By Greg Hunt
Elwood “Woody” Steele is a tireless man who captures the essence of the term “service.” The 73 year-old Isanti volunteer fittingly received the 2011 Outstanding Senior Citizen Award for helping his communities through several avenues.
Steele and Shirley Karstens 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.
“Woody has the kind of personality that is always looking for someone or some cause to help. Whether it’s visiting someone in a nursing home or taking someone home from the Senior Center or picking up someone and taking them to a dance or doctor’s appointment, he is always very polite and respectful to them,” wrote last year’s “Outstanding Senior” Lewis Leasure who nominated Steele.
Throughout his lifetime, Steele has applied his skills at a variety of occupations: pipe welder, plumber, boilermaker, iron working, bus driver. He worked on the Iron Range, in power plants, for building trades and in manufacturing facilities.
Habitat for Humanity, which provides housing for low-income people, is one volunteer organization that benefits from his abilities.
“I always thought that if you had a home that would put a foundation on your family. That’s kind of the problem with all these foreclosures, they’re kind of breaking up the family,” spoke Steele. He also went to the LBI bible institute and served on the mission field in Alaska for a while.
Along with the hours worked for Habitat, Steele volunteers with maintenance projects, served as a Confirmation mentor and helps with the Interfaith Hospitality Network at his Cambridge United Methodist Church. He is part of the Isanti Happy Seniors where he helps arrange programs, along with lunches and clean-ups. At the Senior Activity Center (SACS) in Cambridge, Steele helps serve breakfast and lunches, along with helping clean up afterward and performing more jobs at the center.
Explaining his volunteering philosophy, Steele shared, “In your life, you should give back to society because part of the Scripture tells us we’re supposed to take care of the poor. Some people run into bad problems, and that’s why you’re there to lend a helping hand – ‘Do unto others as you’d have them do to you.’ – If you were in that predicament, what would you want to do?”
Also through his life, Steele has taught round dancing and roller skating, and he also enjoys square dancing and skating in competition or parades. Keeping physically active is important to him: “Move it or lose it,” said Steele, who will be square dancing at the bandshell after he receives his Outstanding Senior Award on Thursday at the fair.