OWATONNA — In between the polka music and geriatric stand-up comedy at the fair, the Steele County Exchange Club took a moment to recognize two vital members of their community.

With cooperation of the Steele County Free Fair, Carol Prokopec and Vern Wilker each received a 2019 Senior Citizen Volunteer Award for their work done around the county. The awards were given during Senior Day on Thursday at the fair with a formal presentation at the United Prairie Bank Stage in Fair Square.

Prokopec is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary in Blooming Prairie serving on various committees such as making quilts of valor for veterans, distributing poppies, ordering and selling military bracelets, and marching with the American Legion Auxiliary and VFW on Memorial Day. Prokopec volunteers at the Prairie Manor Nursing Home and Heather Haus Assisted Living serving coffee, taking residents to medical appointments, and helping with bingo. She is the chairperson for the Prairie Manor Family Council and each week she welcomes new nursing home residents. Prokopec also transports residents to events in Blooming Prairie at the Servicemen’s Club so they can take part in meetings and events.

“The best present you can give is your time,” Prokopec said to the crowd at Fair Square on Thursday. “My God grant you plenty of time to share with all you love.”

Prokopec is also active in the Austin Association of the Deaf, has donated to the former Lily Sparrow House in Owatonna, and has volunteered for Feed My Starving Children.

Wilker has a long history of volunteering in ways that support the youth in Steele County. These areas include preparing youth for the Elks Club Youth Camp, teaching farm and farm equipment safety, teaching geography to elementary school children through the Wilson School “Passport Program,” walking in parades to hand out flags to children, and announcing for the SCFF 4-H livestock sale. Wilker is also a member and past chairman of the Steele County Exchange Club, whose national mission is the prevention of child abuse, and has served as chairman of the Exchange Club Center for Family Unity.

“I think for the first time I don’t know what to say,” Wilker laughed as he received his award. “I’m very humbled by this because the things I did do I thoroughly enjoyed doing, so it wasn’t very hard for me to do them.”

Wilker has also volunteered his singing and auctioneering talents for various fundraisers, including the annual cancer auction at the Eagles Club in Owatonna, and has served as a Sunday school teacher and board member for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Meriden. He is also a member of the Pork Producers, serves on the board of directors for United Prairie Bank of Owatonna, is a charter member of the Steele County Corn and Soybean Association, a member of the Cannon River Watershed, and is a current member and past director of SE MN Farm Management.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie.

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