The opportunity to lend a hand

Published 6:49 am Sunday, January 25, 2015

This is the second column in our series highlighting local volunteers as part of the 2015 Keep the Spirit Alive Volunteer Service Challenge. It is written by Kristen Olson, Chamber of Commerce Community Concierge and Chair of the Vision 2020 Community Pride & Spirit committee.

There’s a gal here in Austin who has been volunteering with our international student population and scientists for a number of years. Jamie Price, originally from Austin, was living in Colorado when she heard about the $24 million expansion of the Hormel Institute back in 2007. She had a feeling she would be missing something if she didn’t move back and she knew the opportunity to help out was going to be big! A bonus was also going to be the opportunity to get to know her half-siblings a bit better, as she didn’t have a relationship with them growing up.

Jamie first became interested in the international population while living in the Key Apartments in 2006. There, she met a number of Chinese scientists and formed a bond. During the short time she lived in Colorado, the Hormel Institute had tried to create a formal mentoring group, realizing that no one was engaging with the scientists from China, Korea, etc. Jamie had the feeling that she could help.

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After arriving back in Austin, one of the first things she did was to host a Christmas party. She invited scientists, international students and other Americans—about 25 in all. It was well received and fun, and it gave her a greater desire to get more involved.

Jamie has found that people from all over the world have so much to give! She notes the scientists want to share their food and culture and learn about ours. They have so much appreciation. She even feels like she’s an aunt to some of the kids! For her, the relationships help fill the void of being raised as an only child.

Her relationship with internationals often continues after they go back to their countries, as she is able to communicate through a free app (that is even allowed in China).

Jaime says volunteering can help people look beyond themselves and remember they are not the center of the universe. It is easy to get caught up in our daily lives and routines. But engaging in new friendships with internationals allows us to stretch our comfort zone a bit – and that’s a good thing! The relationships she has formed with internationals have enriched her life greatly, and she is happy to spend approximately 30 hours per week helping out.

Gail Dennison, Director of Development and Public Relations for The Hormel Institute, appreciates Jamie’s efforts to foster relationships with the scientists, “Jamie is the most amazing volunteer! She gives and then gives some more and is a great friend to our Hormel Institute scientists and their families.”

Jamie would love to meet other people who are culturally sensitive who may be interested in becoming a friend or mentor to international scientists and students. The Hormel Institute hosts a gathering about every six weeks for community members and existing mentors to interact with the scientists. These gatherings might consist of tea time, cookie baking, apple picking, holiday parties, or other events. If you are interested in learning more about the mentoring program at the Hormel Institute or helping out with international students, find Jamie on Facebook (Jamie Marie Price) or email her at

Reminder, Bremer Bank of Austin and Vision 2020 Community Pride & Spirit are collaborating on the Keep the Spirit Alive volunteer service challenge in 2015. To find out more, go to at or find us on Facebook at ‘Spread the Spirit in Austin MN.’