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Hastings foundation to be represented at Points of Light Conference

Paul Langenfeld, founder of the Langenfeld Foundation. Submitted photo

The founder of the Langenfeld Foundation, Paul Langenfeld, has been chosen to speak at the Points of Light National Conference in St. Paul in June.

The Points of Light organization was started by President George H.W. Bush to recognize volunteers across the nation who are making a difference in their communities.

"The Langenfeld Foundation does all the wonderful things because of the generous volunteers we have. This Points of Light Conference is the opportunity to talk about them. It is a time to tell the world why our volunteers are great and how they are able to make real and tangible change in our society," Langenfeld said.

The Langenfeld Foundation was presented with a Point of Light Award in March 2018 for its disaster relief work after Hurricane Harvey hit the southern U.S. in 2017.

For 10 days, the Langenfeld Foundation set up a dozen storage pods at local supporting establishments to collect supplies for those affected. All the supplies were put in a semi-trailer and driven to Houston.

The Hastings Star Gazette spoke with Langenfeld about the award and his organization. Some answers have been edited for length.

What does it mean to you, for your organization to receive this award?

Being chosen as a Point of Light Award recipient is such a profound honor, I can hardly find words to describe it. Especially because it comes from President George H.W. Bush, a great president and someone I have admired all my life.

Recently, our nation mourned his death and honored, highlighting his Thousand Points of Light speech given at his inauguration in 1989. I remember watching that inauguration address on television, and hearing of the Thousand Points of Light. Now, to have been selected as one of them is very humbling in the deepest sense of the word.

In receiving the Point of Light Award I feel a very personal connection with President Bush and to our country. This award is the nation's highest civilian honor for volunteer service. It is an affirmation of the charity work I have been involved with since about age 7, which ultimately led to my creation of The Langenfeld Foundation in 2006. Our reception of this award makes everyone feel recognized for their service and valued by our nation at the highest level. The Langenfeld Foundation has been blessed with several awards over the years but this one is very special — this is a national award. The Point of Light Award is without a doubt the top award we will ever receive.

The Point of Light Award has already made a difference and opened doors for The Langenfeld Foundation; meaning, it has taken us to the next level.

How did you choose your mission statement? Why is it important to you?

The Langenfeld Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization now in our 13th year. We are making a real difference in the Twin Cities, supporting people with special needs and disabled veterans. The Langenfeld Foundation tagline is "Opening Hearts — Opening Opportunities."

This is our mission in a nutshell, we want to affect society to be more aware and loving toward people with special needs and disabled veterans. When that happens, we can expect many people opening opportunities in many different ways.

This mission is important to me personally because my father was a veteran of World War II, and my mother lived a life with epilepsy. When I created The Langenfeld Foundation in 2006, I named it in honor of my parents: Tony and Elizabeth Langenfeld of Hastings.

I knew firsthand that people with disabilities could do amazing things, all they need is the opportunity. In the Langenfeld Foundation, sometimes our modus operandi is to organize activities and wait for something remarkable to happen.

What type of programs does the foundation put on?

The Langenfeld Foundation has a handful of core programs running every week all year round. There are a couple bowling leagues, both integrated and just for people with special needs. These programs give folks with disabilities a regular routine of outings in the community, socializing, recreation and just plain old fun. It gives them something to look forward to week after week, as well.They know there will be another chance to be with friends and improve their bowling game.

We saw this first hand when Shawn (a 35-year-old with autism and whose father is a veteran) bowled a 268 score. He had a perfect game into the ninth frame. When I asked Shawn to tell me his secret, he said, "Consistency. Consistency. Consistency."

The Langenfeld Foundation sees exercise and healthy living as very important to experiencing a better quality of life. To this end, we conduct personal training programs every week, at the YMCA in New Hope. Everyone has a supervising trainer who guides them through cardio, resistance, stretching and charting their body weight.

One of our trainees is Joel, a 38-year-old living with epilepsy. A year ago, he set a goal of getting strong enough to squat his own body weight, 186 pounds for 10 repetitions. He achieved that fairly quickly and then started slowly lifting heavier over the weeks and months. He increased his strength enough to squat 200 pounds, and eventually 250. About a month ago, Joel squated 300 pounds for 10 repetitions. As Joel has worked out with us for more than a decade, not only is he physically stronger but his self-image and self-confidence have certainly benefited.

In addition to the activity programs, The Langenfeld Foundation produces a TV program: "No Greater Love." The 30-minute show is broadcast every week to 600,000 cable subscribers throughout the seven-county metro area Wednesday nights on MCN6. It can be viewed as well on The Langenfeld Foundation's YouTube channel.

We are mass communicating the message of love for the benefit of others. The Langenfeld Foundation believes that love can do all things, and people with special needs and disabled veterans will experience a better quality of life because of the love given and received through others. You will also find short videos from many of our programs and outings. You will get to see some of our volunteers in action as well.