Everyday Edina Heroes

Local volunteers with hearts for community service.
Michael Stanzak co-organizes the Edina Rotary Thanksgiving Basket program.

People in Edina work to help their neighbors every day. We’d like to introduce you to just a few of them.

The way Ted Field tells the story, the beginning of Warm Heads, Warm Hands, Warm Hearts was kind of an accident. “I was in Milaca, Minnesota, and went into Milaca Unclaimed Freight. They had quality knit hats for a dollar, so I bought 100 of them and took them to the Basilica in Minneapolis.” The gratitude that greeted him made him realize that there was a serious need. He made a commitment to do more, and since 1993, he has given away more than 400,000 hats and gloves. On the second Saturday in November, he drives to Milaca and buys hats and gloves with money he’s raised. He covers the cost of the truck and other expenses so that all the money donated goes to buying hats and gloves. Field has mixed feelings about talking about his work. He’d love to find more donors and give away more hats, but he also prefers to be an anonymous source of all that warmth. “When I reach for my hat and gloves in the winter, I always have a little smile on my face thinking about all those other warm hats and gloves out there,” he says.

Michael Stanzak is the co-organizer of the Edina Rotary’s Thanksgiving Basket program. The Thanksgiving baskets, packed with a full holiday meal including a cooked turkey and pies, are delivered on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The program is a family tradition for many volunteers. “Young people who have been involved with this since they were small children; now they are home from college and they still want to do this with their parents,” Stanzak says. He especially enjoys the hands-on experience of the work. “Seeing the gratitude of a family that might not have a Thanksgiving dinner without your help makes us feel good about what we’re doing”.

Jean Morrison has been involved in helping children, in Rotary’s mentoring program and in the holiday gift program, delivering gifts to children of all ages. She says once you find your perfect place, volunteer work doesn’t feel like work at all. We all need to find our “giftedness” and then figure out how to share those gifts.

Wayne Christensen has been a Southdale YMCA Service Club volunteer for over 13 years. The club is involved in several activities, including the Christmas tree lot, which raises money for camp scholarships. Christensen most enjoys working in the Y Diner. Every Saturday for most of the year, the Y Diner provides a low-cost lunch for the families involved in weekend Y programs. Wayne says it is so cool to see the families enjoying lunch together. “The parents are happy to have a lunch activity,” he says, “and they tell us that every Saturday.”

A.J. Wind is an Edina High School student and a volunteer in the city parks program. A.J. volunteers at Weber Park, where he’s a leader-in-training who supervises and plays with the younger kids. He began volunteering with his family when he was 10, and when he got to middle school he looked for an organization that he could be involved in on his own. This was his first year working at Weber Park. He thinks that the best part is interacting with the kids. “I love the feeling when the kids walk in the door and smile because you are standing there.” A.J. thinks everyone should volunteer. “I would encourage people to find something they love doing and go out and see how you can get involved.”