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Retiree fills days with volunteer work


HAWLEY, Minn. - Seventy-year-old Shirley Anderson spends her retirement days as both a bag lady and a cover girl.

Either way, the Hawley woman is just looking to find a way to give back.

For the past seven years, Anderson has been a fixture at REACH Reusables Thrift Store in Hawley, working 30 hours a week for 50 cents an hour.

Known as "the bag lady," Anderson devotes much of her time to sorting clothes and bringing items home for washing and mending.

Rural Enrichment and Counseling Headquarters Inc., REACH, is a multiagency human service center that primarily serves rural Clay, Becker and Norman counties in Minnesota.


The REACH thrift store is run by volunteers, who are thanked with the small wage to buy in-store items.

The thrift store with its good - if not brand new - clothing fills a void in Hawley, Anderson said. And every day, there's something for her to do.

"It makes me feel good to see that I am able to get things provided for the people that need (them)," Anderson said.

REACH volunteer coordinator Paula Boucher said Anderson is a "go-getter" and dedicated to her volunteer activities.

"She just goes out of her way all of the time," Boucher said. "If it wasn't for Shirley, we wouldn't have that (thrift) store."

In Anderson's spare time, she joins her friends from church - known as "The Cover Girls" - to sew quilt after quilt after quilt to give away.

Last year, the group made 700 quilts, with Anderson involved in every one.

Blankets are delivered to places like the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and MeritCare hospital in Fargo. Marriages, baptism and high school graduations also warrant a quilt.


This year, the group wants to make quilts for the Red Lake (Minn.) High School seniors, Anderson said.

When she isn't quilting, Anderson finds other ways to volunteer at Solum Lutheran Church in Hawley. She's a Ladies Aid officer and a member of the choir.

"That's part of my life," she said of volunteering. "During the years when I had to work, I wasn't able to do a lot of those kinds of things. Now that I'm retired and am able, I'm trying to catch up."

The Rev. Tom Olson said Anderson is "a wonderful person" who does a lot for their church.

"She's just so giving. She's always ready to pitch in and help in whatever effort we need," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560

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