Local family turns hobbies, passion into big results

Contributed photo
Bob Polzine and Jon Tamke, members of the Birak Area Shrine Club (Otter Tail Lakes Area), made a presentation at the Shriners Children’s Clinic in Woodbury, Minn. a few years ago. Bob, left, displayed the assortment of Christmas bags that were sewn by his wife Jeanette, who is a member of the Birak Ladies Auxiliary. She made 53 of the bags, along with 38 fleece blankets, all which were donated to the Woodbury clinic. The Christmas bags were filled with toys for the patients who visit the clinic.

By Chad Koenen


A scholarship reception for one of their children has turned into a passion of giving to the Shriners organization for one local family.

Bob and Jeanette Polzine, of Henning, have been instrumental in promoting the Shriners organization at community events throughout the region over the past two decades. Bob originally got involved in the organization after one of their children received a Shriners scholarship. The scholarship came with an invitation to attend a scholarship reception and Bob quickly found a tug to get involved in the organization that focuses on providing quality medical care to those in need.

Contributed photo
Bags and blankets created by Jeanette Polzine and other auxiliary members of the Shriners are donated to children during the holidays.

Of course the Shriners have also become known for racing everything from mini vehicles to 4-wheelers through parades in the region for generations—something Bob said he always found interesting at parades. 

“Daryl Richter and I saw them running around in those little cars and I said how do you get involved with that,” said Bob.

Fast forward another 18-20 years and Bob has become a staple at summer parades and community functions with the little yellow Shriner cars for the Brak Kar Kor. In a typical year, Bob participates in anywhere from 20-25 parades throughout the region. The Birak Kar Kor helps to bring awareness to the Shriners and their various causes in the area.

“Inevitably after just about every parade someone says they have a son, daughter or someone else they know that went to a Shriner Hospital,” said Bob. 

The local Shriner organization is part of a region that includes several states and Canadian provinces. The organization recently opened a new clinic in Woodbury, Minn., which serves patients from across the region. 

The Shriners Children’s Twin Cities has physicians and staff who can provide top level care for children with orthopedic conditions and are equipped to perform specialized plastic surgery for select conditions. The clinic is a regional leader in pediatric orthopedics and is committed to providing access to children and families who require specialized pediatric care. Among the specialty care at Shriners Children’s Twin Cities is care for orthopedics, cerebral palsy, clubfoot/club feet, sports medicine, limb deficiencies, spine and spinal cord, plastic surgery, pediatric rehabilitation and therapy, rheumatoid, and a number of other specialties and care options. 

The hospitals admit children free of charge, and are funded entirely through the Shriners.

Operating the clinic is only part of the story for local Shriners, as many of them volunteer to bring people in need to the facilities. For example, pairs of Shriners will provide a ride to a person in need to Woodbury for their appointment and also bring them back to their home. 

Jeanette has also gotten involved with the Shriners organization by creating custom bags that are donated to the Shriner clinic and hospital. The bags include everything from a fleece blanket, mittens, scarves, toys and more. The bags are assembled locally and given to children and their siblings as a way to make a difficult situation a bit easier in a healthcare setting.

Not only has the bags provided a way for Jeanette to give back to others in need, but it also provides her a way to fuel her sewing hobby. In the past she has created as many as 35 bags for the Shriners in a year. Since many of the bags given away around the holidays, Jeanette said people will be on the lookout for fleece materials at their home or for sales at local stores. 

“It’s been nice. People know I make them and they will call me up and say I have Christmas materials, can you use it,” she said. 

The Polzines have turned their passion for helping the Shriners into a family affair as they have even gotten their grandchildren involved. Some of their grandchildren have encouraged their neighbors to collect pop tabs that can be donated to the Shriners as a way to pay it forward for people in need.

“It’s a way to get them involved,” said Jeanette. 

In addition to collecting pop tabs, Jeanette has enlisted the help of her grandchildren to put together the bags for children at the Shriners hospital and clinic. The grandchildren can help to pick out the items for the bags and have even created a few items to include in the bags as well.

“That’s another project we can do with the grandkids too. It’s a way to include them,” she said.

The  Corner Stone Lodge #99 Shriners, of which Bob is a member, meets in Underwood at a new lodge that it recently dedicated. The  Fergus Falls Masonic Building Corporation purchased the former community center in Underwood earlier this year, and renovated it into a lodge meeting area together with a library and conference meeting room.

For more information about the Shriners organizations, visit them online at www.shrinersinternational.org or contact any member of the local Shriners Club to find out how to be a member or for more information about the club as a whole.