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Baier named Volunteer of the Year

Jerry Wilkinson wanted people to recognize the great work of Linda Baier, and earlier this month, the city of Austin did just that.

Baier ceremoniously received the city’s Volunteer of the Year award April 6 at a reception held at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Wilkinson, a city employee, nominated Baier for her dedication as chairwoman for the Mower County Relay for Life.

“She is so devoted to the cause,” Wilkinson said. “She puts so much time into it.”

Wilkinson has grown close to Baier in recent years, especially since October, when his wife, Mary, lost a several-year battle to cancer. Wilkinson said he’s been taking “baby steps” in his life since then, but noted that Baier has provided great support.

“We’ve kind of been deflated because of Mary’s passing, but (Baier) made me promise to continue the fundraising,” he said.

In her 10 years as Relay for Life chairwoman, Baier has championed fundraising efforts in the county. Last summer, the organization brought in roughly $100,000 — $5,000 more than the American Cancer Society’s goal and a Mower County record. At the time, Baier expressed surprise and satisfaction.

“At $95,000, with the economy the way it’s been, I didn’t think there was any way we would reach that goal,” Baier told the Austin Daily Herald in August. “Needless to say, I think all of us are just extremely happy. It’s really unbelievable, but on the other hand, I think cancer affects everybody.”

Wilkinson said he was honored and humbled when, during the April 6 ceremony, he was told by Mayor Tom Stiehm to present Baier the award himself.

“I got to introduce her, and she came up and received her award,” Wilkinson said. “It was very cool … I just respect her so much.”