THE JEFFERSON AWARDS: Our October winner helps others with arthritis

Every month FOX 47 features someone in our community who is making a difference and we honor them with a Jefferson Award. 

Our October winner helps her peers feel better by teaching a free exercise class.

You’ll find the winner of the Jefferson Award at the LeRoy Community Center twice a week, teaching a free exercise class for seniors with arthritis.

Patricia Utz has been helping her peers stay healthy for quite some time now.

"I had just had back surgery and I was recuperating around ten years ago and I had to stop working so I thought this would be a great way for me to regain my strength," she said. 

Patricia is joined by JoAnn Shipman and Jan Soltau to help teach the class. 

"I retired six and a half years ago and I just felt that I really needed exercise to keep me going a little bit and I joined the group right after I retired and before I knew it I was a leader," said Shipman. 

And they know firsthand why the class is important. 

"Almost everyone in the class has some kind of arthritis," said Utz. "I have rheumatoid arthritis."

"I have osteoarthritis in my joints, knees, fingers," said Shipman. "I think most of us do."

Lori Christiansen from the Southeast Minnesota Area Agency on Aging nominated Patricia for the award.

"The class not only gives seniors in LeRoy an opportunity to get together and exercise and stay healthy but also to socialize and connect, and that’s really important," she said. 

And that’s why they say they do it–to help other people feel better. 

"I enjoy helping other people, I enjoy seeing them improve," Shipman said. 

"You get more energy when you exercise, it helps us sleep better," said Utz. "It helps our balance and helps prevent falls, gets our heart rate up and helps us maintain our weight, and just makes our quality of life better."

Patricia has volunteered more than 800 hours for the arthritis exercise program. 

If you know someone who’s also making a difference, you can nominate them for a Jefferson Award here.
 

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