corps he headed, so I phoned him back the same afternoon to find out that all members of his group had all served globally in the U.S. Peace Corps.

In conversation, I also discovered that his wife came from Waconia, and lived only a short distance from some long-time close friends of ours, since our husbands both took classes and taught German in their early years of high school teaching. Furthermore, he let me know he planned on traveling through Albert Lea from Des Moines on Sept. 12 of this year to visit the Twin Cities area and his family in the Waconia area.

As a typical Peace Corps volunteer, I of course invited him to stop and visit the same afternoon. As a typical Peace Corps leader, he was flexible enough to fit a stop-over into his schedule. In fact, I was able to connect with several other former volunteers from Albert Lea and Freeborn County. About eight of us met at the Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro on Broadway, along with a few spouses. Our conversation included experiences in our countries served, how we managed to impact in positive ways the communities we ended up choosing to live in and how we saw ourselves serving communities globally.

As an added surprise, I took the two Peace Corps Washington reps. to visit our home, the location of the natural food cooperative and passed the Mitch’s Gas Station, which community members saved due to a cooperative spirit.

The next day I rode with Beth Knudson from a senior citizen exercise class who also served in the U.S. Peace Corps, and we attended a Minnesota state-wide picnic near Fort Snelling for former Peace Corps volunteers. About 100 of us were represented and I even reconnected with an O’Leary volunteer who used to live in the Freeborn County area. The two D.C. reps. were also there, and an article appeared about the Albert Lea gathering in the Albert Lea Tribune.

I was also surprised when one of the Peace Corps workers from D.C. sent me a hand-written thank-you note, which included a get well message. These kinds of purposeful, positive and sincere connections encourage me to increase my furture contact with both the Peace Corps organizations and fellow return Peace Corps volunteers.

We learned there are many people in our country who would like to give service to the USA by joining the Peace Corps, but the funding would need to be greatly increased.   I also found out there are more than 250 of the 200,000 volunteers who have given their lives while in service to Corp.


Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.