Twin brothers from Nisswa learned two things Friday night, Sept. 13. First they learned there’s such a thing as an Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year award in the area. Then Braden and Bennet Capelle learned they won the award for 2019.

The Brainerd High School sophomores had just finished an hour and a half volunteer shift packing meals with their parents, Randy and Tessa Capelle, and little sister, Ava, at Kids Against Hunger-Brainerd Lakes Area in Nisswa as part of a hurricane relief effort for the Bahamas. As the Capelles and many other community volunteers got ready to leave, Cassie Carey, Brainerd Community Action director, showed up to make the surprise announcement.

After receiving the honor, along with gift certificates to Martin’s Sport Shop in downtown Nisswa, Bennet said he figured out the winners as Carey described the honorees’ volunteer efforts.

“It sounds like me,” he said.

Many of the Capelles' volunteer activities come with being members of the Black Bear 4-H Club in Nisswa and county 4-H ambassadors. Those activities include cleaning up the Nisswa Pioneer Village yard and Heritage Garden, helping with crafts at the Nisswa City of Lights, cleaning up and planting flowers at the Welcome Center in Nisswa and volunteering at the Nisswa Winter Jubilee, Nisswa Fall Festival and Nisswa-Stamman Scandinavian Folk Music Festival.

Through 4-H they’ve helped sew Christmas stockings and make thank you cards and cookies as part of the Salute the Troops project, and they’ve delivered homemade goodies to police and firefighters in Nisswa and Pequot Lakes. They’ve also done volunteer work at Hills Crossing Senior Living in Nisswa.

“It is very exciting as an adult volunteer to see how selflessly Braden and Bennet have given of themselves, and they have fun while doing it,” Cindy Terwilliger, Black Bear 4-H Club adult leader, said in her nomination letter.

Sarah Ukkelberg, Crow Wing County 4-H Program coordinator, wrote in a nomination letter that Braden and Bennet are dependable young men who can be counted on to be there and help when they say they will. They are very respectful and responsible youth who are very deserving of this award, she wrote.

The Capelles volunteer with Teens Making a Difference at Confidence Learning Center and other locations in the Brainerd lakes area. And they help Mounted Eagles Therapeutic Horsemanship and the Nisswa Chamber by being turtle wranglers on Wednesday afternoons through summer for turtle races.

“These boys are so deserving of this award,” said Lynn Fairbanks, Mounted Eagles executive director and a Black Bear 4-H adult leader. “I am so proud to know them, call them friends and work alongside them as turtle wranglers for Mounted Eagles and with the Black Bear 4-H club.”

In her nomination letter, Fairbanks wrote: “You will see by the lengthy list that Braden and Bennet go above and beyond the normal teen to volunteer to help others, bring a smile to someone’s face and let people know that they are important and respected by the youth of the community.”

She added: “They are very polite and are very willing to do what you ask of them even if it is something new or out of their comfort zone. They have developed new skills that are learned while volunteering and their natural compassion and care for others shows through every time I am with them.”

Nisswa Chamber President Holly Holm said in her nomination letter that she has been impressed with Braden and Bennet.

“They have shown compassion, patience and humor toward the thousands of visitors that grace our community week after week,” she wrote. "Braden and Bennet show strengths on many levels that are only complimented by their leadership skills.”

After the boys were honored Sept. 13, Shawn Hansen, former Nisswa Chamber president and now Kids Against Hunger executive director, said: “They’ve done everything I’ve ever, ever asked them to do. These two are such standup men. We’re going to be paying attention to these guys. They’re going to rock this world. You know what? They are going to be the next leaders who will be leading our country.”

Though their mom, Tessa, usually coordinates the twins’ volunteer activities and chauffeurs them, both boys said they do enjoy volunteering and the activities are fun.

“I was beyond proud,” their mom said. “They work really hard and never expect any recognition, so this was nice.”

Braden and Bennet will be honored with other Distinguished Service Award winners at a banquet Oct. 24 at The Woods, sponsored by the Brainerd Jaycees and Brainerd Community Action.