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Original board member retires from Bundles of Love

April 6, 2018 GMT

Original board member retires

Joanne Larsen, a board member of Rochester’s Bundles of Love nonprofit for nearly two decades, celebrated her second retirement on Wednesday.

Larsen always enjoyed needlework, she said, and she taught her daughter how to sew.

Bundles of Love is a Minnesota nonprofit, founded and helmed by Mary Jo Prinsen, which serves 25 counties in Minnesota. Larsen was, until Wednesday, the head of the Rochester chapter.

Volunteers hand-sew bags of clothing — receiving blankets, hats, bibs, gowns, socks, and more — for infants in need. Occasionally, they include donated items — but most of the time, everything except the diapers, baby wipes, and baby wash is hand-stitched.

“It was just a privilege to be able to use our hobbies to help people,” Larsen said.

In the late ’90s, Prinsen said, she had the idea to join or found a nonprofit to benefit babies in need of clothing.

Larsen retired from her job in 1998, she said, and she and Prinsen began the venture, which turned into the local chapter of Bundles of Love in 2001.

Larsen was one of the first five board members — one of the only five members at the birth of BOL.

Their first goal was to make five bundles for a Dakota crisis pregnancy organization called Life Care Center.

It took them two weeks.

Now, Prinsen estimated that over the state, BOL serves one family every two and a half hours.

“This was going to be my fun thing, and it was more than we ever thought,” Larsen said. “We couldn’t have dreamed that close to 4,000 babies would be clothed because of work that we did.”

The group met at Assisi Heights, where they put together bundles two to three times a week.

However, on this Wednesday, Larsen was surprised with a going-away party and cake.

Larsen, who wore a yellow rose pin (for friendship!) listened as board members and longtime volunteers spoke about Larsen’s love and concern for infants in need.

Sharon Landworth, Mary Rossman and Elaine Oldenburg will lead the Rochester chapter of Bundles of Love going forward.

Larsen still plans to volunteer with the group.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Larsen said. “I feel so confident that Bundles will go on.”