An award 20 years in the making


For the past 18 years, Barb and Ed Gorski have been volunteering around the community, including Gramcery Co-Op, where they live. They are the 2016 recipients of the Service to Others Humanitarian Recognition.

Every week for the past 18 years, Barb and Ed have picked up old bread and bakery items from Inver Grove Heights Cub Foods and delivered it to Neighbors, Inc. (Hannah Burlingame/Review)

Last year, Barb and Ed were nominated for the award but did not win. Their children and grandchildren, five of the 19 are shown here, celebrated them along with Barb’s 77th birthday.(submitted photo)

Like clockwork, Barb, 78, and Ed, 83, Gorski pull up to Neighbors, Inc., in South St. Paul to unload their minivan full of bread donations. 

Every week for the past 18 years, the Gorskis have picked up day-old bread products from Cub Foods and delivered it to the local food shelf.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Gorskis are this year’s recipients of the Service to Others Humanitarian Recognition presented by the South St. Paul/Inver Grove Heights Rotary Club. 

They will be honored during the Humanitarian Recognition Banquet on Friday, April 22.

To be eligible for the award, candidates must have made an impact on the Greater South St. Paul, West St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights area for over 10 years by being a resident or having provided their humanitarian service in the area.

Service actions must have demonstrated an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended to a broad base of people. 

 

Giving back

Raising seven children, Barb and Ed say they didn’t have much free time when they were younger. It was only after they were empty nesters and retired that they found themselves with extra time on their hands.

“We’ve had a very good life, so it was time we do something nice for somebody else,” Barb says. “We enjoy it. We’ve met a lot of nice people.” 

In 1998, the Inver Grove Heights couple started delivering Meals on Wheels to disabled elderly residents in northern Dakota County. Their son Mark recalls, “They always had a smile and a hug for the people they delivered meals to.”

Around the same time as they started volunteering with Meals on Wheels, they began their weekly routine of delivering day-old bread to Neighbors.

John Kemp, executive director of Neighbors, Inc., has known the couple for roughly 13 years. He says the best part of having dedicated people like Barb and Ed volunteer for as long as they have is that he does not have to be concerned if everything will be taken care of.

“I know that I don’t have to worry and nobody else has to worry about making arrangements to get somebody over to Cub to make this pick up on a regular basis, because they are going to take care of it and we know that,” Kemp says.

The couple recently decided to “retire” from Meals on Wheel after 15 years of volunteering because the physical demands were becoming too much.

But they still give their time to other organizations. They volunteer at their Catholic parish, Church of St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights, and became election judges in 2001. 

 

What
South St. Paul/Inver Grove Heights Rotary Club’s Humanitarian Recognition Banquet.

When
Friday, April 22, Social and Silent Auction at 6 p.m.; Dinner at 7:15 p.m.; Program at 8 p.m.

Where
Southview County Club, 239 East Mendota Road, West St. Paul.

Cost
$50 per ticket.

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time either by contacting Greg Kuntz at em@gregkuntz.com or by visiting http://www.sspighrotary.org/sohr/sohr.html.

 

 

Having fun along the way

They’re involved with the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary as well. 

Each November, Barb and Ed would select five needy families from a list the school district gave to the American Legion, and then delivered ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner to each families. They got their adult children and eventually their grandkids involved in the holiday meal project.

Even after doing it for several years, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few hiccups. 

One year, Mark and his family were helping deliver the Thanksgiving dinners. After dropping all the packages of food, all of the siblings and their families were sitting around with Barb and Ed. 

“All of a sudden we get a phone call, and they’re like: ‘I know you guys said you were going to drop off some food tonight. Do you know what time you’re going to do it?’” Mark recalls with a chuckle.

Turns out, Mark had gone to the wrong floor of an apartment building and delivered food to the wrong family. 

They hurried over to Cub and bought food for the family that was supposed to receive the delivery that night.

 

A family affair

While the couple have had to give some activities because of health issues, they’re glad they can still help the community through volunteering, Barb says. 

This isn’t the first time they have been nominated for the award. Last year, all seven of their kids played a role in nominating them. 

While Barb and Ed didn’t receive the recognition in 2015, Mark says the extended family threw their own little award ceremony.

He says they wanted Barb and Ed to know “we thought they were so special,” Mark says.

Mark says the siblings decided to nominate their parents again because of all their selfless volunteering over the years. 

Barb says it meant a lot that all of the kids were involved.

 

Unwanted spotlight

There were five nominations this year, says Joe Gullerud, the South St. Paul/Inver Grove Heights Rotary Club SOHR award coordinator. A selection panel was made up of three members from the South St. Paul/Inver Grove Heights Rotary Club and two community members.

Even though the Rotary Club conveys the award, club members are not eligible to receive the honor. 

Barb says she and Ed were surprised to hear their kids were nominating them for the award again this year.

“When they showed it to us last year, we were overwhelmed with it, especially some of the nice letters that were written,” Barb says. 

When they found out they were this year’s recipients, Barb and Ed’s first reaction was they didn’t need the recognition for the work they have done. 

They thought there were many people in the area who were equally worthy.

“Why do we deserve it? There’s other people that probably do as much, or more,” Ed says.

Gullerud says he thinks what set Barb and Ed apart from the other nominees was the wide scope of their activities and the long period of time in which they had been volunteering.

Kemp says Barb and Ed don’t seek or want recognition. In a way, he adds, this recognition makes them a bit embarrassed.

Having grown up in farming country, Kemp describes Barb and Ed as “salt of the Earth.”“They are just unassuming people who know there’s work that needs to be done to help people in the community,” Kemp says.

 

Paying it forward

One side benefit of receiving the Rotary Club award is a check for $1,000 which the recipients can donate to any organization or charity.

For Barb and Ed, it was a no-brainer what group they were going to pick. Barb says they agreed right away to give it to Neighbors, Inc.

“We’ve noticed how much they do help people from Dakota County,” Ed says.

Kemp says he is honored Barb and Ed chose Neighbors for the donation. 

“It’s a tremendous honor to have somebody who has done so much for you for so many years then turn around and pick you to also receive a cash donation,” Kemp says. 

 

Encouraging others

Mark says his parents are positive-thinkers, who look forward to what’s ahead.

“To me, they always look at how they can make the world a little kinder place. Instead of looking at the past and blaming, they’re looking at the future and seeing how they can make it a brighter world,” Mark says.

While Barb and Ed say they haven’t changed because of their volunteering, they have realized something.

“We’ve realized how fortunate we are with our lives,” Ed says. 

Barb and Ed understand people don’t always have a lot of time for volunteering when they are raising families, and then later on are hesitant to get involved.

Her advice is don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. “It’s very rewarding to volunteer. You shouldn’t be afraid to do it. Just do it!”

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

 

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