Shirley Karstens is ‘Outstanding Senior’

By Rachel Kytonen

For over 50 years, Shirley Karstens has volunteered in various roles at Cambridge Medical Center, and has logged over 4,000 hours over a 10-year period.

She has also spent 44 years volunteering with Relay for Life; over 500 hours over a 10-year period (1980-90) with the Cambridge Senior Activity Center; eight years with the SAC’s Red Hatters club, and three years with Isanti County Commission on Aging.

So it was only fitting that Shirley Karstens, along with Elwood “Woody” Steele, will be honored at this week’s Isanti County Fair’s “Senior Day Thursday” during the 1-4 p.m. program at the bandshell. The two will then represent the county at the “Outstanding Seniors” celebration at the State Fair  at the end of August.

Shirely Karstens

“I didn’t know it, but I guess I’m a people person,” Karstens said. “I didn’t know I was being nominated for this honor, and was shocked when I found out. But I feel it’s important to give back to the community, and I love my town.”

While at Cambridge Medical Center, Karstens served in various roles such as president of the Auxiliary, working in the gift shop, assisting families in the surgery waiting room and providing comfort to patients that are hospitalized.

“Shirley takes her roles as volunteer seriously and is very dedicated and dependable,” said Linda Lamb, volunteer services coordinator at CMC. “While in the surgery family waiting room, Shirley makes the families feel so comfortable and helps them pass the time while their loved one is in surgery. She once told me that she sometimes feels as if she is a member of their family when they are sharing their stories with her. Since March of 2003 when I started logging volunteer hours for the medical center, Shirley had already accumulated over 2,400 hours while doing her volunteer assignments. This is no small feat.”

Shari Strecker, friend and nominator, said Karstens is an outstanding volunteer for Isanti County.

“Shirley is vivacious and has a cheerful disposition, always willing to help out in some way or another,” Strecker said.
“Shirley has gone through some extremely bad times, having survived cancer in fact for 44 years. She therefore chooses to be very involved and passionate in the Relay for Life every year.

She loves to act and has been involved in 10 different plays in raising money for the Senior Center; whether it’s a holiday play at Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day, a mock wedding, variety shows, country music or entertaining at a nursing home or with the Red Hats at the fair or on a float. She adds that special sparkle to each program she’s involved in,” added Strecker.

“I have known and worked with Shirley for many years in many areas of volunteerism and find her to be a hard working and capable volunteer. She always carries through on whatever job she is asked to do.

Fran Strodtman, director of the Cambridge Senior Center, said Karstens is a fun and vibrant lady, and makes a wonderful Outstanding Senior Citizen for Isanti County.

“We have put on many plays, skits and programs to support services of the Senior Center in Cambridge,” Strodtman said. “She loves to do this and is very good at it. She is the Queen Mum of the SAC’s Red Hatters and is an excellent representative of the club. Recently, one of her Red Hat Sisters died of cancer, so she organized a silent auction for Joan’s family. It was very much appreciated by the family and was very personal to Shirley as she is a 45 year survivor of cancer herself.”

Karstens said she is going to volunteer as long as she’s able.

“I like to volunteer because it’s a chance to meet new people,” Karstens said. “It makes you feel good inside.”