Neudecker didn't join the Redwood Falls Senior Citizen Center until after a fire damaged her apartment; now she volunteers there several times a week.
On January 24, 2013, a fire at Lakeside Manor in Redwood Falls displaced nearly 50 residents, many of them senior citizens. One of them is former Clements resident Doris Neudecker, currently living in the Redwood Lodge along with several other Lakeside fire victims. “I lived in Clements for 52 years, then moved to Lakeside,” said Neudecker. “I will live at the Redwood Lodge until Lakeside is done. That’s not expected until next year.” Before moving to Lakeside Manor, Neudecker had decades of nursing home experience. “I worked at St. John’s in Springfield for 22 years. I was doing the night shift, which no one wanted to do. I eventually got training as a medication assistant, so I could hand out the meds. “When I started in 1984, I was getting $4.09 an hour, but when I left I was making nearly $16 an hour, partly because of the medication training, partly because it was the night shift.” Neudecker put her nursing home experience to work at Lakeside, volunteering to coordinate the senior dining program at Lakeside Manor. “That was through Lutheran Social Services, and we served 15 to 20 people a day. After the fire, a lot of people provided food for the victims living in the Redwood Lodge,” said Neudecker. “More recently, I starting coming to the Redwood Falls Senior Center activities. I hadn’t been involved before. Lakeside had its own activities, laundromat, everything else. You didn’t have to go out much if you didn’t want to. “And so I started coming here,” she said, sitting in the Senior Center, part of Reede Gray Elementary School. I like it. I like to get out, and I’ve always liked senior citizens.” She things for a moment, then says dismissively, “I guess I am one, now.” Today Neudecker does more than show up at the Senior Center for fun; she also is a volunteer. “I answer the telephone two days a week, on Wednesdays I take peoples’ blood pressure, I’ll help dish up meals, and I call bingo when needed. One day I did three of those things.” Why does she do it? “I like to be busy,” she said. “I’ve got a smart phone and do Facebook, but I think I’m the only one here (at the Senior Center) who does them.” She’s also been getting more exercise than she did before. “Before the fire it was very hard for me to do steps, and I would always take the elevator,” she said, “but during the fire I went down those four flights of stairs real fast! Now I do the steps at the Redwood Lodge as often as I can so I can stay in shape. I enjoy life, and just feel so lucky to be alive. My mother died when she was 39.” When she’s not in Redwood Falls, Neudecker can often be found in one of five other states, visiting her children. “I like to drive, and will go to places like Montana or Florida for visits,” she said. “Once I drove 850 miles in one day. “When Lakeside reopens, I still plan to come to the Senior Center. I’ve made a lot of friends here. As long as I can drive here, I will. “It’s too bad more people don’t come. Too many people think it’s for ‘old’ people, but I don’t think we feel old. “I have much more confidence now.”