North Branch Lions honor Carla Norelius

Lions members also recognized for service to community at annual Governor’s Night program

by MaryHelen Swanson and Jon Tatting

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It’s early Saturday morning in North Branch. Summer is just about to begin.

Most folks are enjoying sleeping in a little on this day off. But in the Shopko parking lot, a group of kids is gathering, and all are riding bikes. Carla Norelius is there. She’s not a kid, and she is not atop a bike. She’s a professional concerned about the health and safety of North Branch community kids, and she’s fitting the children with new bike helmets.

On another Saturday morning, as a misty cloud hangs over the Sunrise Prairie Trail, Norelius awaits high school runners with health information at the North Branch trail stop where she is part of a fundraising event for the schools.

Norelius received the North Branch Lions Community Service Award for 2014 during the organization’s annual Governor’s Night program March 11 at the Chisago County Senior Center. Presenting the award were Lions President Chris Thoma and 5M7 District Governor Lion Norm Kelzenberg.

“If I have a strength, it’s that I play well with others,” a humble Norelius said in her acceptance speech.

The annual program also honored Lions members for their work in the community. Lions Steve Slaughter and Brian Wirtzfeld received the President’s Appreciation Award; Bob Olsen, Outstanding Service Award; Alex Bates, Special Appreciation Award; Catherine Eaton, Lion of the Year; and “Knights of the Blind” Don Hartzell and John Dolin were presented with the Helen Keller Award.

Thoma presented a surprise award to Syl Marking, who is retiring after 36 years of service with the North Branch Lions. Kelzenberg concluded the awards portion of the program by recognizing a number of Lions for reaching benchmark years with the organization.

New members were recognized on Governor’s Night, as well. This year’s class includes Joe Carchedi, sponsored by Lion Dolin; Nina Watercott, sponsored by Lion Hartzell; Ron Rollins, sponsored by Lion Thoma; and Adam Cabrera, sponsored by Lion Marking.


Norelius: Creating 

a bond forever

For many, many years, late in July, often on very hot evenings, Norelius could be found at the Survivor’s tent serving as chairperson of the Relay for Life Survivor’s Reception. It’s a beautiful event, with lots of hugs, smiles and tears, and health education booths. Here many local folks celebrate beating cancer.

If it has community health stamped on it, Norelius has probably been involved in some way.

Growing up in North Branch, she learned many lessons about community service from her parents, and she followed in their footsteps, especially her mother, Phyllis Lindberg, who recently passed away but continued to offer her time and talent into her early 90s.

Because of this, Norelius has been diligent in combining her professional life and her free time in pursuit of healthy communities, mostly in a 14-mile radius of her home in Lindstrom.

That includes planning for and facilitating the Lindstrom Loppet each summer.

It includes creation of a successful mentoring program that pairs members of the community, such as Lions, Rotarians and Chamber business people, with middle school kids in local schools. In North Branch, that has been ongoing for about 13 years.

Partnerships with the county and other youth and family-oriented community organizations have resulted in suicide prevention programs.

And she worked, with others in the community, in the creation of the Introduction to Health Care Careers program, which includes students from North Branch Area High School. She said some 97 percent of those who participate in this program go on to careers in health care.

Many women from North Branch attend the Women’s Conference each year. Norelius is particularly proud of this conference, having worked with it closely, beginning with the steering committee. The event, which celebrates its 20th year in 2014, addresses numerous women’s health issues. It is a partnership of Fairview Lakes Medical Center, St. Croix Regional Medical Center, Polk and Chisago counties public health and Hazelden, and more than 500 women attend each year.

She’s also proud of her work with Fairview Auxiliary’s scholarship program for local students going into health care careers or health care workers continuing their education. Last year the auxiliary presented 16 $1,000 scholarships, including some to graduates of North Branch Area High School.

Norelius believes you can reach more people by bringing health care education out into the community than by people coming to a health care facility.

That’s why health fairs are important, she said, adding, “They promote activities and wellness … and make it fun.”

Outreach programs that she’s been involved with include the Embrace Winter program in partnership with North Branch Community Education and the North Branch Area Chamber of Commerce.

It included events such as walking in school halls, special speakers and cross-country skiing on the North Branch golf course. Unfortunately, there was no snow that first year, so participants ended up walking the golf course.

Partnerships are extremely important in addressing community health, she said.

Most recently, as she retired from a 44-year career at Fairview health care services, she noted that “working with people in your own community” is the strongest reason to keep you coming back to work. Caring for people you know creates a bond forever, she said.

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