published Sunday, Aug. 25,1996
BUHL DAY HONOREES
Immigrant's community spirit is way she repays those who helped her
Austra Blaus biography at a glance
By Jennifer Hall
Herald Staff Writer
Growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, Austra Blaus was given the chance to be independent and make something of herself.
The Latvian immigrant learned through working at a clinic in town that she loved working with people. And 46 years later, Mrs. Blaus still loves to work with people and loves to be able to give something to the community.
Austra Blaus prepares to log more miles at the Meals-on-Wheels program, where she has been a volunteer since 1977. (Gene Paulson/Herald)
"I feel like I'm paying back the lady that sponsored me to the United States," she said.
"Everyone helped me so I felt that I needed to help someone."
The 1996 Buhl Day honoree is being recognized for her extensive involvement in the Shenango Valley. But she has never thought she would named an honoree.
"I really don't believe that I've done that much," the 63-year-old Hermitage woman said. "There are people a lot more involved and more visible than I am. Even when I was told I was an honoree I didn't believe it."
Mrs. Blaus moved with her husband and four children to the Shenango Valley when her husband, Osvalds "Ed," was stationed at the Farrell Army Reserves center after the Vietnam War.
She has been with the Meals-on-Wheels program since 1977, which means she's put on "a lot of miles" delivering the meals.
"I feel that people do need especially Meals-on-Wheels to be self sufficient and to be at home," she said.
And for about 13 years she has also headed the food pantry at Christ Lutheran Church in Sharon. She orders, stocks and hands out the food for the pantry.
Mrs. Blaus has even been know to venture out in below-zero temperatures to pick up "a truck load plus a car" of potatoes. Giant Eagle in Hermitage wanted to donate them to the pantry.
"We felt like we could use the potatoes," she said. "We shared them with Meals-on-Wheels and used them for six weeks."
Another outreach for Mrs. Blaus includes her own family whom she located as talk of independence from Russia surfaced for Latvia.
After locating her family in Latvia and helping members regain the family land from the Russian government, Mrs. Blaus sends items to her nephew's family that they cannot get in the depressed country.
But Mrs. Blaus' activism stretches beyond the realm of charity work. She said her dedication to maintaining farmlands and scenic beauty in Hermitage came through as she joined with neighbors to keep a shopping center from being built at the former Westinghouse Park.
In 1987, she became actively involved in Hermitage Residents Working Together and has attended "countless" meetings in an effort to maintain the tranquillity of her neighborhood.
"They are tearing up too much of the farmland," she said. "In Sharon and Sharpsville, there's no room to expand but in Hermitage there is. But they need to be limiting some of those areas."
Mrs. Blaus said she never saw herself in the center of the long political fight, just as she did not see herself as an honoree. On a smaller scale, Mrs. Blaus compared it to the limelight in which Joanne Kemp now finds herself. Mrs. Kemp is the wife of Republican
vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp.
"In a way I feel uneasy," Mrs. Blaus said about the honor. "I'm not seeking any notority."
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Updated August 29, 1996