by Dennis Dalman
St. Joseph is the safest city in Minnesota – at least it is in so far as SaveStations.
That fact was announced on a warm July 12 morning when St. Joseph resident Audrey Twit was honored for donating $11,000 for four SaveStations in St. Joseph. The presentation took place outside the St. Joseph Government Center.
SaveStations are outdoor cabinets where automatic external defibrillator machines are kept so anyone in an emergency can have ready access to them.
An AED is a small, portable machine that delivers an electrical shock to a person who has been stricken by sudden cardiac arrest. That happens when the electrical system in the heart goes haywire and suddenly stops the heart from pumping. Death is certain within 10 minutes, at most, unless cardiopulmonary resuscitation is administered and/or a defibrillator is used. Each AED gives voice prompts about how to use it. Each year, about 350,000 people die of sudden cardiac arrest in the nation. Three-fourths of people who are defibrillated with an AED survive cardiac arrest.
Audrey Twit’s husband died Dec. 30, 2018. About a month ago, St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens, who is a friend of Audrey’s, was talking about how the City Council plans to order and have installed in the city some SaveStations. Just then, Twit had an inspiring thought. She told Weyrens she would like to donate money for four SaveStations in memory of her husband, who was a local pharmacist, member of the St. Joseph Fire and Rescue team and a City Council member.
Each of the SaveStations in St. Joseph will have a bronze plaque attached in memory of Twit. The plaque reads as such:
“Donated in memory of Kenneth H. Twit
Loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
Ken passionately shared his knowledge, time and skill as a community pharmacist, volunteer for St. Joseph Fire and Rescue and member of the St. Joseph City Council. He was also known personally as a friend, mentor and family man.
Ken is remembered for his generosity, wit and love.
A life well lived is a beautiful legacy.”
At the July 12 presentation, Twit was surrounded by family members, relatives and friends. The two presenters were Rich Feneis of Sartell and Joel Vogel of St. Joseph, who is a member of the Mending Heart organization. Those two men got the ball rolling, researching, organizing and raising funds some months ago to have three SaveStations (the first ones in the state) installed locally – one in Sartell, two in St. Cloud. They thanked Twit for her generous gift and for helping raise awareness for SaveStations. Then Vogel demonstrated how the AED machines work in conjunction with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Feneis said it’s astounding how quickly word of this area’s SaveStations is spreading. People in Albany, Melrose, Holdingford and Foley are now planning to have some installed, and more are expected for Sartell. Stearns County Sheriff Steve Soyka, who was at the presentation, is a strong promoter of SaveStations, as is St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schulz, who was also in attendance. On her last day of her job before retirement, City Administrator Weyrens looked on, smiling and applauding as her friend, Audrey, was honored.
Another attendee was Sharon Metzer, program manager for Take Heart, a CentraCare program that promotes CPR and heart health, as well as SaveStations. CentraCare has a grant program to help cities buy the stations.
Vogel and Feneis remain overwhelmed by the growing support they and others have received for the SaveStations: Lions clubs, churches, city councils, scouting groups, the Greater St. Cloud Safety Foundation, CentraCare and individuals like Twit and like Betty Pundsack, a longtime St. Joseph teacher. Supporters are working to raise money to install many more of the stations in St. Joseph.
And the support keeps growing. Right after the July 12 presentation ceremony, a man from Fargo who was a friend of the late Ken Twit approached Feneis for some quick advice on how to get SaveStations for Fargo.
In St. Joseph, the SaveStations purchased will be installed at the following locations:
The Wobegon Trailhead at 605 First Ave. NE.
The Lift Station at 612 Baker St. E.
The Fire Hall at 323 Fourth Ave. NE.
The Government Center at 75 Callaway St. E.
A fifth one will be installed at Well House 24 at Third Avenue NW.