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Woodring new Interfaith Caregiver director

By Staff | Jun 7, 2010

Dan Woodring

God works in mysterious ways.

Dan Woodring, the newly named director of Interfaith Caregivers – Faith in Action in Faribault County, can certainly attest to this.

Beginning with his mother’s move to the Maplewood Residence in Fairmont, the Michigan-based Woodring was faced with some decisions. One involved what to do with his mother’s vacated home.

“My mother has lived in Fairmont for the past 10 years,” says Woodring. “Our family always enjoyed this area when we came for visits. Since nothing was holding us in Michigan, we decided in early February to make the move to her and my step-father’s home.”

Sounds simple enough until you weigh in a couple factors…namely, moving nine children (ages 2 1/2 months to 18 years) who are home-schooled, and finding a job to support a family this size.

What resulted was a journey undertaken totally out of faith. Woodring didn’t know whether he would be working at a chain store or if he could find work at all. But he told himself, “the Lord always provides.”

“I began reading newspapers from the area as well as doing job searches on the internet,” says Woodring of his quest for employment. While he and his wife, Jinger, were in the process of moving a few of their possessions to Fairmont, he learned of the job opening at Interfaith Caregivers.

It seemed like a perfect fit to Woodring who immediately applied for the directorship position.

He began his new duties at the Blue Earth office on May 27 succeeding Helen Tesch, the agency’s former director, who retired on April 15.

Woodring brings to the job some impressive credentials and skills. The Ann Arbor native is a graduate of that community’s Concordia College. While a student there, he concentrated on pre-seminary subjects. He earned a B.A. degree with majors in humanities and classical languages (Latin, Hebrew and Greek).

He then attended Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. where he earned his Master of Divinity.

For the next 12 years, he served as a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor. His most recent stint as a pastor was four years at two parishes near Parkers Prairie in the community of Miltona. Prior to this, Woodring served a number of parishes including one at New Buffalo. Among his responsibilities were serving as a youth pastor at three different parishes; acting as the executive director for the youth organization, ‘Higher Things’, for six years; and visiting shut-ins for two years while he was pastoring two parishes.

In a sense, he is also a published author. Prior to its release in 2006, he was on the hymnal committee for the Missouri Synod. His focus, since he has always had an interest in the liturgy, was to help select the Psalms appointed to each Sunday and the lessons to be read. These were then incorporated into the hymnal, “New Service Book,” utilized by Missouri Synod churches today.

He says he got his “calling” early in life.

“Even from the time I was in high school, I felt God was directing me,” says Woodring who first considered being a missionary. “I decided to get ordained and see what developed. I took my first calls and liked it, but wanted to do more than oversee committees. I wanted to serve and help people in their relationship with Christ.”

It was at this time, after 12 years in ministry, he decided to leave the Lutheran church and his parish work.

“I was looking for the next thing for awhile,” confesses Woodring.

So, for a time, he became involved with the national organization, ‘Lutheran for Life,’ where he helped conduct local meetings and educational programs.

“I wanted to get more involved in the pro-life movement,” explains Woodring. “‘Lutherans for Life’ was a good vehicle for this.”

It was also at this time that the former Missouri Synod pastor realized he held a lot of common beliefs with the Catholic Church. As a result, he converted to Catholicism two years ago.

“I’m realizing as a former protestant and now a Catholic, I can blend things,” says Woodring. This will undoubtedly come in handy in his new position at Interfaith Caregivers.

“I was very excited to apply for this position,” says Woodring. “I knew I wanted to work with volunteers. I wanted to help others while also providing a service to the volunteers. I want to be part of a team that really cares for people and wants to make a difference in their communities.”

Already, Woodring says he has been impressed with the volunteers and staff members he has met. Eventually, he hopes to meet all 140 volunteers who comprise the Interfaith Caregiving team. Helping him transition to his new role are fellow staffers Cami Hafner, Project Rose Coordinator, and Merry McGowen, caregiver consultant.

Woodring is undergoing a crash course in familiarizing himself with what the job of director entails for Interfaith Caregivers – Faith in Action. Although he had never heard of the organization before he saw the job posting, he has learned it supplies non-medical, volunteer-based support to seniors. Among the services it provides are visits; transportation; assistance with shopping; respite care and educational program offerings.

“There are a lot of challenges in leading an organization that depends on volunteers,” says Woodring. “This is because a lot of people are reluctant to get involved. I really want to encourage people to get out there and help others. There are a lot of volunteer opportunities in this community and most people don’t realize how rewarding it is to volunteer. Research shows that people who volunteer enjoy better health and are more likely to claim they are ‘very satisfied’ with their own lives.”

In the past, Woodring has had extensive experience working with senior citizens and visiting the homebound. It is one of his strong points and something he has always enjoyed doing. These are also two areas Interfaith focuses on.

He says one of his major goals, as the new director, will be to network with area business owners, community and clergy.

“We’re here to be happy (what the soul is to the body),” he says. “Kindness and virtue…doing for others…is what makes us happy. The volunteers at Interfaith are super heroes and I am excited to work with them. We all have a mutual challenge to be better and we can achieve this by doing for others.”

To read more of this story, please see this week’s Register.