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Rochester Resident Receives AARP’s Most Prestigious Volunteer Award

Ella Van Laningham of Rochester has been selected by AARP, the to receive Minnesota’s 2010 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service, the Association’s most prestigious and visible volunteer award for community service. This award symbolizes an individual’s power and ability to make a difference in the lives of others.

AARP selected Van Laningham for her remarkable service and for the impact she’s had on the lives of others in her community.
“Ella has a passion for helping others of all ages — from the very young to the very old,” said AARP State President Dr. Lowery Johnson.”The Tax Aide program relies on dedicated volunteers like Ella to help thousands every year. She is truly appreciated.”

Van Laningham has been volunteering with AARP’s Tax Aide program for over 15 years. Currently, she is the District Coordinator for Rochester -- overseeing 15 sites and supervising over 85 volunteers. This year alone, her district has managed to get over $2,500,000 tax refunds to about 5,000 individuals needing tax assistance.

The AARP Tax Aide program has served thousands of low income and elderly Minnesotans during tax time. From its modest start with four volunteers, Tax-Aide has grown to become the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax preparation and assistance program. Approximately 34,600 AARP Tax-Aide volunteers, trained in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service, help more than 2.6 million taxpayers file their federal, state, and local tax returns each year. The AARP Tax-Aide program is offered at approximately 6,500 locations nationwide in senior centers, libraries, community centers, and at other convenient locations across the country.

The community of Rochester has looked to her for leadership to help guide several programs. Van Laningham has served on many boards including Child Care Resource and Referral, Bethany Nursery School, Rochester Music Guild, Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Rochester Area Family YMCA.

Van Laningham also has been delivering meals for the Meals on Wheels program for over 15 years. She is the volunteer coordinator for the Kiwanis Club, and has been organizing the Community Food Response program for over 10 years. Van Laningham ’s volunteer work with AARP’s Tax Aide program is her true passion.

The AARP Andrus Award for Community Service recognizes members and volunteers who, through volunteer service, are significantly enhancing the lives of individuals age 50 and older.

“This award acts as a symbol to members and the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” says Michele Kimball, Senior State Director of AARP Minnesota. “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions AARP volunteers make to their communities, neighbors, and the programs they serve.”

Recipients across the nation were chosen for their ability to enhance the lives of AARP members and prospective members, improve the community in or for which the work was performed, and inspire others to volunteer.

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