RED WING, Minn. -- Before Sheila Arimond joined the community CARE Clinic as volunteer dental coordinator, her only experience in the field was pulling teeth out of black bears in northern Minnesota.

When Arimond was named the clinic’s inaugural volunteer of the year last month, clinic President Julie Malyon said the organization came up with a perfectly grin-inducing name for the honor: the Sheila Arimond CARE-ing Bear Award.

The award, presented Nov. 14 on the national Give to the Max Day fundraising drive for nonprofits and schools, came complete with a metal bear statue by local artist Kevin Riester.

Sheila Arimond was recently named Red Wing CARE Clinic’s inaugural volunteer of the year in recognition of her 3,600-plus volunteer hours as dental coordinator. Submitted photo
Sheila Arimond was recently named Red Wing CARE Clinic’s inaugural volunteer of the year in recognition of her 3,600-plus volunteer hours as dental coordinator. Submitted photo

“It was a total surprise,” Arimond said of the award, adding it was equal parts heartwarming and embarrassing.

“It was embarrassing just because the CARE Clinic is such an incredible team effort,” she said. “And I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

Arimond has volunteered around 3,600 hours at the clinic since coming aboard three and a half years ago, according to Malyon. She is credited with sustaining the clinic’s dental offerings and leading a recent program expansion.

“The impact of Sheila’s program coordination has benefited thousands of community members,” Malyon said in an email.

The clinic’s Operations Committee will select a new CARE-ing Bear recipient each year.

By way of Hibbing

Arimond’s background is in wildlife biology. Her master’s degree studies in the 1970s included tracking black bears to winter dens using radio collars, then being lowered down to care for the tranquilized animals.

Her nonprofit experience came years later in Hibbing, Minn., where she and her husband, pediatrician Dr. Joel Cassingham, lived for 25 years. The community started a free clinic about a decade ago, and Arimond said she got involved early on, gaining experience working with volunteers and coordinating programming.

After her husband’s job change brought the couple to Red Wing, Arimond said volunteering with CARE Clinic was a way to get involved with the local community.

“Since coming here we have been so, so impressed with the community spirit in Red Wing,” she said. “It’s just phenomenal.”

CARE Clinic — short for “Community by improving health care access, connecting people to resources, and promoting health education” — provides medical, dental and mental health services for low-income residents of Goodhue County and Lake City. It is operated out of the Mayo Clinic Health System Seminary Professional Building, 906 College Ave.

Volunteers are always needed at the clinic, especially those who are bilingual, as well donations, Arimond said. More information can be found online at http://careclinicrw.com.

“We’ll match your gift and your skills, and teach you some new ones,” she said.