As a lifelong resident of Mayville Township, Elden Pohlman was recently honored with the Minnesota 4-H Adult Volunteers Association’s Outstanding Volunteer award. He has donated countless unpaid hours to community causes.
As a lifelong resident of Mayville Township, Elden Pohlman was recently honored with the Minnesota 4-H Adult Volunteers Association’s Outstanding Volunteer award. He has donated countless unpaid hours to community causes.
This week is National Volunteer Week, which is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities.

As a recipient of this year's Minnesota 4-H Adult Volunteers Association's Outstanding Volunteer award, Elden Pohlman has donated countless unpaid hours to community causes.

Beginning approximately three decades ago, Pohlman has served as a 4-H club leader, a frequent provider of educational activities for members, and a state fair chaperone.

He's also served on numerous 4-H committee assignments and has judged at county fairs all over Minnesota.

"There are a lot of programs in 4-H," Pohlman said in a recent interview. "They have the best group of volunteers anywhere. It keeps you young, just working with them."

As a lifelong resident of Mayville Township, Pohlman said his grandmother helped organize a local 4-H chapter, the Crooked Creek High Fliers.

Other family members have also given freely of their time. His father donated many hours to the Crooked Creek Watershed District while brother, Arlyn, and son, Curtis, have helped out at 4-H workshops.

As many Houston County residents already know, Elden serves as president of the Houston County's Agricultural Society, which runs the Houston County Fair.

He's held that position for four extremely busy years and has served on the ag society board of directors for 15 years.

The Pohlman brothers have taken an interest in county fairs. Arlyn volunteers with the Houston County Fair Board, while youngest brother, Lorin, serves on the Goodhue County Fair Board.

"We consider ourselves the largest rural county fair in the state," Elden said. "We've got just so many days to spotlight the best in Houston County."

"Once I get our volunteers involved with it, they love it. We've got people coming out of the woodwork helping out at the fair. There are just so many organizations, such as our local Lions clubs, the American Legion (posts) and the Caledonia football team. Many people don't realize it, but team members come in to help clean up the fairgrounds."

Pohlman is a carpenter by trade. He's freely donated a lot of time toward making improvements to the fairgrounds.

When the big event happens in August, volunteers like Pohlman put in long hours and sometimes have to bear the brunt of complaints when things don't go right. The overall effort is enormous.

"It's all the stuff that comes together to make this work," Pohlman noted, "Whatever we do out there, we try to provide something to keep people interested all day long, not just during the bigger events.

"One of the things that I've really found since working with the fair is the importance of finding the right spot for that volunteer. Whether that person prefers working in the beer tent, or they prefer to be involved with cattle or help with the tractor pull, the demo derby, the exhibits or even superintending a building.

"It's one of those events where there should be a spot for just about anybody that wants to do something.

"It's covering so many bases. It takes many, many man hours to make that work.

"One of the things that county fairs provide is education. Society is getting so far removed from their food supply. The best place to show where your food comes from is your local county fair."

Naturally enough, the county fair and 4-H go together - hand in glove. There are literally hundreds of 4-H projects on display at the annual event.

Pohlman summed it up in nine words.

"You volunteer to be a part of your community," he said. "People who are willing to get involved can make a big difference.

"Volunteering is often about looking out for others. It isn't just my life that I've got to try and live.

"The best thing is just all the little thanks that our volunteers get. You don't need a plaque like this. Our volunteers really appreciate it when people give them a little pat on the back.

"I think we've put on a heck of a county fair the last few years, and people have been telling our volunteers that. It's important to do that for them.

"It's not just about the Houston County fair, either. Community celebrations all over the area depend on volunteers - Caledonia, Eitzen, Spring Grove, Houston. It takes a lot of people to make it all happen."