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Community heroes come at all ages

By Roger Boughton

Unsung heroes are those who make a real difference in the shadows of the community. They are those special heroes who make the non-profits hum, the charities flourish and the small businesses prosper.

You never read about them in the local newspaper or see them on television, but you benefit from their dedication to their work and their ability to make their contribution to the community and their neighbors lives a little better.

Heroes are not defined by age or gender. Today I share with you the story of a young woman who graduates from Austin High School this month. Her name is Destiny Gray. She  presently devotes Monday through Friday mornings delivering meals for the Mower County Senior Center.  Twenty meals a day or 100 a week are delivered, whether rain or shine.  Occasionally her father rides along to keep her company. When not delivering meals to seniors, she is a nanny for a seven-month-old baby girl.  She is truly Ms. Sunshine with unending energy.

In her early years of high school, she participated in softball and soccer while also working  for Games People Play.  It is interesting to note that she became a volunteer not because she received credit for volunteering, but as she says, “it gave me the chance to give back to the community and see the same smiles very day.  Making someone smile in such a terrible time we are in can help make things easier.  We need to do  it together.”

Together with meals and a smile, she sets out each day to deliver a meal to a senior confined to their home. And what about her future plans?  She wants to attend Riverland Community College in the fall and major in their Radiologic Tech Program (X-Ray Tech).  She will be receiving the Assurance Scholarship to attend the college, a scholarship that covers her tuition costs as well as books and supplies for two years  thanks to the Hormel Foundation.

The meals that Destiny delivers come from the Mower County Senior Center and the SPAM  Museum. Sara Schafer, the director of the senior center provides over 950 meals a day through federal and state grants funneled through the South Eastern Minnesota Area Agency on Aging to SEMCAC ,who contracts with the Mower County Senior Center.

The only requirements for the meals are that a senior be at least 60 years of age.  The goal of the program is twofold; a nutritious meal for seniors  at noon and a socializing experience for seniors. Of course, this all changed when COVID-19 hit.

Presently, volunteers like Destiny are packing and helping SMART busses deliver meals throughout Mower County  each Monday through Friday.

Some people are concerned about our young adults and if they have the stuff to succeed and carry our community, state and country forward.  Destiny is not unique, but represents the millions of high school young men and women graduating this month who have a “real” sense of responsibility and have set their goals on our community becoming a better and more caring  community.