Breezy Point's Clarice Blaeser is the 2016 Pequot Lakes-Breezy Point-Crosslake Citizen of the Year.
"I feel so fortunate," Blaeser said, "that people in the community took the time to nominate me for this. It's very special."
Blaeser came from Rosemount to Gull Lake in 1973 to open Country Kitchen in Baxter with her husband. In 1977, they made the move to Breezy Point, where Blaeser has since resided and made her mark in the community through volunteerism.
A few of the organizations that benefit from her dedication of time are the Pequot Lakes Library, the Breezy Point Area Women's Club and the Pelican Lakes Conservation Club.
But one of Blaeser's favorite activities is acting as the head election judge in Breezy Point.
"Being an election judge is just, to me, very, very interesting, and I think people really should get involved in our political system," she said. "People who are skeptical of our election system should be a volunteer because they really learn what elections are about."
The Pequot Lakes Library, which Blaeser has been a part of since day one, also holds a special place in her heart.
"There was an ad in the paper; they were looking for help. And I like to read. I've always been interested, so I called Nancy Adams, and she immediately took me," Blaeser said. "I've been there so long, and you get to know the people that come in regularly. You get a lot of interesting people."
Much of Blaeser's work with her various organizations, such as the Breezy Point Area Women's Club and the Pelican Lakes Conservation Club, began after her husband died in 1994.
"I think I was just trying to keep myself busy," she said. "And he was on the board of directors at the Pelican Lakes Conservation Club, (so) I took his spot."
Through volunteering, Blaeser said she has learned new things, such as computer skills, and met many friends.
Along with the organizations she is a part of, Blaeser has also held various jobs in community establishments like Country Kitchen, Pelican Square and Whitebirch Golf Course. Many have noticed her community involvement, including her good friend, Kay Spizzo, who sent in one of Blaeser's nominations.
"When asked to volunteer her services she is always willing," Spizzo said of Blaeser on her nomination form. "She is fiercely dedicated to her family and friends, especially those needing a bit of extra TLC (tender loving care). Quietly and without acclaim Clarice is a servant."
That dedication to her family extends to Blaeser's five children, four stepchildren, 10 grandchildren, 14 stepgrandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Her granddaughter, Caitlin Murray, is studying social work and attributes that decision to her grandmother.
"She took me to a lot of the volunteering activities that she did, which is why I went into social work," Murray said.
The Citizen of the Year award came as little shock to Blaeser's family and friends, who know she is deserving. But the winner herself was caught off guard.
"There's so many other deserving people out there," she said, "It's hard to be singled out ... I'm better at being in the background rather than being in the forefront."
But she admitted the award is a great honor.
"It's really been something very humbling to me," she said. "It's nice to be appreciated."
Echo Publishing sponsors the Pequot Lakes-Breezy Point-Crosslake Citizen of the Year award each year.