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Tracy Frank, Published April 02 2013

Her Voice: Fargo woman’s experience with aging mother helps her lead rural nonprofit

If you go

What: Community Wellness Fair by Community of Care and UND College of Nursing & Professional disciplines

Where: Northern Cass School, 1602 18th St. S.E., Hunter, N.D.

When: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free

Contact: Community of Care at (701) 967-8502

Online: www.communityofcarend.com

CASSELTON, N.D. – Myrna Hanson has been a high school band director and worked in Christian education ministry, but she said it’s her role as the adult child of an aging parent that has most prepared her for her current position.

Hanson, of Fargo, is executive director of Community of Care, an organization based in Casselton and Arthur, N.D., that provides services for rural Cass County seniors to help them stay in their homes and communities as long as safely possible.

The organization started as a pilot project at the Good Samaritan Center in Arthur 10 years ago in September. It received nonprofit status in 2007.

Hanson has been executive director for nearly two years. She is responsible for the organization’s staff, programming, marketing, and applying for grants.

“I had never heard of Community of Care before I applied for the job, but I was just really impressed by the work they had done,” Hanson said. “I feel fortunate to have continued that work and helped to grow the organization.”

Hanson grew up on a farm outside Grand Forks.

“I get the fact that people want to stay in those rural communities,” she said.

Hanson’s mom, who had Parkinson’s disease for 21 years, died in 2011.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects a person’s movement, according to Mayo Clinic.

While Hanson’s mom did not live with her, Hanson was her caregiver in many ways, she said.

“I walked the journey with my mom,” Hanson said. “I was one of those adult children trying to figure out where in the world do you turn and where do you find the answers.”

Hanson said a growing issue is adult children trying to find help for aging parents who live in a rural community. Community of Care has a social worker on staff who helps connect people with resources to provide the help they need, she said.

It might be something as simple as a car ride to a doctor appointment or finding out how to get a wheelchair ramp that can help someone stay in their home, Hanson said.

Last year, trained volunteers drove more than 12,000 miles providing rural Cass County seniors rides to Fargo, she said. Volunteers also do things like yard work and minor home repairs, she said.

“Our goal, really, is to enhance the quality of life for seniors and keep them in their homes as long as safely possible and keep them in their communities,” Hanson said. “These are places where many of these seniors have probably lived their entire lives. They’re places where they’re familiar. They have friends and family and probably their churches. They appreciate and enjoy that rural lifestyle.”

Community of Care is partnering with the University of North Dakota College of Nursing & Professional disciplines to hold a Community Wellness Fair at Northern Cass School in Hunter on Saturday. The event will offer free health screenings for things like hearing, vision, blood pressure and blood sugar. There will also be free classes on topics like eating well, bone builder exercise, and caregiving for adult children with aging parents. There will also be lunch, entertainment, games and giveaways. Admission is free.

“I think this is a great day for adult children of aging parents to come and learn some things about how to keep those parents in their homes,” Hanson said.

Hanson was a music and math major at Concordia College in Moorhead. She received her master’s degree in educational leadership from North Dakota State University.

She also teaches piano lessons and sings in church choir.

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com or call (701) 241-5526.