Readers’ Views

Volunteering during COVID-19

To the Editor:

With the events involving COVID-19, the stay-at-home order from Gov. Tim Walz and employment uncertainties, we have heard a lot about volunteering.

Pre-pandemic, the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging was part of a coalition in the state to bring changes to assist volunteer drivers (volunteerdrivermn.org) and how these drivers are defined by state law. This movement has taken a back seat as we come together to combat this virus. Volunteering now takes on a new meaning, has a new look and feels different.

Historically, when you think of volunteering, you may think of a church bake sale, making cookies for a cookie walk or sitting at a booth for an organization. Now volunteering takes on a whole new purpose. Organizations throughout Minnesota are looking for volunteers to help at-risk groups, such as older adults, to deliver groceries and meals, pick up medications or simply provide telephone check-ins on individuals. You can find these organizations through news outlets, social media, non-profits and at www.helpolderadultsmn.org

Volunteering does not have to occur through an organization. There are things you can do yourself to help your neighbors, friends and family. You can pick up mail, offer to walk a pet if someone does not feel well, check in with people via telephone or prepare meals for someone.

There are many ways to volunteer and give back if you find yourself with cabin fever. Now may be a time to look at helping.

Jason W. Swanson,

executive director,

Minnesota River Area Agency

on Aging, Inc.


A tribute to a generation of women

To the Editor:

Editor’s note: Mabel Motl has passed away since this letter was submitted to the Sentinel. It is being published with permission from Mabel’s son, Jon.

This is not an obituary. It is an ode. An ode to a woman who has lived long and well, and is still living as testimony to a generation of Minnesota farm women whose like may never be seen again.

Mabel Roggow was born in a house in Jackson with a midwife in attendance. She was raised on the Roggow farm south of Alpha. Mabel’s grandparents, parents, sister, brother and husband are buried on a hillside less than a mile from the Roggow farm.

I grew up in Granada with Mabel as my mother. She was Mabel Motl then, having married Francis when he returned from fighting in WWII. My dad was good in promise, but that promise had been squeezed by war such that responsibility to raise seven children primarily fell on my mother. And raise us she did, with aplomb.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Granada was surrounded by small farms, including the Motl farm. Those farms were infested with kids, plants and animals, domestic and wild. There were so many kids that Granada, East Chain and Huntley each had its own high school. There were cows grazing on the creek bottom (milked, of course, by hand by the older kids), pigs in barns and chickens in coops. Corn was grown in rows like now. Those corn rows, cultivated by tractor, were infested with weeds and insects, as well as pheasants that roamed by the hundreds up and down the rows eating insects.

Mabel strode purposefully through this time. There was little money but Mabel made do. She canned, pickled, froze or cooked every form of vegetable, fruit and meat she and her kids could raise, pick, catch or shoot. She patched and washed clothes, hanging them outside on lines, even in the winter. She sat on the farmhouse steps laughing while her kids, cousins and neighbors played games in summer evenings with bats diving overhead and ducks complaining loudly of being disturbed. She loved reading. She taught us to read. She was imaginative. She taught us to imagine. She did not complain.

Life has changed now, of course. Farms are larger and fields are farmed by chemicals. The pheasants are mostly gone, along with the weeds and insects. And the kids that Mabel and her peers raised are also mostly gone, with Mabel’s kids living in Florida, Montana and Idaho, as well as Granada and Winona. At 100 years of age, Mabel too has left her Granada farm to live in a nursing home in Fairmont.

Much has been made, rightly so, of the passing of the greatest generation of men who fought for us in battle in WWII. That time, though, had another greatest generation that is passing and also needs praise. That is the generation of farm women like Mabel Motl who held families and communities together through their grit, love and ingenuity. Here is such a tribute from one son to one such farm woman. Mabel, you are the greatest.

Jon Motl

Helena, Montana


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