"Stevens County was established on February 20, 1862. It is named after statesman Isaac Ingalls Stevens, who had this county named for him seven years after a legislative clerical error denied him that honor in 1855 for Stearns County.
A Board of five elected County Commissioners, represents the citizens of the county as its governing body. This central governing authority is responsible for the plans and functions of all Stevens County Departments. The 2000 population of Stevens County was 10,053.
Other entities located within the Courthouse are the courtrooms, judges chambers and administrative staff of the Stevens County District Court. While housed here, it is a unit funded completely by the State of Minnesota and is part of the 8th Judicial District Court. "-from Stevens County Official Site
Alberta, Minnesota Road Trip
"Driving through the town of Alberta (Stevens County), Minnesota on August 16th of 2008. I was listening to the local Christian radio station KCGN Praise FM (101.5 FM). The song was I Would Die for You (see music video) from Mercy Me."
"Pictures during a summer sun set in June 2011 after a friend's wedding at the farm"
Driving through Chokio, Minnesota
"Driving through the town of Chokio (Stevens County), Minnesota on September 27th of 2008 "
Chokio Community Picnic this weekend, from chokioreview.com "The 73rd annual Chokio Community Picnic will be held this weekend. A variety of funfilled events have been scheduled by the annual host of the event, the Chokio Community Club.
Several new events have been planned for this year's Chokio Community Picnic, and many of the traditional, stand-by events will again be held.
Friday , June 12
The picnic gets underway Friday with the second annual Find Mary contest. Last year Little Mary was hidden in a public place in Chokio and clues were posted as to her whereabouts. Little Mary was found after the first clue was posted. This year’s contest clues promise to be a bit more difficult.
Hunters will be looking for Mary Faith (NOT THE REAL ONE). A Mary replica has been created. No one's telling what she looks like or how big she is. Mary was hidden in a public place somewhere in Chokio. (Don't ask any club members for clues. An impartial person from another town hid Mary and wrote the clues.)
Clues will be posted in the Chokio Review window. Where Mary is hiding can be deduced from the clues. The first (and most difficult clue) will be posted Friday, June 12, at 4 p.m. Subsequent clues will be posted on Saturday, June 13, at 9 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
When Mary is found, find Sue Westerman or call 324-7438 or 320-808-7315. Mary's location and the winner of the contest will be posted in the Chokio Review window.
The annual Kid's Pedal Tractor Pull begins at 6 p.m. on the tennis court. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. The event is open to children ages 4-11. All tractors and equipment are furnished. Prizes are awarded in each age category. For further information, contact Bruce or Kris Quackenbush, 324-7337.
Coyote action will take place on the baseball diamond beginning at 7 p.m. The Coyote Town Team will play Dumont. Across the street on the softball diamond, the Foxy Ladies softball team will play New Effington at 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, June 13
Saturday's fun begins with the Prairie Pursuit 5K Walk/Run, a new/old event at this year's picnic. For several years, the community picnic hosted a walk/run, but that event fell by the wayside until it was recently resurrected by Madella Thorstad. Registration begins at 7 a.m. at the Westside Park in Chokio. The Pursuit begins promptly at 8 a.m. There is a registration fee of $10, or $20 if the participant would like a Prairie Pursuit T-shirt. All profits from the Pursuit will be donated to the Chokio First Responder Team.
All shapes, sizes and ages are invited to join in the Pursuit. Medals will be presented to first and second place walkers and runners at noon in the Westside Park. For more information, contact Madella at 324-2522.
A co-ed Duck Soup softball tournament, hosted by the Foxy Ladies, will begin at 9 a.m. at the ball field.
Kids' games will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the football field and will continue until about 11:30 a.m. Don't miss out on the free noon barbecue, serving pork and beef that will be slow-roasted all of Friday evening. The noon picnic is held in the Westside Park.
Parade registration for units in the annual Chokio Community Picnic Parade is from 1:30-2:15 p.m., and for the Kiddie Parade, 1:45-2:15 p.m. at the New Horizons parking lot on the north end of Main Street. The Kiddie Parade begins at 2:30 p.m., followed by the main parade. This year's Kiddie Parade theme is "Favorite Childhood Toy."
The Community Club is sponsoring a new event immediately following the parade. A Rubber Duckie Relay will be held in the lot next to SJJK Plumbing on Main Street. Hang around following the parade to see some hilarious action!
From 4-6 p.m, a free swim sponsored by Tri-County Co-op will be held at the local swimming pool.
And, for the grand finale, the free annual Community Picnic Street Dance will begin at 9 p.m. Music this year is provided by "Sound Force."
Raffle drawings will be held throughout the evening. Two $100 prizes, two $50 prizes and two $25 prizes will be awarded. You need not be present to win.
Tickets for the drawings are the raffle tickets local folks have been purchasing from Mary Faith this past few weeks. Mary once again outdid herself. She set a record last year by selling 216 books. Each book had 11 tickets. The price was $1 per ticket, or ten dollars a book.
This year, Mary sold 332 books. Imagine that! That means there will be at least 3,600 tickets in this year's raffle drawings. That also means that Mary raised, all by her lonesome, at least $3,600 for this year's Community Picnic. Mary, with her incredible sales technique, has raised enough money to purchase all the beef and pork for the noon lunch, plus pay for the most of the contest prize money handed out at the kid's games, parade, and Pedal Tractor Pull.
No wonder she's been dubbed Chokio's Ambassador. No wonder she's called Princess Mary. Heck, we think she should promoted to Queen Mary! Give her a big pat on the back when you see her at the Picnic this weekend. She deserves it!
"..has been serving the community for nearly 111 years, one of the oldest surviving businesses in Chokio. The first issue of the newspaper, then called The Chokio Times, hit the street on Wednesday, February 17, 1897..."
Aultman Taylor Tractor at Donnelly Threshing Bee Part 1
"Trying to start an Aultman Taylor tractor at the Donnelly, MN threshing bee, 2008."
Driving through Hancock, Minnesota
"Driving through Hancock (Stevens County), Minnesota on September 6th of 2008 "
Events: Hancock’s traditional 4th of July events are day earlier this year, Published June 25 2010 morrissuntribune.com
'Hooray for the Red, White and Blue' is theme of 2010 festivities "...
The Hancock Lions are once again preparing for the 4th of July celebration, but this year the events will be a day earlier.
Most of this year’s 4th of July events will be on Saturday, July 3.
The Lions are encouraging parade participants to decorate using the red, white and blue colors along with flags to go with this year’s theme, “Hooray for the Red, White and Blue.”
There will be some special music events on Friday evening. At Inn Like Flinn’s, Kim Wolf DJ will play music from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Buddies Bar and Grill will also have music featuring Joy Ride‚ from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m..
Events on the Fourth will start at 7 a.m. with the Firemen Relief Association annual pancake breakfast at the Hancock Community Center. Serving ends at 9:30 a.m.
While they are serving up the food, the Lions Club members will be rounding up the runners and walkers for the 5K Run/Walk around Page Lake. Registration for the event will begin at 7:30 a.m. with the race starting at 8 a.m. Contact Troy Hausman at (320) 392-5825 to register. Prizes will be awarded in several age categories.
Another traditional event, the Little League All-Star Game, will begin at 10 a.m. at the Little League field near the school.
During the game and several of the other events, the Hancock Lions Club will have its popcorn wagon open for business. Profits from these sales help defray the cost of the celebration.
At about noon an extended food court will be set up at the Water Tower Park. The West Central Cattlemen and Horton 4-H will be grilling, and Buddies will also have a booth. Ice cream treats will be available in front of the Congregational Church. Thrivent will also have an ice cream stand.
Children will be able to play on inflatibles set up at the Water Tower Park, with the Hancock girls basketball team providing supervision.
Also in the downtown area the annual Kiddie Parade will be organizing. Children who wish to be part of the Kiddie Parade should meet at the Water Tower Park at 12:30 p.m. The parade begins at 1 p.m. There is no need to register.
The main parade will start at 1:30 p.m. and follow the same route as in past years. Entries can be reserved by contacting Dennis Schroeder at (320) 392-5989 or Joel Flaten at (320) 392-5109.
During the parade KJH Builders will be handing out registration forms for a playhouse give-away. Entries should be turned in following the parade and finalists will be drawn after the parade. The winner will be announced following the Prairie Pioneer Days parade on July 11. Tickets are free and you need not be present to win.
Following the parade, several special events will be taking place:
•The traditional tractor pull starts at 3 p.m. near Trico.
•Bingo at the Community Center from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
•Volleyball tournament at Buddies Bar and Grill. Sign up at Buddies either before or after the parade.
•The annual hotdog eating contest at 8 p.m. at Buddies. The winner of the contest will be awarded a DVD player. Sign up at Buddies.
•Street dance at Inn Like Flinn’s, featuring the music of “Electric Almighty‚” from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
• Rounding out the day will be the traditional Hancock fireworks at dusk at the ball park.
"Touring the town of Morris, Minnesota in my Chevy Blazer ("Dive" & "It's Killing Me" by D.C. Talk in the background) in the Fall of 2001. I apologize beforehand that the video wasn't professionally done. I was videotaping while driving. Let me know if you would like to team-up together to do a better video of our cool rural college town. Remember what you see in this video was 7 years ago, so "Main Street" has changed a lot! How can we work together to better our community? "
'Destiny Drivers' designed to get county moving on fulfilling future
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Wednesday, October 15, 2008 "..After 10 months of planning, Stevens FORWARD! stewards released a list of 14 projects that they believe will make the county a better place to live and do business in the future..." Stevens Forward poised to lead area into future
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Wednesday, February 06, 2008 By Tom Larson "Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said during a stop in Minnesota over the weekend that politics are about people sharing goals and getting things done.
Those involved in the fledgling Stevens County Stewardship Initiative want to
achieve those same ends. And while politicians seem to lose that communal spirit once off the campaign trail, the stewardship group wants to create a lasting legacy of common ambitions and sustained hard work throughout the county.
"These can be some life-changing kinds of things if we can do it," said stewardship committee chairman Paul Watzke.
The Stevens County Stewardship Initiative was born last summer, with the goal of calling on the county's five cities and 16 townships to come together to achieve shared aspirations, thus controlling the destiny of the county.
This fall a county steering committee recruited 20 county leaders, or "stewards," to move the initiative forward by getting communities to envision countywide goals and undertake efforts to realize them.
On Tuesday, the group gave the initiative a name - "Stevens Forward" -- Vision of a Shared Destiny for Stevens County" - and by April it intends to have a list of goals.
Stevens Forward stewards have been lending an ear to county residents and will use those ideas to formulate "destiny drivers," the actions that will bring the visions to fruition.
Stevens Forward was launched earlier this year by Stevens County commissioners Watzke and Neal Hofland. It's modeled after a successful stewardship program in Bemidji called "Bemidji Leads," a four-year-old community improvement program.
Like the Bemidji program, the Stevens County initiative will require thinking hard about where this region wants to be in 15 or 20 years and how to get there. The initial phases of Stevens Forward are expected to take two years on a budget of about $100,000. The money has been raised through contributions from the Stevens County board, cities, lending institutions and individual contributions, Watzke said.
The group has hired David Hengel of the Center for Community Stewardship in Bemidji to guide planning. Hengel was the force behind Bemidji Leads.
The Bemidji Leads initiatives are broad, ranging from getting a multi-million dollar regional events center built to planting trees.
Mary Eaton, a facilitator for the Center for Community Stewardship, said Monday that she likens the effort to John Kennedy's proclamation that the U.S. would put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s: Set a far-reaching goal and then figuring out ways to make it happen.
"It's planning from the future," she said.
The Stevens Forward goals are intended to engage more people into fulfilling their civic responsibility, then becoming energized by successes and positive changes in all communities in the county, Eaton said.
"We're going to start tapping into the dreams and values of people," she said.
Obstacles are expected. Rural communities typically have strong identities and some people harbor mistrust of the larger communities around them. There's also can be a lack of civic esteem because rural areas are losing population and opportunities.
"Dave (Hengel) says, 'How do you live large,' " Eaton said. "We heard, 'We're just Bemidji. We can't do these things.' This is about challenging ourselves and looking more at what are our visions."
The events center in Bemidji has been before voters eight times since 1992, and it has failed to pass every time, Eaton said. Stewards were not dissuaded, and bonding for the center will be under consideration by the Minnesota Legislature when it convenes next week.
Members of Stevens Forward met with stewards active in "Bemidji Leads" and found them "very candid and very committed," Watzke said, and their efforts were contagious. Over time, other people were inspired to began working on initiatives that weren't tied into "Bemidji Leads," and they'd approach stewards for advice and affirmation.
"You could sense a change in culture," Watzke said. "This is a change in culture and we hope we can have the same kind of success here."
Other communities are involved in stewardship initiatives, but Stevens Forward's efforts are the first that represent a county-wide base. Other communities such as Red Wing, Marshall, Alexandria and Appleton are considering similar initiatives.
"There are others that are watching what happens in Stevens County," Watzke said. "For our benefit, we want to succeed in a big way. For their benefit, we want to succeed in a big way."
The Stevens Forward stewards are: Watzke, McCannon, Warrenn Anderson, Brad Fehr, Greg Fynboh, Mark Gibson, Marcia Greiner, Darick Huebner, Jacquie Johnson, Jean Lesmeister, Hannah Newhouse, Sal Monteagudo, Marissa Ritter, Marilynn Stallman, Ray Suess, Glen Tomoson, Jim Thoreen, Jenny Wermerskirchen, Wayne Westerman and Ben Winchester.
For more information about the Stevens Forward initiative, contact any of the stewards or coordinator Roger McCannon at (320) 589-1692 or (320) 287-0882 or e-mail him at email@example.com."
-CAMPUS Stevens Forward!
There's a revitalization afoot in Stevens County
Issue date: 2/13/08 Section: Features (The Counter Weight) "Every organization or institution strives for a sense of identity, as many individuals within the University have been discussing this year. However, there is another entity currently seeking to define itself. This entity is Stevens County, wherein our campus is situated. Like many other sparsely populated regions in the country, our region has admittedly seen better days than the present. Many citizens are of the mindset that the community is a dying one, and that the best course of action is to get to the big cities while the getting is good.
A group of twenty-one citizens who depart from this fatalistic view form the committee of the newly named "Stevens Forward!" initiative, which was previously called the Stevens County Stewardship Initiative. Members of this committee come from the towns of Alberta, Chokio, Donnelly, Hancock, and Morris, but when they meet together, they aim to show that they are all from Stevens County. Coordinator Roger McCannon invited all the media outlets in the county to a reception on February 4th to learn more about the effort. The event was hosted by Chair Paul Watzke, Mr. McCannon, and Mary Eaton from the Center for Community Stewardship. I was excited to be invited, as I had already learned a bit about the project from Hancock School Board meetings.
Compete or Retreat
This effort began as a result of Paul Watzke's visit to the Minnesota Rural Counties Caucus, where leaders from outstate areas come together to discuss their work and their challenges. At this particular conference, Mr. Watzke learned about a program called "Bemidji Leads." This program was dedicated to a revitalization of the Bemidji area through a collective push toward specific goals called "Destiny Drivers." Mr. Watzke was impressed with the program, but he was even more motivated to do something when he attended the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission and realized that the picture the commission was presenting was not a positive one. He saw that on a broad scale it was time to "compete or retreat" as a community. He knew that Roger McCannon would be interested in taking a step for the good of the community as well, so they formed a committee discuss a revitalization program similar to Bemidji's.
Throughout the last year, a committee has been coming up with ideas, putting together a budget plan, going to possible partners and donors, and "creating the buzz" in the county about opportunities to participate. The first opportunity to participate was to join the committee of "stewards," whom their prototype pamphlet defines as "leaders who take an integrated approach and build coalitions for action, [who recognize] the interdependencies between the economy, the environment and social equity... [they] operate at the center of tough issues, not on the edges… They are people of vision." Over one hundred people from the five towns in the county expressed interest in being members of the committee, and from that list the leaders selected twenty-one individuals, including high school students, businesspeople, and members of various community entities. The University is currently represented by Chancellor Jacquie Johnson and student Jenny Wermerskirchen.
Mary Eaton stressed the point that the committee of Stevens Forward! does not take the image consultant approach that involves a firm telling a community how to change their image. Instead, this initiative must be a collective effort on the part of citizens to show what their county means to them. The Stewards have had four meetings so far, first in November for training, and once each month since then. This organization currently has a budget of $100,000, thanks to donations from banks, businesses, and some individuals, which is meant to sustain the project for the next two years.
The next task for the stewards is to determine what Destiny Drivers will bring the Stevens County community together and attract business and families to the area in the future. Examples of possible Destiny Drivers not specific to Stevens County would include the building of a community center, a push to improve students' grades in the public schools, the creation of a new county website, or a target number of new business to welcome to the area every five years. Stay posted for word of various initiatives in the near future. The stewards hope to have objectives laid out in April, two months away. The presenters were very enthusiastic, but they were also realistic when they said that every project of this kind has a beginning, a middle, a middle, and a middle.
Here's the application
Though I want you all to know about the facts that I've given you about the project, I also want you to think about what such a community organization could mean to you. First of all, the presenters stressed the fact that residents of Morris need to make an extra effort to do their part, since Morris is the biggest of the five towns and has the most businesses. Groups from Morris constantly are inundating the smaller towns advertising for business or events, but what can we actually do for our neighboring communities? Secondly, as college students and professors, our role is even more crucial and confusing. What is a college student's role in the community where he has chosen to go to school? Some college students have asked themselves this question, but many more probably have never thought about it.
The normal outlook of many college students seems to operate on the principle that college is practice for real life, so it's not worth getting involved in the community while one is in school. But you do live here at present, and any improvement in the quality of life for inhabitants of Stevens County would be an asset to you personally. For example, no matter how fun it is to drive to Alec occasionally, I'm sure no one would complain if our immediate neighborhood could attract a few more business and restaurants. The University and Stevens County are very closely tied together, though we can forget how much we depend on the surrounding area.
Learning and growth
Besides merely material benefits, being involved in the community can also contribute to improving your experience while you are here in Morris. Some of you are extremely involved, which is the source of our tagline: "A community of involvement." You may be part of MPIRG, LCM, broomball, The University Register, and your residence hall's community council. However, these things are different from Stevens Forward! In your campus groups you will gain experience working with people, organizing events, managing your time, and so many other things, but you won't necessarily gain the respect and humility or make the long-term difference that you would by taking time to get to know our "neighbors on the prairie."
It seems to me that we often forget all that we have in common with the "townies" of Morris, Chokio, Alberta, Hancock, and Donnelly. College students at UMM so easily fall prey to snobbery toward the "uneducated" yokels, but we need to remember all that we love about Morris and Stevens County. I was an Orientation Group Leader last fall, and a great exercise we did during training was to share one thing we hated and two things we loved about Morris. Most of us had a much easier time thinking of things we loved, and if you feel the same way, share those things. I expect most of the things you love will involve the people. Take the opportunity to learn a bit about your neighbors by getting more information about Stevens Forward! and contributing to the ongoing dialogue about the identity of Stevens County.
From Jenny Wermerskirchen, a Stevens County Steward
"[Since I] work at the Center for Small Towns, I sat in on meetings of the Stewardship Planning Group this summer, taking minutes and [helping out]. When the time came to choose Stewards, the necessity of having students on the board was discussed, both from the high school and from the university. I was chosen to be the representative from UMM as I[...] already knew what was going on.
I [quickly realized how well] it would fit within my duties as MCSA Vice President of Finance and Operations. As Vice President one of my committees focuses on campus relations, both with other groups on campus and with the community around us. The stewardship project seemed to deal directly with cooperation and collaboration, and with getting involved and making a difference not only for today, but the future of the community (with all of Stevens County as the community).
I am graduating in May of this year, and the stewards are looking for a new student representative from UMM. If you are interested, particularly if you are a freshman or a sophomore, we are looking for someone to get involved who truly cares about the future of this community. A position on the board of Stewards is available immediately, since it is important to get someone in there to learn the ropes before I graduate in May. "
Contact Roger McCannon at (320)-287-0882 for more information or to express interest in becoming a Stevens County Steward. The Stewards are also looking for information from students regarding what they will be looking for in a community after graduation and why they might consider staying in Stevens County after graduation. Call Roger McCannon or e-mail The CW at firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in this discussion. Stay tuned for more updates!
Steering group seeking leaders for county-wide Stewardship Initiative
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Saturday, October 06, 2007 "
The Stevens County Stewardship Initiative is calling for the county's five cities and 16 townships to come together to achieve their shared aspirations.
The Stewardship Initiative was launched earlier this year by Stevens County commissioners Paul Watzke and Neal Hofland. It's modeled after a successful stewardship program in Bemidji.
Now, a local steering group led by Watzke is recruiting 15 to 20 Stevens County leaders, or stewards to move the initiative forward. Stewards will be asked to envision countywide goals and spearhead broad-based community action to make them happen.
A steering group of local leaders is organizing a new county-wide improvement effort, called the Stevens County Stewardship Initiative. The Stewardship Initiative is now recruiting leaders, or stewards, from the county's five cities and 16 townships. Members of the steering group include: (Front, from left): Jim Thoreen, Carolyn Peterson, Jenny Wermerskirchen, Neal Hofland. (Back, from left): Roger McCannon, Tom McRoberts, Nora Jost, Michael Haynes, David Fluegel, Paul Watzke, Ray Suess. Steering group members not pictured: Brad Fehr and Blaine Hill.
A steering group of local leaders is organizing a new county-wide improvement effort, called the Stevens County Stewardship Initiative. The Stewardship Initiative is now recruiting leaders, or stewards, from the countyâ€™s five cities and 16 townships. Members of the steering group include: (Front, from left): Jim Thoreen, Carolyn Peterson, Jenny Wermerskirchen, Neal Hofland. (Back, from left): Roger McCannon, Tom McRoberts, Nora Jost, Michael Haynes, David Fluegel, Paul Watzke, Ray Suess. Steering group members not pictured: Brad Fehr and Blaine Hill.
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Organizers hope this new initiative will be just as far-reaching. It's inspired by Bemidji Leads!, a four-year-old community improvement program.
Like the Bemidji program, the Stevens County Initiative will think hard about where this region wants to be in 15 or 20 years and how to get there. Start-up is expected to take two years and cost about $100,000, Watzke says. The steering committee is now raising money and has hired David Hengel of the Center for Community Stewardship in Bemidji to guide planning.
Local communities are not being asked to set aside their individual identities or loyalties, says Morris Area Chamber of Commerce Director Carolyn Peterson of rural Hancock. Still, she says, We need to look beyond the borders of our towns. This is about the future of our county and how we can work together so we all thrive.
The time is right for the Stewardship Initiative, says steering committee co-chair Tom McRoberts, a UMM administrator" and not only because of worrisome demographic forecasts. This is also a positive moment. Today, he says, there is an opportunity to build on recent gains, such as the county's robust ethanol, agriculture and manufacturing sectors; budding renewable energy ventures; and expanding health care services.
In the end, the Stevens County Stewardship Initiative is about building a vibrant region for coming generations. We want to retain our young people, said Brad Fehr, of Riverview Farms. And as parents, we want opportunities for our kids.
Adds Ray Suess, of Morris Lumber and Millwork: I'm in this for the future of our county. It's not for me, it's for my grandkids.
For more information about the Stevens County Stewardship Initiative, or to nominate a steward, talk to a member of the steering group, or contact Roger McCannon at (320) 589-1692 or (320) 287-0882 or e-mail him at email@example.com
"It might seem that computers and other technology such as cell phones are deeply integrated in everyday life today.
But for many people, that's not the case. They are no more comfortable using modern technology than they are speaking in public.
Bridging that divide and improving social inclusion through technology is one of Stevens FORWARD!'s 14 Destiny Drivers.
The goal of the Destiny Driver is enhancing "interconnectedness by making better use of the technology already available, thus creating a "virtual community" of people who might be separated by many miles.
Kristin Lamberty is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota, Morris Computer Science Department who has studied and participated in online communities.
Through a course at Georgia Tech, Lamberty said she participated in an online community of quilters and wrote about ways people in that community interacted and shared their love of quilting.
"There was a surprising variety of activities supported by their online community," Lamberty stated. "Some activities were very linked to the quilting theme of the community (block swaps, fabric trading, quilting tips, gallery of finished projects, and questions and answers about specific quilting related topics). Some members of the community arranged for group events to happen in the real world (fabric shopping events, quilt shows, sewing retreats, and quilting classes).
"I found it particularly interesting that there was a whole discussion thread specifically listed as "off topic" that seemed to be very important to some members of the community," Lamberty stated. "It was here that people discussed all kinds of things about their lives and seemed to forge strong friendships with other quilters, (such as) bonding over major life events and sharing thoughts about everyday life as well."
Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are social networks that help enhance "interconnectedness," and provide quick sharing of information between family and friends.
Lamberty recently gave birth to her second child. She and husband, Jeff, were able to use Facebook profiles to give family, friends and even acquaintances almost immediate updates on the birth process. The Facebook updates came much more quickly and reached many more people than traditional birth announcements or even email, Lamberty said.
But there are still many obstacles to getting some Stevens County residents to trust and use the technology available to them.
Get Broadband! is a program through the Blandin Foundation which is intended to help businesses upgrade to high-speed, broadband Internet access by providing grants to pay for technical expertise.
Michael Haynes, executive director of the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, received $30,000 in grants from Blandin in 2005. He expected it would take a year to direct money to business people for upgrades. Instead, it took three years to use up the money.
"It was hard to convince some people, and I'm trying to convince people still," Haynes said. "There were all kinds of reasons -- they didn't have enough time, they didn't want to bother, they didn't see the need. Some got it right away and some didn't get it at all."
The people who shy away from using technology to its fullest run the gamut, from lawyers to retailers, Haynes said.
Getting people to become familiar and comfortable with technology in their day-to-day lives might lead them to branch out into more social uses, he said.
"It starts with the basics," Haynes said. "It starts with city and county governments."
Building permits, dog licenses, applications, bill payments for utilities and other ways people interact with governments should all be set up to be handled online. People will then feel comfortable making mortgage and other payments and transactions online, he said.
Once those hurdles have been cleared, people can take their knowledge into the business place, Haynes said.
"There are a whole variety of things people should be able to do online that they don't," he said. "There's no reason you can't sell things in Idaho from Morris."
Andy Lopez, is a retired UMM Computer Science professor who founded Info-Link in Morris. He said technology can be a vital piece in building businesses and a "virtual community."
Technology can reduce travel, immediately keep people updated on merchandise, inventory, deliveries and the goings on in the local crocheting club.
A UMM student recently worked with the Morris Senior Citizens Center to create a Web page dedicated to the schedule and events at the center. The technology can be important to people with limited mobility, such as seniors or those with disabilities, Lopez said.
"That's where the power of this is," Lopez said.
But progress has to be made with care. Technology can open up vast communities but can also create a legion of "hermits" who don't have any other social interactions, he said.
The technological networks and education also must be improved. People who are tentative about absorbing technology into their lives and then encounter problems and abuses are less likely to try again, Lopez said.
"We see the dark side so much," he said. "People are reluctant in some ways and I don't blame them."
But the future is bright, especially as technology becomes smaller and more portable, and, as such, more integrated into daily lives. Technology will become more a support to person-to-person interactions, Lamberty stated.
Technology can enhance intergenerational connections and also inter-business, interfaith, inter-neighborhood, inter-town, or inter-school connections, she said.
There have been efforts to create a "free-cycle" group locally, through which people can reach out to save things from going to landfills and help people find things they want, she stated.
"I wonder if we need to create one, new virtual community to increase our interconnectedness, or if we should be striving to help people leverage the wide variety of technological resources already available to strengthen our connections," Lamberty stated. "This particular Destiny Drive goal seems like it could impact the other goals, particularly the ones that involve drawing others to our community, since a virtual presence is much easier to share with the world."
Are you a 'Champion'?
Stevens FORWARD! stewards are seeking "Champions" -- people who want to get involved in the initiative and spearhead a Destiny Driver. For more information, visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site at www.stevensforward.org, or contact Coordinator Roger McCannon via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (320) 287-0882."
*see GoodnewsEverybody.com LA: Computers-AntiVirus, Homepages, Internet-Online, Softwares, Storage, etc...
Share Your Ideas or Feedback (e.g. Suggestions, Comments, etc..) Here
This morning (Tuesday, December 18th of 2007), the small group (Action Team #2) I'm a part of, met at the Best Northland Inn (a.k.a. Prairie Inn) on the "community's" history, demographic, and economic trends.
"Stewards have been chosen to lead projects that will help Stevens County reach long-term and short-term community development goals.
The Stevens County Stewardship Initiative is in its formative stages, with the overarching ambition of establishing and realizing county-wide goals, called "destiny drivers."
The stewards are current or potential county-wide leaders. The group includes:
Sue Dieter, Brad Fehr, Greg Fynboh, Mark Gibson, Marcia Greiner, Darick Huebner, Jacquie Johnson, Jean Lesmeister, Sal Monteagudo, Carolyn Peterson, Marilyn Stallman, Ray Suess, Glen Tomoson, Paul Watzke, Ben Winchester, Wayne Westerman.
Roger McCannon is coordinating the initiative.
The group also includes University of Minnesota, Morris student Jenny Wermerskirchen, and junior class representatives from Chokio-Alberta, Hancock and Morris Area high schools also will be brought into the group.
Lesmeister heard about the initiative and discussed it with her husband, Wayne.
We thought it sounded interesting, and then Roger McCannon called, Lesmeister said. It sounds like a good start and we'll see what happens. I see it mostly as getting something going to get our kids to stick around (the county).
Dave Hengel, who has launched similar development initiatives in other communities, including Bemidji, has been hired to help get the Stevens County initiative started.
Hengel will conduct a Steward Academy on Nov. 16-17 at the Alberta Town Hall, in Alberta.
The Nov. 16 session is from 2:15 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the Nov. 17 session is from 8 a.m. to noon.
For more information about the Stevens County Stewardship Initiative, contact McCannon at (320) 589-1692. Stevens FORWARD! -- Retirees can find rural life's rewards
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Tuesday, February 24, 2009 By Philip Drown "What if Stevens County was marketed throughout the state as a retirement destination? A place where people searching for a peaceful life in a rural setting could retire, find a comfortable home to suit any preference, and live an engaged, active lifestyle in a thriving county community.
Paul Watzke, Stevens County Commissioner, area businessman, and Chair of the Stevens FORWARD! initiative, envisions just such a prospect and is impassioned to see it come forth.
"A retiree could easily exchange his or her world in the city or some other highly populated area for an enjoyable life here in Stevens County."
Attracting both younger and older retirees to settle throughout the county is one of Stevens FORWARD!'s 14 Destiny Drivers. The goal of the Destiny Driver is to "develop the finest retirement community in western Minnesota, attracting 20 new retirees to the community each year" by 2012.
"We want to see at least 20 new retirees moving into Stevens County as their destination," Watzke said.
According to Watzke, attracting retirees not only adds their numbers to the county population, but adds their talents, experience and energy to the community as well. The Stevens FORWARD! initiative has set its sights on a deep pool of potential retirees, from those retiring off farms throughout the region to those living in metropolitan areas who want to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind.
"What if they're fed up with traffic and fed up with crime?" Watzke said. "The house they built in the suburb is now paid for and they can sell the home and come out here and buy a brand new house on the golf course, or settle in a peaceful patch of land near Hancock or Chokio."
"There has always been a big spread between Twin Cities housing prices and our area," said Tom Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Realty. "So, if you are retiring from a bigger town, just the cost of comparable housing to what you have here is considerably less. So it frees up retirement income. You can buy a house in Chokio for $80,000 that might cost $300,000 in the Twin Cities."
Paul Hendricks moved to Stevens County five years ago and epitomizes the goals that Watzke and others envision. Hendricks, a native of rural Minnesota who established a career as a project manager in the Twin Cities corporate technology world for 25 years, had the good fortune to retire early. In 2004, he was on to new adventures and was considering his family's options for the future.
"We were in a fringe area of the metro that was growing like crazy and housing was going up like popcorn and we wanted to move to a place that would be forever rural," Hendricks said.
his wife Connie decided that being close to their kids was a strong value, and they began exploring the possibilities of moving into the area.
"We planned to find some land and just build our last home," Hendricks said. "We wanted to be on a major road that was going to be well-plowed. We wanted to be within 10 miles of town. [We wanted] to have some mature trees on the property."
His oldest daughter, a 2003 graduate of University of Minnesota, Morris, met her husband while attending UMM. They married, bought a house, and settled in the area. Hendricks and
Hendricks investigated several options before his wife Connie expressed her desire to buy a place "where the well was already dug and the vineyard was already planted." They found their home nestled in a grove of trees on some acreage three miles east of Morris. "We saw this house and it fit," Hendricks said.
As they were putting an addition on the new home and remodeling, the young assistant carpenter working on the project took notice of Hendricks' second daughter, who had transferred to UMM when her family moved. The young man shared his feelings with Hendricks and asked permission to ask his daughter out.
"I gave him a little bit of advice and about three or four months later he asked her out," said Hendricks. "And they got married and now they're living in town with a child.
We're really thankful for being part of the community that our kids are part of. This is home for us now."
Watzke believes there are plenty of people just like Hendricks out there and that Stevens County already has plenty to attract them and meet their needs, such as diverse housing options, plenty of recreation, and a strong healthcare infrastructure.
As retirees settle in the County, the demand for quality healthcare will continue to increase. According to Watzke, Stevens County is positioned to comfortably manage the healthcare needs of an influx of retirees, both the young retiree and the aging.
John Rau, CEO of Stevens Community Medical Center, is highly enthusiastic when it comes to the availability of quality healthcare in Stevens County, which he believes is essential to attracting retirees.
"If you look around the state, Morris is one of the only communities of our size to have the level of services available," Rau said. "The number of family practice physicians, internists, and specialists that are a part of SCMC and Prairie Medical is almost unheard of for a community this size to have anything more than two or three doctors available. There are literally 19 providers in our community."
In addition to meeting the healthcare needs of the population, both Rau and Watzke see the healthcare industry as an economic engine. As you bring more family practice doctors, or orthopedic surgeons, or specialists into the community, you also need more support staff, which means more job opportunities.
In addition to quality medical care, both Watzke and Rau expressed praise for the availability of other resources such as the Regional Fitness Center and Snap Fitness, providing a variety of wellness and fitness options, as well as physical therapy resources such as Big Stone Therapies and Nova Care.
"Most communities wouldn't even have one strong physical therapy program," said Rau. "We have two."
For Watzke, finding reasons to move to Stevens County will not be difficult. The present need is finding people who believe in their community and believe in their county to become a group of champions who will further identify the assets of each community and help package them into a marketing strategy.
"The next step is getting the champions together," said Watzke. "I think the group of champions will succeed in putting the package together. The critical step is discovering how we can deliver the package to that market. We don't know that yet, but I am convinced that if we concentrate our effort on this, it can really work."
Are you a 'Champion'?
Stevens FORWARD! stewards are seeking "Champions" -- people who want to get involved in the initiative and spearhead a Destiny Driver. For more information, visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site at www.stevensforward.org, or contact Coordinator Roger McCannon via email at:
email@example.com, or by phone at (320) 287-0882"
*see GoodnewsEverybody Elderly Outreach
My (Sal) Article Contribution to one of the Destiny Drivers on Sunday, February 22nd of 2009:
Well, culture mean's "way of life" (see details down below & merriam-webster.com), which we all have different ways of living (e.g. work, eat, leisure, etc...). As an "ideal" community in the future, I hope we as a county-wide community "continues" to embrace the "rich" diverse community we have to:
-help one another (e.g. UMM Campus Compact, Salvation Army, Food Shelf, overall church community, etc...)
-teach and learn from another (e.g. Morris Literacy Project: ESL & GED classes, Community Ed classes, Learning Unlimited, TREC Program, sports extracurricular activities, etc...)
-encourage (e.g. mentoring programs) one another to grow as individuals for a "better" communtiy
All this to "continue" to impact or "enhance" the local, state, nation, and global (e.g. UMM's Student Abroad Program & recruitment of international students, Morris' "sister-city" China program, local high schools' foreign exchange students, etc...) community as a whole. A community is like a "spider-web", which we are all connected to one another in different ways, which we "need" each other to continue to be more "effective". There is a verse in the Bible (book of 1 Corinthians 12) I like...
14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If
the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the
body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And
if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the
body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If
the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the
whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
For me, I look at it from a diverse "ethnic-cultural" perspective:
1-Working in different environments: Local dairy farms employing large number of "migrant workers" from Mexico, Zierke Pork's-many "migrant workers" from Eastern Europe and other various ethnic groups from around the world; local farms-hosting interns from Brazil; University of Minnesota's-Soil Lab's-West Central Outreach Center's- "ethnic diverse" workforce,
2-Eating different foods: Bella Cucina-Italian, Jose's Burritos-Mexican, Grand "Chinese" Buffet Restaurant, various area churches' "Scandinavian" (majority)-Norwegian Lutefisk "dinners", University of Minnesota-Morris' Annual-"Pride in the Prairie" (e.g. local "organic" foods), Black Student Union's "Soul Food" Supper, Asian Student Association's "Taste of Asia", or even Stevens' County Fair's 4-H's meals;
3-Different forms of leisure activities: Different town celebrations: Donnelly's "Threshing Bee", Hancock's "July 4th Parade", Morris' "Pioneer Days", street dances, etc...; Divine House Inc.' sponsored monthly dance, Special Touch's montly activities, & Special Touch's quarterly activities (all these focussing on "developmentally disabled" community), local high schools' performing arts programs; annual UMM's-CNIA sponsored "Pow Wow", Jazz Fest, etc..
Above are just some (sorry if I may've missed some) of many samples of ways our "county-wide" community is working together. We all may not agree with all the issues out there, but we need to find that "commonality" (e.g. We all "eat, work, and play", right?) and start from there for the "moving forward" of our "community".
Since Stevens Forward started in the Fall of 2007 (around this time), we've (stewards) all been "working togther" meeting in a regular basis with this common vision that keeps us "moving forward"-"making our community better for the next (younger) generation" (paraphrasing). I've been able to witness this from my 14 years (started school at UMM back in 1995) years living (moved up here from St. Paul) here, I've learned that "It takes a village to raise a child"-African Proverb (see (1), 2, 3), etc...)(especially with the growing number of single parent households.)
As all these articles series are encouraging the community to "join" and "make a difference" for the better of our community. I would like to leave you with this Russian Proverb-"If everyone gives a thread, the poor man will have a shirt" (see (1), (2), (3), etc...). With our current economic situation/season, we all need to help each other, right? "Yah..you betcha!"-Norwegian Proverb?
Stevens FORWARD! -- Embracing all that people are and can be
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Tuesday, March 03, 2009
By Katie Erdman
Hancock Record "Achieving one of the Stevens Forward Destiny Drivers could be as simple as just "understanding."
Understanding that, as a county, we are all part of one community. We eat, work, learn and play together. We shop in the same stores, attend some of the same events, and in some cases, worship together.
Even as we are each unique and diverse in these aspects, so is this county. Stevens County is made up of people from many different cultures and ethnic background who help shape its 'diversity' as a whole.
Even as our bodies are made up of many parts, each very important to the others, so is our county. With this in mind we can all help achieve one of the Destiny Drivers.
Under Social Inclusion, the Stevens Forward committee has set the following goal:
By 2013 we will have established an inclusive culture that embraces a diversity of people in our population and encourages their uniqueness to flourish and enhance our community.
Sal Monteagudo, a Morris resident of Philippine descent, will "Champion" this Destiny Driver. In order to better understand the goal of this driver, Sal explained the various aspects of the statement.
Culture means "way of life" we all have different ways of living that are defined by things such as where we work, what we eat, how we spend our leisure time, our ancestry and our beliefs.
In Stevens County, the different cultures can be seen through food establishments such as La Tienda, Bella Cucina, Jose’s Burritos and the Grand Buffet. It can also be found at special suppers such as the Scandinavian meals featuring lutefisk, lefse and klub.
The University of Minnesota, Morris hosts annual events that the general community are all invited to, such as Pride of the Prairie, featuring organic foods, the Black Student Union's Soul Food Suppers and the Asian Student Association student group Taste of Asia, and the International Student Country Fair, which encourages studying and traveling abroad and connecting international students with the rest of the general community.
Also, the annual foreign film festivals encourages the general community to come to the Morris Theatre. Even a visit to the Stevens County Fair will give you a taste of other cultures.
Cultural differences can also be found in our leisure activities.
Summer events like the Donnelly Threshing Bee, Hancock's July 4 celebration and Morris' Prairie Pioneer Days have their own cultural traditions.
There are monthly dances and faith sponsored activities focusing on the developmentally disabled community. UMM's Circle of Nations Indian Association sponsors events such as a Pow Wow, and the college holds an annual Jazz Fest.
It is difficult to determine exactly how many different nationalities of residents reside in Stevens County. Local dairy farms employ a large number of migrant workers from Mexico. Pork producing facilities in the area employ workers from Eastern Europe. Local farms host interns from Brazil and the ARS Soil Lab and West Central Outreach Center have an ethnically diverse work force.
Several current programs fold diverse cultures into the community. The Morris Literacy Project through Morris Community Education has a goal of making the county learning environment more learner-friendly. As of February 2009, the project has more than 50 registered students who have been tutored in English as a Second Language. The students come from many cultural ethnicities such as Mexican, Brazilian, Ecudoran, Honduran, Bulgarian, Ukranian, Moldovan, Chinese, Czech, Columbian and Japanese.
Many of these students are not only trying to learn the English language but also some of the terminology related to their work place. Topics can also include health care options and personal experiences in the community.
There also are many exchange-international students studying in the county's public school systems, both at the high school and college level. Sal encourages the entire community to embrace newcomers and learn from one another.
He said people shouldn't be afraid to say hello, as the fear of the unkown can be broken with a simple smile that can lead to a conversation and greater understanding.
People accepting that they are all unique individuals is one simple step toward enhancing the community. That step can be taken through understanding, patience and the celebration of diversity.
Since Stevens FORWARD! began in 2007, the stewards who come from diverse backgrounds have been working together with a vision to move forward and make the county better for the next generation.
Sal explained that as one of these stewards and now as a champion for this Destiny Driver, he has witnessed the changes taking place in the area. He first came here 14 years ago when the largest ethnicity differences were probably between the Scandinavians, Germans and Irish. Today, these differences encompass a more visible and increasingly broader ethnic range. For example, the current influx of international students from China come with the help of Morris’ Sister City program there.
He added that to make the county better, he encourages the community to join and make a difference.
People may not agree with all the issues and cultural practices, but we need to find commonality and start from there for moving forward. Embracing cultural diversity's benefits can enhance the economy. Many of these drivers benefit the others.
Sal quotes a popular Russian Proverb. "If everyone gives a thread, the poor man will have a shirt."
Are you a 'Champion'?
Stevens FORWARD! stewards are seeking "Champions" -- people who want to get involved in the initiative and spearhead a Destiny Driver. For more information, visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site at www.stevensforward.org, or contact Coordinator Roger McCannon via email at:
firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (320) 287-0882
*see GoodnewsEverybody.com Cultures, Ethnicities, Multicultural, Nationalities, Races, etc...
"Providing financial resources to assist in the betterment of the Stevens County community is one of Stevens FORWARD!’s 14 Destiny Drivers. The goal of the Destiny Driver is to develop a "Community Fund of $1.5 million that will help finance projects that further the destiny of the county" by 2012."
"The idea behind it is to build a fund that community groups and organizations could tap for projects that would fulfill one of our Destiny Drivers, or more broadly the Destiny Statement,” said Roger McCannon, Coordinator of Stevens FORWARD!.
McCannon said at one time there was a Stevens County Community Fund in existence, which was managed by the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission and had around $100,000 in it at the time.
"Those funds did get expended for community betterment projects throughout the county," McCannon said.
Since that time, a small group of people have often discussed the possibility of rejuvenating that fund somehow, but with a substantial increase in available resources.
"I can tell you that for the past several years, several of us have been noodling this around trying to determine what we should do," McCannon said. "But, we all felt the timing wasn’t right to go back into a fund raising endeavor to reconstitute that previous fund. Then along came Stevens FORWARD!, so we put everything that small group was doing on the shelf and decided to let Stevens FORWARD! decide where we were going to go with all of that."
Since then, a local group has been talking about whether to re-establish the original fund, or set up a United Way, or look into other options. One possible option involves working with the West Central Initiative to set-up a different type of community fund.
West Central Initiative Fund is a regional community foundation that supports families and helps strengthen the economy of west central Minnesota through its four initiatives: business and employment; communities and the region; workers and their families; and promoting philanthropy.
"I have been in contact with Kim Embertson at West Central Initiative Fund and he has offered his assistance in helping us establish the fund and develop a strategy for raising the funds,” McCannon said.
Kim Embertson is Vice-President of Fund Development at WCIF and has a 15-year background in professional fund raising. According to Embertson, one of the programs they set up for communities is called a "component fund".
Component funds are part of, or a component of, WCIF. These are all community funds which are designated for a specific charity or community purpose. The fund is governed by a local panel of community advisors who establish policies for raising and managing the funds, as well as determining where and how to distribute the money into good community projects. WCIF has helped set-up sixty-nine such funds throughout the region, including helping both Hancock and Morris Schools set up foundations to support their efforts.
Embertson will be visiting Stevens County in the near future to explain the program they offer. He will present the concept of the component fund, demonstrate how it works, and discuss the advantages to a community.
"I give a presentation on what we have to offer, tell about other ways to structure this same kind of fund, as well as other organizations out there that also provide this same service," said Embertson. “So, communities have a wide range of choices. I also talk about the specific services that we provide. We have two full time professional fund raisers on our staff and we can provide them with technical assistance to get the fund up and going and off the ground."
WCIF sets up a specific account that would be eligible to receive donations for the purposes of the community fund, as decided by the community, and also manages the investment of those funds. By doing this, communities do not have to set up their own non profit organization and they do not have to go through all the up-front legal work. Plus, they do not have to do all the back office work since WCIF makes sure the books are audited and all the appropriate reports are filed for the IRS and the state.
Since there is no need to go through all the processes of setting up a new non-profit, the local advisory panel is able to focus their energies on the more creative and exciting aspects of the fund. The advisory panel has three major responsibilities: to raise, manage, and advise where the money can be given. In addition to setting policies for raising and distribution of funds, the advisory panel also decides on the risk level for investing the funds.
According to Embertson, WCIF has the tools in their tool box to invest the funds using methods that are prudent and sound, but allow enough variety in terms of risk level to give the local advisory panel the freedom to decide how aggressively an investment strategy they wish to employ.
"There are four risk levels that communities can determine," explained Embertson, "from a conservative fairly liquid money market account or bonds, up to a more aggressive 60-40 split. Sixty percent stocks and 40 percent bonds. We don’t have a highly aggressive one. We’re not legally allowed to do that because we’re a community foundation."
Embertson said that communities and organizations in the area have found it to be a very efficient way of doing this because the cost is low and there is less administrative struggle. Because WCIF is a qualified 501(c)3 non-profit, they are eligible to receive donations and give a tax deduction to contributors.
"We’ve got $43 million that we’re managing. So, we’re able to charge a small amount of fees because of the large amount of money we manage, and that really saves the organization a lot of funds,” said Embertson. “It also relieves the local group of the fiduciary responsibilities. They don’t have to worry about if they invested poorly and make a mistake, or inappropriately."
Embertson loves to share the success stories he has encountered in his time working in this program. He often gives the example of Wheaton, Minnesota, who set up a community foundation to help with the renovation and restoration of their community pool.
According to Embertson, the pool was in tough shape. “The wading pool was losing water. It had to be refilled every three days and no one knew where the water was going. Other parts and pieces of the equipment were in bad shape and they were fearing that the city, who owned the pool, was going to have to close it down," he said.
The cost to make the improvements was estimated at $375,000. WCIF met with the leadership group in Wheaton and discussed a strategy. The group sent out letters to the community as well as to the list of high school alumni, believing that many of these people who grew up in the area enjoyed the pool in their youth and might have interest in preserving it.
One alumni, who had gone on to live in California and made a substantial fortune in the communications industry, had set up a foundation of his own to help causes he cared about. When he received the letter, he immediately contacted the fund and made a $100,000 donation. Soon, the hospital committed $100,000, believing the pool to be a necessary piece in community health. Combining those commitments with $60,000 in smaller donations, the city committed to take the steps necessary to renovate the pool.
McCannon and others believe the same sort of positives can be achieved in Stevens County, but the most important next step is to get organized.
“My hope is that Kim will come down, we’ll get this small group together, and start brainstorming how we can or should be at this time trying to raise those funds,” said McCannon. And then there’s got to be some group in place or a committee that would make decisions on how people or groups could approach that fund."
According to Embertson, having clearly identified goals that are optimistic about the future is necessary. When he talks to donors, they want to invest in organizations that have a vision for quality. If the consistent message is "we're going downhill and we need you to prop us up" then soon donors start to back off and say we’re not interested, Embertson said.
"But if you’ve got a vision for the future that says we’re working towards quality to improve our community to make things better, that is what donors want to invest in. And these Destiny Drivers of Stevens FORWARD! certainly captures that emotion."
Are you a 'Champion'?"
*see GoodnewsEverybody.com Financial "Wisdom", Advice, Budgeting, Tips, etc...
"Farmers have known what it means to go "green" for years. If you enter into a conversation with anyone involved in agriculture, the word "green" will probably be mentioned several times with different meanings.
"Green" money is used to buy seed, chemicals and fertilizer to produce their crops. They then wait as tiny “green” seedlings emerge and slowly grow into strong “green” plants. In some cases they may even talk about the “green” machinery used to plant, maintain and harvest those crops.
It has been a "green" world for farmers throughout history, however, over the years both the definition and methods of going “green” have been changing.
For that reason the Stevens FORWARD! Stewards have selected this concept as one of their Destiny Drivers.
Their goal is as follows: "By 2015 Stevens County will be the first carbon neutral county in the world, demonstrating viable models for green housing, neighborhoods and public buildings.”
When you hear about our county and even the world striving to go green, it probably has little to do with the color of equipment or money but more to do with the crops and our lifestyles.
Currently, city officials and residents are involved in planning housing and landscaping for the old Morris Area Elementary School property, and all of the proposals include “green” initiatives in how the homes are built and used, from geothermal heating to permeable hard surfaces that limit storm water runoff.
The West Central Research and Outreach Center, the ARS Soils Lab and the University of Minnesota, Morris form a sustainability and renewable energy “triangle,” and the area is positioning itself, through research, education and ways of living, as one of the leading "green" communities in the nation.
It's appropriate that such developments occur in an area built on agriculture. There are many aspects of going "environmentally green" today. It involves recycling, reusing, reducing and reclaiming. When you think about each of these practices, it isn’t hard to remember that farmers from several decades ago probably could have coined the phrases as part of their every day lifestyle.
Looking back on farming practices decades ago we can easily see how farmers recycled. Repairs and maintenance on equipment was often conducted by replacing them with used parts from a piece of machinery placed out in the grove. When it came to harvesting the crops, virtually every part of the plant was used in some way and what was left over was tilled back into the soil. Seed for the following years was obtained off of the current crop. Even things like corn cobs found a use by heating homes and out buildings.
Farmers of the past didn’t need to apply or purchase a great deal of fertilizer because they had plenty of manure to spread on the fields when they cleaned out the barns. The practices of these farmers may not have led to the biggest numbers in terms of yields, but they unknowingly were creating a green environment.
Over the years new technology, types of seed (hybrids), chemicals (pesticides), fertilizers and larger equipment have made farming a big industry. However, that size may have come at a cost when we consider the carbon impact of our environment.
Scientists today are studying the impact of carbon in our environment and gaining some astounding results. What is carbon? Carbon is a critical chemical element present in our soils and crops and in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are on a steady increase and reaching levels that are cause for alarm, especially considering that high carbon dioxide levels in the air can affect the global warming process.
In order to better understand the problem one must understand the process. Carbon is a part of our plants. It is in the foods we eat, the soda we drink and the air we breathe. For example, corn stalks left over after harvest are 46 percent carbon. The more green plants we have in our surroundings the better off we will be as far as the carbon dioxide levels go. However, the more energy efficient we can become will also go a long ways toward helping energy conservation, slowing global warming.
We can be more energy efficient in our homes and businesses. To accomplish, this we can replace high energy lights or heating systems. We can reduce use by shutting off things that are not being used. We can reclaim by using some of the new energy methods such as solar panels or wind turbines. We can recycle not just our cans, newspapers and bottles but by using fewer paper products and perhaps hand washing more dishes.
Many of the luxuries we take for granted each day come at a cost not just in dollars but in the environment. Eliminating some of these or looking for those that are more energy efficient can have a long-range impact.
It is up to all of us to keep our environment clean and “green” and preserve it for future generations.
Are you a 'Champion'?"
*see GoodnewsEverybody.comScience: Environmental-Carbon Dating, Eco-Friendly, Green Living, Recycling, etc... Stevens FORWARD!-- Stressing the need for education
, Morris Sun Tribune
Published Tuesday, March 24, 2009 By Katie Erdman
Hancock Record "We live in a world that values education. It has been a priority in this country its entire existence. Minnesota also places a high value on education, setting standards and goals. Stevens County could be looked at as a “university” county, having set a higher education base early with the West Central School of Agriculture
and the University of Minnesota, Morris campus.
Even though education has always been important throughout our country, state and county, the degree to which it is valued has been changing. We are starting to shift to an economy that demands education. Knowledge is geared toward specific fields of study, from operating a computer or welding on an assembly line to researching our natural resources and educating our future leaders.
The Stevens FORWARD! Stewards recognized the value of education and included it in one of their Destiny Drivers.
The goal they have set in this Destiny Driver is: “Over the next 10 years, the county will maintain the highest percentage of high school students in Minnesota going on to higher education.”
Ben Winchester, of the Center for Small Towns at UMM and the Steward for this Destiny Driver said he is seeking a “Champion” for it.
Winchester has compiled some numbers from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the Minnesota Department of Education. With this information, he created a table showing the graduation rate for communities in Stevens County and number of graduates going on to obtain post secondary education in Minnesota. He also compared these numbers to the state rate.
Over the last four years, the county has seen above-average numbers in graduation rates but below-average rates in the higher education. These numbers have been slowly increasing over the years which is some cause for optimism.
One missing piece of data could have an affect on the results, he said. The numbers are only for students going on to get their post secondary education at Minnesota schools. Therefore, any Stevens County graduate or, similarly, any Minnesota graduate who went on to a college, university or technical college in another state would not be included in these numbers.
He added that it is nearly impossible to track down those statistics so measuring the Destiny Driver could be difficult. However, that does not take anything away from the accomplishment and importance of the goal, he said.
The next question might then be, how would a Champion work to achieve the goal.
Winchester said that encouraging young people to go on to obtain higher education could be accomplished by educating them about the importance of gaining a higher education in the world today and how it could affect their lives.
He said that a four-year college degree in today’s work place is equivalent to what a high school diploma was in the 1960s. Potential employers look for post-secondary education on resumes, in some cases not even considering applicants without some type of college degree.
According to the Census Bureau, over an adult’s working life, high school graduates earn an average of $1.2 million; associate’s degree holders earn about $1.6 million; and bachelor’s degree holders earn about $2.1 million.
With these numbers in mind, the $40,000 a student may spend on a four-year degree is a great investment.
In order to encourage post-secondary education, the champion of this Destiny Driver could potentially hold special meetings with the students. Speakers from area businesses could be invited to talk to the students about salaries paid for employees with degrees compared to those paid to workers without degrees to stress the value of higher education.
There could also be a network developed to help families with financial aid forms, college applications and scholarship options. Information on grants and loans could be shared and discussed.
One of the biggest hurdles might be educating students that college is not just four years of work but a lifetime benefit. It challenges the mind, focuses drive and tests endurance.
The value of education needs to be stressed at an early age but can also be done at any age level. It is never too late to go back to school. Learning does not end at graduation and as the world changes, we need to be prepared for it. To best do this we need to “learn how to learn."
Are you a 'Champion'?
"An outdoor pool has been a recurring issue in Stevens County, even before the earthen pool at Pomme de Terre Park in Morris closed in 2003 after a second drowning there.
The issue is being brought to the forefront again, this time by the Stevens FORWARD! initiative.
Turning the pool issue
into a reality is one of Stevens FORWARD!'s 14 Destiny Drivers.
The goal of the Destiny Driver is to “construct an outdoor aquatics center that will serve Stevens County and the surrounding region” by 2015.
Stevens FORWARD! coordinator Roger McCannon admits that achieving this particular Destiny Driver could be a “long shot,” but Stevens FORWARD! heard from many people who would love to see an outdoor pool in the community.
"Nearly 600 people responded to our survey and there were many comments about wanting an outdoor pool,” said McCannon. “We aren’t trying to revive a dead issue. We think there is enough interest to take it seriously."
In 2002, a Pool Task Forced was formed to study if there was a need for an outdoor aquatic park in Morris.
The Prairie Renaissance Project found that 68 percent of those surveyed stated they strongly supported an outdoor swimming pool for the city.
The Morris Pool Committee was formed to place the question on the city referendum ballot in August 2005.
The results of that vote did not reflect the wishes of the survey participants.
Morris residents rejected a plan to sell bonds up to $2.2 million to build a water park.
The pool vote was 876 against the water park and 543 for the proposal.
Proponents pushed the water park for its potential social and economic benefits, possibly helping make the area a more attractive place to live, shop and relocate business.
But opponents to the plan were critical of the city heaping more tax debt on residents already paying for a new $27 million elementary school and the prospect of Stevens County building a new jail.
At that time, the committee’s plan was to build an aquatics center on the 17-acre site of the former Morris Area Elementary School.
Since then, new plans are underway for that parcel of land in the Morris city limits.
At this point, the pool issue is in its conceptual stages.
A site for the water park and specific plans still need to be addressed by the Destiny Driver’s “Champions.”
An example of an aquatics center in a similar community is the Benson Family Aquatic Center.
The center includes a multi-use pool, splash pool, water slide, and sand lot, as well as changing rooms and picnic area.
The water park was constructed at a cost of $1.75 million and opened in 2002.
Jill Gagner, who was a member of the Morris Pool Committee in 2005, said recently that the group’s worked stalled after the vote took the wind out of their sails.
Gagner suggested that rather than attempting to fund the pool with tax dollars, a more successful plan might be to collect donations for the water park.
Gagner mentioned the Lee Community Center, which was constructed after a successful drive to build a hockey arena in Morris.
With the current economic climate, that might prove to be a complicated task, but at least the burden would not fall upon taxpayers, she said.
Keith Davison, who was part of a private group that built a pool for public use in Wheaton, believes that supporters should start with a basic pool.
“Plan for what you can get now, and leave space to add on later,” Davison said.
The pool in Wheaton is still in working order, but is now operated by the city because citizens urged their council to keep the pool open.
“It’s a shame we don’t have an outdoor pool for the kids,” said Davison. “I do think we need outdoor swimming facilities.”
Davison realizes that the Regional Fitness Center on the University of Minnesota, Morris campus provides a place for the community to swim. However, in his opinion, it’s just not the same as an outdoor pool in the summer.
After the failed vote in 2005, then Morris Mayor Carol Wilcox made a prediction regarding the ongoing efforts to build a pool.
"It’s not a dead issue,” Wilcox said. "It will come back. And sooner than later."
The issue is back. The Stevens FORWARD! stewards have brought the issue to life and the possibility of building a pool in the community will be explored and debated further.
The stewards will work to inspire community action to make it happen.
That’s where you can help.
Are you a 'Champion'?"
"A fairly common scenario often observed at the University of Minnesota, Morris involves two students, a year or two apart in age, who are dating. One graduates, but does not want to leave the area until their boyfriend or girlfriend graduates. Such a student may find temporary employment in the county during that interim period. When heir “significant other” completes their education, the two move away together after finding jobs in another community.
To Stevens FORWARD!, this scenario presents a terrific opportunity to connect talented people with area employers, while adding to the population of the county community. If those students could be reached during that interim period and connected with a job that matched their skills and interests, area employers would benefit and workers would have jobs that offered them more satisfaction with their life in the community, thus providing more incentive for them to stay.
Encouraging these connections is the goal of Stevens FORWARD!’s Destiny Driver, which states that "By 2010 at least 10 UMM graduates will gain professional employment in Stevens County that leverages their talents and provides opportunity for career advancement".
Gary Donovan, Director of the Career Center at UMM, has taken a particular interest in this goal and is working with Stevens FORWARD! to see it achieved.
“Because of UMM’s strong general education program and the strength of the individual majors, the students bring a plethora of functional, transferable skills to the marketplace that can be used in many different industries,” Donovan said.
Donovan, who had been following the activities of Stevens FORWARD! from the beginning, was approached by members of the initiative in the Fall of 2008 and asked to take a leadership role as a champion. He sat down with these members of Stevens FORWARD! to better understand the origin of the driver.
"The driver, in its origin, was to try and create employment possibilities in Stevens County that would attract students to UMM or encourage them to stay in the county," Donovan said.
One of the key priorities at present is to get information on exactly how many UMM graduates are currently finding employment each year in Stevens County. According to Donovan, this is an unknown right now, but the information is necessary for measuring progress, or even having a clear-eyed view on the situation.
UMM Chancellor Jacquie Johnson agrees that the first priority, and one way UMM can help, is to find that baseline information.
"It would be really good for us collectively to have some information and knowledge about the current number of graduates that we have here,” said Johnson. “I have a feeling we would be pleasantly surprised at the number of people who have graduated and gone on to work in the community.”
According to Johnson, there are two benchmarks needed to move forward with this Destiny Driver. The first would be identifying how many UMM graduates currently live in the county. The second would involve looking back a few years at graduating classes and tracking how many graduates remained or returned to live and work in the county.
"We need to have that information," said Johnson. "It gives us something to map progress against."
Donovan said he is already seeking data about the number of UMM alumni who live in the area. Once the baseline information is available, a group of champions can create solid strategies for how to approach achieving these goals.
Donovan, who also serves as Chair of the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, feels that the destiny driver should be broadened in scope.
He believes future recruiting and connection efforts could be expanded to target people who are able to meet high demand and hard to fill positions in the county.
“We could still meet the spirit of the initial driver and also help with the other specific needs that employers might have in this area.”
He also believes it is important to look beyond just UMM students and do more to target people who grew up in the county but moved away, and entice them to return.
We’re not only trying to attract the 22 and 23 year olds who attend UMM,” said Donovan. “It’s also about attracting those who have been out a while to come back. How we might do all this is to be determined yet.”
Donovan described strategies that have been done in other communities that he has observed. For example, economic developers in one county collaborated with the school districts to market job opportunities to graduates. They sent a flyer that outlined job opportunities with an accompanying letter to alumni that carried the message “Have you ever thought about coming home?”
Other ideas being considered include strengthening mechanisms available to encourage local entrepreneurship, as well as capitalizing on building momentum in the bio-fuels and renewable energy technologies. According to Donovan, these areas are ripe for creating jobs and channeling talented people into them.
"The next steps will be to identify other people who want to work on this driver," said Donovan, who is actively seeking a group to serve as champions. Included on the list of potential key players are the Chamber of Commerce, Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, high school principals and career counselors, UMM, and area employers.
"We would like to work with employers in the county, especially human resource people who do hiring,” Donovan said.
According to Donovan, the broad categories of employers in the county they expect to work with include agriculture, including bio-fuels and bio-technology, medical and healthcare, education, manufacturing, and retail.
Are you a 'Champion'?" Trails, lakes and parks - Oh my!
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Tuesday, April 21, 2009
By Nancy Woodke "After the long winter, Stevens County residents are more than ready to get outdoors and enjoy all that a Minnesota summer has to offer.
Making outdoor recreation areas even more inviting is a goal of the Stevens FORWARD! initiative and the topic is one of 14 Destiny Drivers.
The Destiny Driver is: "By 2015 we will invigorate our parks, lakes and trails to be the finest in western Minnesota."
Stevens FORWARD! Steward Sara Beyer took an interest in this Destiny Driver because her family enjoys spending time at area parks, boating at Pomme de Terre Lake, and snowmobiling the county’s trails.
"I think we have a great start,” said Beyer. “But we want to make these areas even more appealing to the public by making them more accessible.”
There are nearly 20 parks in Stevens County, maintained by the various communities.
Within the city limits of Chokio, there are two designated park areas that provide picnic, playground, and camping facilities. The city also has tennis and basketball courts, softball and baseball diamonds, and horseshoe pits.
The City of Hancock has three city parks. West Side Park is expecting new playground equipment in June.
Alberta’s city park was recently outfitted with new playground equipment.
Donnelly has a city park, as well as a wayside rest with shelter and the Aanerud Field baseball diamond.
The City of Morris is home to eight parks.
The Pomme de Terre City Park, just east of Morris, has a campground and three picnic shelters. Other features include sand volleyball courts, playground equipment, disc golf course, and a spray park.
A bike and walking trail along the east side of Pomme de Terre Park is a six-mile path that loops around the park.
New toddler playground equipment and a picnic shelter were recently added to Kjenstad Park near Lake Crystal.
East Side Park, located on the corner of 7th Street and California Avenue is home to Prairie Pioneer Days. It features a band shell, horseshoe pits, restrooms, a shelter, playground equipment, and basketball courts.
Green River Park, located where Green River Road meets Elm Street, features basketball courts, ball diamond, soccer field, two tennis courts, playground, and a sheltered picnic area.
Wells Park, located on the corner of Pacific Avenue and 11th Street, is home to the skate park, as well as two softball fields, basketball courts, picnic shelter, and a playground area.
Riverside Park, located off Riverside Drive, and Thedin Park, near the intersection of West 6th Street and Lyndale Avenue, offers quiet little neighborhood parks with swings and other equipment.
Playground equipment is also found at Eagles Park, along with lighted baseball fields and softball fields.
A picnic shelter is also available at the Perkins Lake public access north of Morris. It is maintained by the Donnelly Rod and Gun Club.
Perkins Lake, also known as Pomme de Terre Lake, is one of 32 in Stevens County recognized by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. While many of the lakes are unnamed, a few larger lakes are popular for fishing, as well as boating.
The list includes Long Lake, near Cyrus; Page Lake near Hancock; Lake Hattie by Alberta; Lake Crystal in Morris; and North and Middle Pomme de Terre in Swan Lake Township.
Page Lake also features a shelter near the swimming beach. The area is maintained by the Lions Club.
The county’s lakes are a reminder that not all outdoor recreational activities are limited to the summer months, since the lakes are always busy during the winter for ice fishing.
Another popular winter activity is snowmobiling. The West Central Trailblazers Snowmobile Association maintains 250 miles of marked and groomed trails in Stevens, Pope and Grant counties. These trails are open when there is sufficient snow cover between Dec. 1 and March 30.
Various communities and organizations in Stevens County are constantly working to enhance the recreational value of these areas for the public.
The Morris Park Board has made many improvements to the parks in recent years, but it is an ongoing project.
“We’d love to improve the bike trail system and look at something on the west side of town,” said board chairman Mark Torgerson. “We also want to upgrade playground equipment.”
Torgerson said the board is currently considering a dog park.
"People have brought this idea to the park board,” said Torgerson. “That project is presently in the works for Pomme de Terre Park.”
Torgerson said Morris is fortunate to have much support in implementing projects at the parks.
One organization that has been very involved in acquiring equipment for the city’s parks has been the Morris Area Women of Today.
Beyer said Stevens Forward! is currently looking for representatives from each of the county’s communities to step forward and let them know what is needed to invigorate the parks, lakes, and trails of Stevens County.
"If there is something they want to do in their community, let us know,” said Beyer. "Tell us what would be great for our kids.”
Are you a 'Champion'?" Stevens FORWARD! -- Green mentorship already red-hot idea
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Tuesday, April 28, 2009 By Philip Drown "t is no secret that the development and incorporation of environmentally friendly or “green technologies” into business and community infrastructures is fast becoming the industry of the future.
Positioning Stevens County to capitalize on this trend, while making significant investments
into the educational and professional future of its young people, is the goal of one of Stevens FORWARD!’s 14 Destiny Drivers.
The Destiny Driver says that “By 2010, we will create a Green Internship / Mentor Program that will support 20 high school and college students per year.”
At a clean energy workshop last week, Stevens FORWARD! was presented with an $11,000 grant from the Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) project, that will put them well on their way toward achieving that goal.
The grant will be used to fund several student internships, at both the secondary and higher education levels, with businesses, local government agencies, and organizations throughout the county. The internships will focus on some aspect of environmental need or interest requested by the organization.
"The future of our area depends on our youth,” said Roger McCannon, Coordinator of Stevens FORWARD! “This gets our youth involved in green initiatives and energy saving through alternative means.”
According to McCannon, these mentorships will allow students to engage in practical application of environmental learning outside the classroom, while helping area organizations achieve real-world environmental goals.
Steve Wagner, an electrical engineer with the USDA Soils Lab in Morris, is on the CERTs Steering Committee in the west-central area of the state, and was instrumental in getting the grant for Stevens FORWARD!
"The Stevens FORWARD! Group had several of these drivers dealing with the environment,"
Wagner said. "It was just a good thing to do for the community to put these two groups together".
The Minnesota CERTs project, which was launched in 2003, wants to help strengthen communities and generate local jobs by leveraging opportunities available through the implementation of secure, clean, and reliable energy technologies. They seek to support and develop clean energy networks in communities between a wide array of groups including businesses, farmers, local governments, educational institutions, environmental groups, and individuals.
According to their web site the CERTs project “connects people with the technical resources needed to identify and implement community-scale energy efficiency and clean energy projects.”
The CERTs project is funded by the Office of Energy Security, Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Blandin Foundation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, University of Minnesota Institute for Renewable Energy and the Environment, University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
In addition to the internships, some of the $11,000 grant will be used to conduct several energy audits for individuals and businesses in the area, Wagner said. Local contractors will be hired to assess a site and determine what green technologies could be incorporated into the location, as well as what costs and factors must be considered in the process.
Another arm of the internship portion of the initiative involves a new Environmental Studies major launched this year at the University of Minnesota, Morris.
Peter Wyckoff, Associate Professor of Biology and the current Coordinator of the Environmental Studies major, has been working with others for the past few years to develop this new arena of study. Interest by students in this major has already exceeded the early expectations.
"We have 45 students declared in this program already," Wyckoff said. “Part of the curriculum requires every student get practical field internship experience.”
The project recently received an “Engaged Department Grant” through the University of Minnesota internal grants system. The grant is intended to help University departments connect with the community on projects of interest. With these funds, they are beginning to create new local networks and will be able to supply local organizations with students who can do practical, environmentally related work, while they themselves gain valuable experience.
"The grant is about developing additional partnerships," Wyckoff said. “We are making contact with local groups now who could provide useful experience and would gain from having our students work with them.”
Wyckoff said they are now in the process of contacting businesses and organizations who either work in a specific environmental field or are attempting to improve their own environmental footprint. From this initial list of entities, they intend to collaborate with them to provide a mutually beneficial arrangement.
What these students can do for the organization will vary depending upon organizational need and the interest and skill set of the student.
"We have students with different sorts of backgrounds," Wyckoff said. "We have some students with statistical skills, some students with media and web skills, and some students with specific biology, or hydrology, or geology skills.
Troy Goodnough, UMM Campus Sustainability Coordinator, is also deeply involved in the internships and is anticipating good collaboration with community organizations. Goodnough envisions many possible needs that may be expressed by the community partners, but he also emphasized that it is the community who will determine what projects the university and students will assist with, and not vice versa.
Goodnough could imagine some projects involving a community determining whether or not a solar thermal project might be right for them; or a business that is trying to improve their operating conditions and practices to be more environmentally sound; or perhaps a business is already making strides in this area and would like some assistance marketing that environmental aspect of their company.
"We’re all curious to see what emerges from the communities," Goodnough said.
[Photo] "Stevens FORWARD! was presented with a check for $11,000 on Earth Day, April 22, from the West Central Clean Energy Resource Team to help carry out actions on its Destiny Drivers related to green and energy alternative initiatives. From left are Steve Wagner, USDA Soils Lab; Joel Haskard, U of M CERTS Coordinator; Sal Monteagudo, Stevens Forward; John Jones, Stevens Forward; and Roger McCannon, Stevens Forward." Stevens FORWARD! -- Energizing Stevens County's retail centers
Morris Sun Tribune
Published Tuesday, May 05, 2009
By Nancy Woodke "The Sunrise Sale in Morris, held in early May, is a primer to the spring shopping season, which includes events such as Mother’s Day and graduation.
It is the goal of downtown merchants to keep those dollars spent in the local community. That is also the goal of the Stevens FORWARD! initiative
and the stewards have made it one of 14 Destiny Drivers.
"By 2015 revitalization initiatives will energize our downtowns and retail centers, increasing commercial and retail sales.”
This Destiny Driver is a priority of Stevens FORWARD! steward Ray Suess, who has been a part of the local business community since he was 17 years old. After managing the lumber yard for 25 years, Suess became the owner of Morris Lumber and Millwork in 1999.
Suess believes that communication needs to start among the communities in the local economy, and he feels that all Stevens County residents need to be represented in that discussion.
"It’s not one person’s problem, it’s everyone’s,” said Suess. "We need to help each other."
He firmly believes that no single community can survive without the people in the rest of the county.
Suess envisions bringing one or two people from each community in Stevens County, along with their respective mayors, together to form a county-wide committee. That organization would then gather ideas and talk about ways to implement improvements.
Those discussions need to focus on business in general, not just retail stores.
Suess said that farming is big business in Stevens County and those owners and operators need to be included in the conversation.
"People have good ideas, but you don’t always hear them," said Suess.
Each community is aware of what it doesn't have, but Suess wonders if they realize what they do have.
"We need to make people aware of what is available," said Suess. “Then we need people to come up with ways to create more business and retail."
The Stevens County Fair is an example Suess gives of what can be accomplished when people are brought together from throughout the county.
“We have a fantastic fair," said Suess.
He credits that to people working together and overcoming differences to accomplish a common goal.
"To make our community strong, we need to bring everyone together... on a county level," said Suess. " That's the only way we’ll all last."
The neighboring community of Hoffman has faced the same challenges as those in Stevens County. Businesses and retailers were closing their doors at an alarming rate. But, in the last year the city of Hoffman has seen much growth, with those same doors opening on new businesses.
Muriel Krusemark, who heads the Hoffman Economic Development Association (HEDA), has been working with University of Minnesota, Morris students to revitalize the economy in downtown Hoffman.
Surveys discovered that Hoffman residents wanted improvements in health care, and with that goal in mind, a grant was applied for and was received from Prime West for a health care mall which is scheduled to open in June.
Since the start of the initiatives, HEDA has made significant progress in downtown Hoffman. In fact, Krusemark said there are only three places left to fill on main street.
The Main Street Galleria, a small business mall developed by local residents, currently houses 27 retailers. Other retail businesses include a scratch-and-dent/used appliance store and a hardware store. Manufacturing businesses have also expanded and a telemarketing business started.
Hoffman, a town with a population of less than 700, proves that small, rural communities can bring in new businesses that will keep people shopping locally and attract more growth.
However, Suess said revitalization isn’t all about increasing the numbers of businesses in the county.
"It doesn’t mean we can’t grow on what we already have," he said.
The current businesses in our local communities are capable of providing at least some of the needs, but they need the support of the consumers.
"How much more can we expect of them?" asked Suess. "How can we help them fulfill the needs?"
Suess admits that there is "no quick answer" and that the solution will be a process.
In his opinion, accomplishing this Destiny Driver will mean offering a larger scale of products, adding a few major businesses, and providing some niche markets.
Suess says that the ultimate goal is for Stevens County to be “sustainable.” He compares the local economy to going “green” for the environment. Reusing and recycling can go a long ways toward sustainability. So too, can recycling the money earned in the local economy.
"Retaining a larger percentage of earned dollars in our county is the only way we’ll be sustainable," said Suess. "That's going to take a lot of effort."
Suess says that energizing the local economy isn’t completely the responsibility of the retail sector, but is also dependent on the habits of consumers.
A couple of generations ago, children witnessed their parents doing all their shopping and other business in the home town. Those habits started changing drastically in the 1970s with advances in transportation and communication.
“It’s an educational process and it starts at home and in schools," he said.
Local consumers need to be aware of how they do their buying, Seuss says, and keep as many dollars in the county as they can.
He’s confident that this initiative will be able to make a difference in the local economy.
"We need to create some sparks," he said. "It's not going to be easy, but revitalization can start on a small scale."
Suess feels that many business owners would agree that they’d like to be there in the future, not only to make a living, but to contribute to the well-being of the county as a whole.
"This community has been good to us," said Suess. "It's a great place to live and do business."
With the realization of this Destiny Driver, Suess hopes that Stevens County's future will be bright for his children and grandchildren and their generations.
Are you a 'Champion'?"
"Anyone who has lived more than a few years in this area understands the impact that students attending the University of Minnesota, Morris have on the community. Their presence and energy are felt each fall when they return to classes, and their absence is noted each summer when most leave for their break.
Beyond the “community energy” factor, however, exist other dimensions of impact and benefit that having a robust local student population brings to the area. They bring talents and skills that benefit area businesses and organizations; they occupy rental properties, patronize eating and retail establishments, and get involved in community activities.
To those involved with the Stevens FORWARD! initiative, the local student population is a community asset that merits community attention. Encouraging growth in on-campus student numbers by strengthening the partnering relationship between the county, region and the university is one of Stevens FORWARD!’s 14 Destiny Drivers.
The Driver says that "By 2012 we will build a stronger coalition between the University of Minnesota Morris and the region to increase enrollment to 2,100 of which 1,800 will be on-campus students."
Karen Arnold, Interim Director of the Morris Area Chamber of Commerce, is well aware of the impact of having students live, work, and participate in the area.
"It’s huge," Arnold said. It brings a great deal of business to town, they work in our community, they bring a great deal of volunteer effort. They truly are a part of the community."
Arnold noted the integrated nature of the community and the interdependence that exists between the campus and downtown.
"Our community is so intertwined," she said. "If you pull one thread, it affects the entire design. To have them here is just a huge blessing and a boon. If there’s more people here they will, perhaps, move off campus and have apartments and housing, which affects utility companies, not to mention groceries, and everything else."
Arnold also noted the significant impact of students who have graduated from UMM and have subsequently settled in the area, started families, become part of the workforce, and even started businesses.
"I just received an email from Sal Monteagudo," Arnold said. “And at the bottom of his e-mail it says ‘Proud Morris resident since 1999.' "
Monteagudo, a UMM graduate who settled in the area, currently serves on the Stevens FORWARD! Board of Stewards and has been an active community servant for the past decade.
"It would be really healthy for the community for us to add several hundred students at least to the residential student population," said UMM Chancellor Jacquie Johnson, one of the Stewards of the Stevens FORWARD! Initiative. "So that continues to be a goal."
Johnson also said that "understanding what the enrollment numbers mean” and how the target number was determined are keys to understanding the approach to achieving the driver.
"That number of 2,100 didn’t just come from the Stewards' conversation," Johnson said. "It's actually a number that was appropriately lifted out of (UMM’s) strategic plan."
Paul Watzke, Chair of the Stevens FORWARD! initiative. said that the Stewards looked at UMM's strategic goal to increase enrollment to 2,100 by 2013, and wanted to see how the community could serve as a partner in that process and help increase the local student population numbers.
"As we were working through these drivers”, Watzke said, "with Chancellor Johnson being one of the Stewards, what we did was try and put a little more meat on that by saying that our goal, from the community perspective, is to try and make 1,800 of those students be full time students on campus.”
The overall enrollment growth, according to Johnson, will be found not only in the residential students, but in other areas, as well. Johnson said that for the last four or five years, the total enrollment numbers have also been comprised of non-residential students, such as students who enroll in on-line courses offered through UMM but access the curriculum from remote locations.
Johnson said that in the 21st century higher education environment, determining "the appropriate mix of students” has been a regular conversation on the campus.
"There is a mix of students here today that is probably different than it was 10 or 20 years ago," Johnson said. "That is part of the nature of higher education and part of the challenges we face as an institution because of declining demographics for traditional high school age students in the region."
Johnson did note, however, that preliminary enrollment numbers for new high school students and transfer students are tracking ahead of last year, which is a good sign of progress toward the long term goals.
For Watzke, the key in the short term is to strengthen the already healthy relationships that exist between the UMM campus and county community, and work together to find mutually beneficial arrangements.
"It's a two-way partnership," Watzke said "My encouragement is that we as a community do everything we can to help make this community the right setting for students. That it is attractive and has opportunities."
Are you a ‘Champion’?
*see GoodnewsMorris College & Community
"Communities that encourage economic growth by increasing entrepreneurial opportunities tend to see more innovation within their borders, and they experience more long term prosperity. When marketable ideas and the entrepreneurial spirit are combined with sound business practices and healthy financial backing, the
potential for industry creation and new job growth are practically limitless.
Bolstering the development of new business is one of Stevens FORWARD!’s 14 Destiny Drivers.
The driver says that “By 2009 we will harness the intellectual capital of the University of Minnesota Morris, West Central Research and Outreach Center, U.S.D.A. Soils Lab, and agri-business and associates into an Innovations Incubator that will produce one new commercial venture each year.”
The Champions of this initiative strongly believe that by uniting knowledge and resources already present within Stevens County, they will be able to produce long term economic fruit.
Warrenn Anderson, a local attorney and one of the Stewards of the Stevens FORWARD! initiative, believes in this potential and does not have to think long to find a tangible local precedent.
Anderson cites West Central Environmental Consultants (WCEC) as a strong model of the sort of grass roots incubation of an innovative idea that has continued to generate economic opportunities. WCEC, a firm that is headquartered in Morris with three satellite offices in the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Montana, provides a variety of environmental services including environmental assessments, as well as control and cleanup of hazardous material spills.
Anderson said the firm began when a few people recognized an environmental need or opportunity, and assembled the right mix of resources to turn that opportunity into a business.
"We looked at the idea that (businesses) were replacing all these underground storage tanks," Anderson said. "We asked ourselves, what does that involve? The intellectual asset is geology. Well, UMM has this Geology Department and they have all these bright students and professors."
Anderson said they connected one of UMM’s Geology faculty, a banker, and a businessman together in early 1990. Out of that grassroots uniting of opportunity, idea, and resources, a significant local industry was born that now provides jobs in a specialized field and continues to grow.
For Anderson and others in the county, observing this kind of success as well as other examples of innovative businesses, just makes them hungry to find more.
“What other things could we spin off from the knowledge base that we have in this county,” Anderson said. "I mean, it’s incredible what we have."
Anderson and others are currently making plans to create an "Innovations Incubator". The goal would be to increase the interaction between the sources of knowledge and good ideas in the county and people with business experience and financing, to produce businesses. What form this incubator might take, however, is yet to be determined.
"This is a very formative time right now," Anderson said. "We're still working on the concept."
According to Anderson, Stevens County has what he referred to as a "triangle of knowledge" in the West Central Research and Outreach Center, the University of Minnesota Morris, and the U.S.D.A. Soils Lab that serve as educational and economic resources. Anderson said they want to combine those foundational components with the economic drivers in the county.
"We want to combine what we have here and create some companies that would utilize all these assets that we have in our county,” Anderson said. “This triangle of intellectual property that we have here in our county, that's unique to our county. We want to take that intellectual property and combine it with our known economic engines: agriculture, manufacturing, and finance. We've got to have the knowledge, the people, and the money."
Anderson also noted the number of students who graduate from the area schools and the University every year. For those involved in this initiative, these students represent a ripe workforce that could be harnessed, providing that there is a diverse economic atmosphere with a diverse selection of jobs to support them.
"We're very much hoping that there will be green jobs somehow," Anderson said. “We have the land and wind resource in this area. We have the intellectual resource. We have the demand for renewable related products.”
Anderson is careful to note, however, that the field of opportunities are not limited to "green" industries. The very nature of an innovations incubator is the ability to think outside the box and capitalize on opportunities as they arise. But, Anderson notes, there are trends in the green energy industry that hold potential to launch numerous industries by nurturing home grown talent and ideas.
At this stage, Anderson and a few others are in the process of assembling a healthy mix of stakeholders from a variety of representative industries into an Advisory Committee. These representatives, who each have their fingers on the pulse of diverse fields of business knowledge, will be able to leverage the creative energies and ideas of people within those fields and potentially convert them into marketable businesses with job creation potential.
"We have the folks in Stevens County from the private sector who are very interested in contributing their time and talents toward accomplishing this goal," Anderson said. "We think this is a necessary part of retaining or sustaining the viability of the county."
Are you a 'Champion'?" Stevens FORWARD! The hard work that lies ahead
Tom Larson, Morris Sun Tribune
Published Wednesday, May 27, 2009
By Tom Larson "Stevens FORWARD! is ready to do just that -- move forward.
For the last 2-1/2 months, a weekly series of stories have introduced the " Destiny Drivers" for the two-year old community-building initiative that began as a rough draft of Stevens County’s future almost two years ago.
Now, the real work begins.
“We raised the money to organize it, administer it and promote it," said Paul Watzke, chair of the Stevens FORWARD! Stewards. " Now, we’ll look for additional funding and we’ll look for additional people so that we can launch the drivers with whatever resources are needed.”
Stevens FORWARD! stewards in October 2008 released a list of 14 projects that they believe will make the county a better place to live and do business in the future.
Stevens FORWARD! launched the initiative into the action stage by releasing the 14 initiatives, called " Destiny Drivers."
The Destiny Statement and a list of the drivers can be found later in this story.
Stevens FORWARD! was conceived in 2007 by Stevens County commissioners Neal Hofland and Watzke and is modeled after a successful stewardship program in Bemidji.
A steering group comprised of county residents met for 10 months to set the countywide goals.
Like the Bemidji program, Stevens FORWARD! hopes the drivers will lead county residents to think and work hard to get the region where it wants to be in 15 or 20 years.
The goals now are to keep interest and participation moving ahead.
Each of the Destiny Drivers has a steward to oversee the driver, and champions who have taken on the responsibility to do the trench work. Each team will work with “Progress Logs” to chart their efforts in achieving the goal.
Stevens FORWARD! also has established an executive committee that will meet periodically for updates and to reevaluate the work. The committee is comprised of Watzke, Sal Monteagudo, Carolyn Peterson, Jim Thoreen and Stevens FORWARD! coordinator Roger McCannon.
" Stevens FORWARD! was funded for two years, and many of the Destiny Drivers extend beyond two years," McCannon said. “We have to decide how and by what means are we going to continue on."
The stewards and champions also must ensure that all the Destiny Drivers are afforded equal effort.
“We want them all to have some progress,” Watzke said.
The initiative also has been designed to be adaptable to changes that may come up as work on the drivers continues.
“This can change and things can be modified,” McCannon said.
"To sit here and think we have all the answers is not the way to go," Watzke said. “There are a lot of talented people doing a lot of things for economic development and community involvement and we want to work together in any way we can.”
Stevens FORWARD! is the first initiative based on the Bemidji Leads model, and it’s the only example of a group attempting to encompass an entire county rather than just a city.
Since Stevens FORWARD! was conceived, similar efforts are underway in Alexandria, Appleton and Fergus Falls.
Stevens FORWARD! will continue to identify people who want to get involved, and is expecting to update the community about its work through public reports, Watzke said.
"I think we’ll do really well with this," he said.
Stevens FORWARD! Destiny Statement
Stevens County will be the model community in rural Minnesota, recognized for our progressive development and our innovations in renewable energy, agriculture, business, and education. We will achieve this by building upon the intellectual and social capital already present within the county, and by attracting new and diverse talent that will drive our economy and increase our population.
• Unique towns and a strong work ethic.
• A solid base of technology and natural resources.
• An entrepreneurial spirit and culture of lifelong learning.
• Initiatives in alternative energy – wind, biomass, hydrogen and methane.
• A balanced lifestyle of work, worship and play in a beautiful and safe locale.
• A strong and diverse foundation of agriculture business, health care, and education.
1. By 2009 we will harness the intellectual capital of the University of Minnesota Morris, West Central Research and Outreach Center, U.S.D.A. Soils Lab, and agri-business and associates into an Innovations Incubator that will produce one new commercial venture each year.
2. By 2012 a Stevens FORWARD! Community Fund of $1.5 million will help finance projects that further the destiny of the county.
3. By 2010 we will create a “Green Internship / Mentor Program” that will support 20 high school and college students per year.
4. By 2010 at least ten UMM graduates will gain professional employment in Stevens County that leverages their talents and provides opportunity for career advancement.
5. Over the next ten years we will maintain the highest percentage of high school students in Minnesota going on to higher education (university, college, or technical college).
6. By 2010 we will enhance our interconnectedness by better utilizing the technology infrastructure to create a virtual community.
7. By 2013 we will have established an inclusive culture that embraces a diversity of people in our population and encourages their uniqueness to flourish and enhance our community.
8. By 2015 Stevens County will be the first carbon neutral county in the world, demonstrating viable models for green housing, neighborhoods and public buildings.
9. By 2012 we will have the finest retirement community in western Minnesota, attracting 20 new retirees to our community every year.
10. By 2015 revitalization initiatives will energize our downtowns and retail centers, increasing commercial and retail sales.
11. By 2015 we will invigorate our parks, lakes and trails to be the finest in western Minnesota.
12. By 2015 we will construct an outdoor Aquatics Center that will serve Stevens County and the surrounding region.
13. By 2012 we will build a stronger coalition between the University of Minnesota Morris and the region to increase enrollment to 2,100 of which 1,800 will be on-campus students.
14. By 2010 an Intergovernmental Council will ratify a Statement of Interdependence that will guide us toward greater efficiencies among our public institutions and services.
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"The Stevens FORWARD! community improvement initiative received a grant that could potentially total $60,000 from the Otto Bremer Foundation.
The grant was announced at a reception Thursday by Stevens FORWARD! Chair Paul Watzke.
The Bremer grant is $45,000 outright, and the potential for another $15,000 that will be awarded provided Stevens FORWARD! can provide a dollar-for-dollar match.
The current Bremer Foundation is in addition to a $15,000 the foundation awarded Stevens FORWARD! during the initiative's start-up.
Watzke also provided the audience a brief progress update on the 14 Destiny Drivers that Stevens FORWARD! has initiated to help improve the economic and societal development and quality of life of the county.
"These things are happening," Watzke said. "There's progress."
See the Saturday, Dec. 5 print edition of the Sun Tribune, and this Web site, for more on this story."
Long Lake, Stevens County, Minnesota, from goingoutside.com "Central Minnesota's Rough Fish Factory, This lake is overrun with Carp & Buffalo Fish, it appears the DNR is trying to manage this lake with walleye stocking to curb the rough fish population...NOT WORKING...of course...the weeds are all gone and the bottom is always stirred up, very poor water quality. DNR Report states ''Boom or Bust fishing lake''. This basin is more bust than boom. Lake Shore land owners should rally and get the state to clean it up..Local folks tell me this used to be a Duck factory. The DNR should reconsider there management plan on this lake and return it to the shallow CLEAN basin it was in the 60's & 70's.....There are better fishing lakes than this in the county...
"was established in 1971 under funding provided by the Minnesota Historical Society and contains materials from the greater west central Minnesota region. Counties represented in the collection include Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Swift, and Traverse. Materials include oral histories, business and cooperative records, personal papers and government and institutional documents. The University of Minnesota Morris Archives serves as the institutional memory of the campus and includes material from the various administrative arms of the college, records from the various divisions and disciplines, material provided by student organizations and the personal papers of administrators and professors. Both collections operate under the direction of Professor of History Stephen Gross and are staffed by student workers and interns. Our facilities are open to the university community and to those members of the general public interested in local and regional history."