Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A heartwarming story from Vesta, my prairie hometown March 28, 2023

Downtown Vesta, Minnesota, photographed in 2018. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2018)

WHEN I READ A RECENT POST on the City of Vesta Facebook page, I knew I needed to share this story with you. It is a heartwarming story of kindness and gratitude that renews my faith in the goodness of humanity. And it is, too, a moment in which I feel overwhelming pride in my hometown.

Before I get to the referenced post, I expect many of you are wondering, “Where is Vesta?” I’ve found in my 41 years of living in southeastern Minnesota that most people have no clue. Vesta is west of Mankato, west of New Ulm, west of Redwood Falls. The small Redwood County farming community of around 320 sits along Minnesota State Highway 19 half way between Redwood and Marshall. It is the only town directly aside that highway for the 40 miles between the two larger cities.

A lone tree along a fence line on the southwestern Minnesota Prairie. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2012)

Vesta is in the middle of the prairie, the windswept prairie. If a winter storm sweeps in with strong winds, then conditions quickly deteriorate to blizzard status. You don’t want to be caught on the road if that happens. It’s dangerous.

I shot this on the Minnesota Highway 19 curve just north of Vesta in March 2012. The recently-stranded motorist was at about this point on the highway, but in far worse weather conditions. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2012)

Recently, a motorist found herself in such dire conditions while driving Highway 19 toward Watertown, South Dakota, to visit grandchildren. Forty mph winds, blowing snow and zero visibility—to the point where she had to stop to see if she was still on the road some two miles from Vesta—resulted in a life-saving decision. She got off the highway at Vesta.

And that’s where this story begins to unfold into a story of generosity and kindness in my hometown. The first person she encountered was Dave and his buddy, out on four-wheelers. I knew exactly who she meant. Dave owns an auto body and repair shop in Vesta. He also plows snow for locals. When my mom was alive and still living in Vesta, it was Dave who cleared her snow. It was Dave who answered Mom’s calls for help with car issues. I always felt reassured that he was, in some ways, looking after her and so many other seniors.

I digress. Dave directed the recently-diverted motorist two blocks east to the community center, a designated shelter for stranded travelers. Upon arrival at the former Vesta Elementary School, the grateful traveler found the doors locked. So off she went to find someone, anyone, to let her inside. She noticed two trucks parked outside the grain elevator, which led her inside and directly to Vesta’s emergency coordinator. Jeremy drove home and got the key to open the shelter.

A plate of spaghetti, photo used for illustration purposes only. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2013)

Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. The out-of-town guest got a tour of the community center and was also advised she could help herself to the spaghetti and chicken noodle soup in the fridge, watch TV in the work-out room and then sleep on a cot, pillows provided. She was also given the Wi-Fi password. Later the city clerk’s husband brought an extra blanket after the clerk stopped to ask if the shelter guest needed anything.

Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. Soon town kids showed up, per a text sent by Jeremy that they could hang out in the community center during the blizzard. The way-laid motorist soon found herself in rousing games of dodge ball and kickball inside the gym where I played as a grade-schooler.

Road closed signs like this one near Springfield can be found along southwestern Minnesota highways, including highway 19. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2011)

Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. Jeremy kept in touch, texting that the local bar was open if she wanted pizza. She was happy with the soup. The next morning the emergency coordinator texted again, notifying the overnight guest that roads had been plowed. He’d also reached out to the Marshall Police Department to assure that roads were open to motorists. Drive on a “closed” road and you risk a $750 fine. Jeremy went that extra mile to assure the woman could resume her journey to Watertown.

Her lengthy post to the City of Vesta Facebook page shows deep gratitude for all those who made her feel welcomed and safe in my hometown. She wrote: It was quite a night in the Vesta Community Center. Everyone’s kindness in this town was so timely and heartfelt that, rather than feeling like a stranded traveler, I felt like a VIP walking down a red carpet.

I am not surprised by the goodness of the folks in Vesta. This is small town southwestern Minnesota at its best. Caring, kind, compassionate, loving, welcoming. I’ve always felt embraced by the place of my roots, even decades after leaving. I understand this place. These will always be my people. My prairie people.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Source: City of Vesta Facebook page

Thank you to Minnesota Prairie Roots reader Bill for alerting me to this City of Vesta Facebook post.


27 Responses to “A heartwarming story from Vesta, my prairie hometown”

  1. It’s wonderful to see these acts of kindness and compassion. Thanks for sharing, Audrey. ❤

  2. Ida Fetterer Says:

    Oh my reading that reminds me of my little town of 250 people I was raised in, Villard,MN.
    Thank you for sharing it warmed my heart.

  3. What a feel good story today. 😊

  4. Ahhh – love this 🙂 I call this the MN Welcome & Goodbye – it takes hours, you will be hugged, comforted, cared for, fed, warmth, entertainment, et. al. I have family in Redwood County so familiar with that area. Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • I like that comparison to the Minnesota welcome and the long Minnesota goodbye. It’s nice when a reader like you is familiar with my home area. Usually, around here, no one has any idea where Redwood County is located. The other day I met a man who grew up in Marshall and now lives outside Faribault. Our conversation started with me asking him about his NDSU shirt. It was so good to connect with someone from the prairie.

    • Just get on 19 and go for a drive. Have family in Vesta, Seaforth, Sleepy Eye, Redwood Falls areas.

  5. Al and Bonnie Says:


    I am originally from Belview and my Father (Duwayne Fish, Milton) had a shop there that Ed Kletscher used to frequent. I am just wondering if you were related and if you knew anything about Ed. I was quite young when he would come into Dad’s shop, but I do remember my dad and Ed having a pretty good time when he was there. Not sure if he was getting something to repair of if he just would stop in once in awhile.


    Al Fish

    • Al, Ed was my dad’s uncle. I don’t remember a lot about him, only that he dressed up as a clown to participate in local parades. He also, and I hope I get this right, lost his first wife and then remarried. I’m sure in Belview would remember him.

  6. Valerie Says:

    What a great story. I’m glad it made the news.

  7. I remember those blizzards traveling to Vesta from Springfield, The good old days, Thank you for the pictures and the warmth. The farms around Vesta will always be special to me.. Thank you..

  8. beth Says:

    this is an absolutely beautiful and wonderful story. one that reminds us all of the goodness in people, often when it is least expected and most needed. thank you for sharing this and telling us where vesta is and more about this town and the wonderful people within it.

  9. Ann Vohs Says:

    Wonderful Story. We all need more of these.
    Thank you for sharing and reminding us that there is much kindness in the world.

  10. BradG Says:

    I too lived in small town/village..Belview – very near Vesta. Grew up with true “Community” spirit. When help or compassion was needed, it was there in a minute. Everyone knew everybody. Back in the day, we didn’t even lock our doors. I also lived in Atlanta – never again. I hope everyone who reads Audrey’s post will show this compassion “to your neighbor as you would to yourself”.

  11. Heartwarming and timely for me personally this morning. Thanks for sharing this!

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