A life of passion and purpose noted by Chatauqua circle
When God was creating Darlene, he must have been distracted and put in an extra cup or two of sunshine. It is really a pleasure to know her.”
Those words were taken from Blue Earth’s Mitchell Chautauqua Circle Woman of Achievement nomination letter which earned Darlene Hilpipre’s title of the 2018 Woman of Achievement. It was written by Marlene Hanson, a retired Blue Earth Area teacher and active community member.
“It was an arduous decision, but the way Marlene wrote her nomination letter, and now, after meeting Darlene, it is very clear that this woman is certainly a Woman of Achievement,” says Elloyece Queensland, a member of the local Mitchell Chautauqua Circle.
Every year, the local Blue Earth chapter of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle requests nominations from the community regarding the title of Woman of Achievement.
The 126-year-old national group was first created by a Methodist school teacher who started a group for women who were unable to attend college on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in New York.
The local Blue Earth chapter, the Mitchell Chatauqua Circle, named after Julia Mitchell, the wife of a new Presbyterian pastor in Blue Earth back in 1883, has chosen a Woman of Achievement annually around this time of year from the nominations they have received from the community.
To earn the title, this woman must be from the Blue Earth area and is active in serving their community, and Darlene Hilpipre fits that bill like a glove.
Hilpipre grew up on a farm near Granada, where she first found her love of animals, and took her first lessons in responsibility on her family’s farm.
“We were always needed in our family,” says Hilpipre. “I hope the importance of that lesson was passed down to my family. Everyone is important in getting things done. The more hands to do the work, the faster it gets done.”
Daughter of Ernest and Wilhelmine Janssen, Darlene credits her character to her parents’ example in how she was raised. Chores were completed with a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. This is what Darlene hopes she has instilled in her three children, Jessica Engman, Thomas Hilpipre, and Angela Hilpipre, as well as her five grandchildren.
Hilpipre also has a husband by the name of Dennis whom she says has made a vastly deep impact on her life over their years together. The two have raised their family and enjoy creating memorable moments for their grandchildren as birthday gifts.
“We don’t buy them stuff, they have enough stuff. We like to take them on trips and adventures and do something different,” says Hilpipre. “Something that can create a memory that can stick with them forever.”
When Hilpipre is not enjoying time with her family, she is working as the health coordinator for the four special needs adult care homes in Faribault County under the ELM?Homes umbrella of over 60 homes in 13 Minnesota counties which serve and empower individuals with developmental disabilities. She also serves as a house supervisor some weekends.
Hilpipre has been with the ELM Homes group for 23 years. She actually began her work at the Assisi Residences in the 1980s, and as the Assisi Residences faced an uncertain future, Eugene Miller noticed Hilpipre’s hard work and hired her after the Assisi Residences closed.
In the past, Hilpipre has also worked with friends and neighbors at many local establishments including the Minn-Iowa Golf Course, United Hospital, Bevcomm, and Ron’s Electric.
But it is her care and compassion she puts into the work at ELM?Homes that has helped Hilpipre stand out from the crowd. Besides doing her required duties, she has always gone above and beyond with the residents she works with.
From organizing Relay for Life teams, to creating a fundraising dance party and giving residents opportunities to be a part of their community by helping with the community board on 7th Street and helping with Meals on Wheels, Hilpipre makes sure her residents have all the same opportunities to interact with their community.
“If there is one thing I have learned while working with these amazing people, it is that I have been able to see through their eyes and their world is totally different,” she says. “They take the time to stop and smell the roses. They give you that pause you sometimes need in your life. They have also taught me that I can laugh at myself they let those barriers down. They become family.”
Hilpipre says she uses acceptance, love, and openness everyday at her job.
“When you think of the fear that comes with wanting to try or being embarrassed about something, it is not there with them. And if they are willing to be fearless, so am I.”
In the nomination letter for Hilpipre, writer Hanson talks of a time when Hilpipre went above and beyond her purpose.
“She makes more life activities possible for women and men with disabilities,” the nomination letter reads. “Last spring, my daughter, Natalie, was getting married in Rochester. I wanted my older daughter, Katie, to be there for the festivities but knew it would be challenging for me as my older daughter has a seizure disorder and needs 24/7 supervision. Darlene and?I talked about this. Natalie and her fiancee Zac invited Katie and her two housemates to the wedding.
“Darlene brought them all to Rochester. Darlene got Katie to the church for family pictures. They all enjoyed the wedding, the meal, and the dance. They stayed overnight in a motel and did much better with the fire alarm at 1 a.m. than a lot of others did. Darlene’s can-do attitude, along with her good sense of humor, makes her so much fun to be with.
“The folks know her and trust her and love her. When one visits with her, one gets a deep sense of joy and purpose and learning Darlene finds in her calling. Her job to her is more than a job, it is a calling.”
And Hilpipre agrees with the letter. She says her residents are not just residents, but they, too, are her family.
Even her dog, Beesley, comes with Hilpipre to work and enjoys the company which surrounds them.
To the nomination and eventual acclaimed title of Woman of Achievement, Hilpipre’s words are candid and compassionate.
“I am honored, really,” she says with a smile. “I honestly thought it was an April Fool’s joke. I was up in the cities taking care of my grandchild and I just couldn’t believe it. I am blown away. Thank you.”
Though many thanks may be said by Hilpipre, there are many more thanks said to her from the community around her.
A luncheon program will be held to honor Hilpipre on May 1, at noon in the Trinity Lutheran Church dining room. Lisa, of Amboy Cottage Cafe, will cater the meal while Mike Ellingsen will provide entertainment.
Reservations can be made by sending cash or a check in the amount of $17 to Mitchel Chautauqua and mailed to Elloyce Queensland at 315 N. Linton Street, Blue Earth, MN, 56013.