Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Some fine examples of giving in rural Minnesota April 5, 2011

WHEN I READ through the March 31 edition of The Gaylord Hub, a rural Minnesota weekly newspaper where I worked from 1978 – 1980, something caught my eye.

The 10-page paper was packed with stories about community members helping one another. The quantity of articles impressed me enough to write this post, to emphasize to you that even during these challenging times, Minnesotans are reaching out to one another.

These are stories we need to read among the hard news stories of floods and earthquakes, wars and suicide bombers, rising gas prices and falling property values, the news that causes us to ask, “What is this world coming to?”

The articles I read reaffirm that among all the bad in the world, plenty of good still exists. And often, young people are leading the way to assist those in need.

In Gaylord, the Sibley East Junior High Student Council recently raised $600 for the Sibley County Food Shelf. Likewise, the Gaylord Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, leaders and parents collected 1,032 pounds of food and $70.65 for the county food shelf in a one-day drive.

Students from Sibley East Elementary Schools in Gaylord and Arlington raised $10,431.32 in the Pennies for Patients fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, placing in the top 25 among 473 participating schools. How’s that for a small school (between 200 – 499 students) in rural Minnesota?

The adults in the Gaylord area aren’t sitting idly by watching the younger generation pursue charitable giving.

The winner in a local drawing chose Sibley County Food Share, Inc., as the recipient of a $2,500 donation from the Monsanto Fund.

Sertomans, at their weekly meeting, discussed plans for a benefit to help the Lindemann family as their daughter, Paisley, battles cancer.

The newspaper also published a story about an education memorial fund established for Kaylee and Gavin, the young children of Michael Struck, a Minnesota Department of Transportation worker who died after his backhoe was swept away recently in flood waters.

And then, in a front page article, readers learned that $63,000 in donations have been made to Gaylord’s new aquatic center. Donations will be used to buy amenities (play features) for the pool. All 69 donors are listed in an ad published on page 5.

This is just an observation I’ve made over the years—and I think it’s an accurate one—but residents of small towns are often willing to open their pocketbooks to projects that in larger cities would be funded with taxpayer dollars. Why? I think community pride and ownership and the deep personal connections small town residents have to one another prompt such generosity.

Finally, the last philanthropic piece of news was buried deep in a front page article titled “Fire Department receives FEMA grant.” After explaining that the local department has received a nearly $60,000 grant to purchase firefighting equipment, the reporter writes about the annual firemen’s banquet.

And that is where I found this little gem: “Also recognized for their years of service was the ‘kitchen crew’ which helps serve a highly-touted ham dinner. Jim Huffman and Don Pinske have each helped serve the banquet meal for more than 60 years.”

Sixty years. Now that’s dedication and an outstanding example of selfless giving back to the community.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling