Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving Day for a caring community November 24, 2022

I created this Thanksgiving display in a stoneware bowl in 2015 with the card crafted by my sister-in-law Rena. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2015)

AS THE SCENT OF ROASTING TURKEY fills the house, as tables are set, as friends and family gather, may thankfulness center your thoughts this Thanksgiving Day.

Even in these days of high inflation, political divisiveness and too many people sick with the flu, COVID and RSV, there is reason to pause and feel grateful. Our medical professionals continue to care for patients in overcrowded emergency rooms and hospitals. Post election, hope rises that politicians can work together. And for those who are struggling, individuals and organizations are stepping up to help.

My friends Gary and Barb ring bells for the Salvation Army in 2013. Randy and I followed them in ringing. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2013)

In my community, I see so much compassion and care for others, which truly causes my spirit to fill with gratitude. Last Saturday while exiting a local grocery store, I dropped several bills into the Salvation Army red kettle and thanked the ringers for ringing. What I got in return—bless you—was more than I gave. Later that day at a church boutique, my friend Joy sold holiday porch pots, side tables and benches she crafted from recycled wood, and more with all proceeds going to the Salvation Army.

Volunteers dish up meals at the community Thanksgiving dinner in 2016. Randy and I delivered meals. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo November 2016)

Today a crew of volunteers will serve a free Faribault CommUnity Thanksgiving Dinner, open to anyone from 11 am – 2 pm at the Faribault Eagles Club. There’s in-person dining, curbside pick-up and delivery (if needed). I’ve delivered those meals in the past and, again, was blessed beyond measure by the grateful words of the recipients. (Monetary donations are accepted for the Faribault Foundation, with a mission of “enriching the quality of life for the Faribault community.)

Every Tuesday evening, volunteers also serve a free dinner at the Community Cafe, hosted at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. The non-profit’s mission is “Build Community, One Meal at a Time.”

I display this vintage 1976 calendar each Thanksgiving as a reminder of my blessings. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

As more and more people struggle to afford food, to put food on the table, my community provides. Through church food shelves. At St. Vincent De Paul, which shares “faith, food and free resources” with a primary concern of charity and justice. At the Community Action Center of Faribault, a free food market and resource center.

This was some of the information presented at a 2018 collaborative public meeting in Faribault focused on domestic violence. Domestic violence typically rises during the holidays. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2018)

HOPE Center provides Healing, Outreach, Prevention and Education to survivors of violence (and their families) in Rice County. I am grateful to the team that staffs HOPE Center, bringing hope and healing. To witness such compassion warms my heart.

Faribault Woolen Mill (now Faribault Mill) blankets/throws artfully hung on a simple pipe in the Faribault retail store in 2012. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2012)

The warmth of compassion also plays out at the Faribault Mill, founded in 1865 as a woolen mill and internationally-known for its quality woolen blankets and other products. For every bed blanket sold, the mill is donating one high quality blanket to nonprofits serving homeless youth in cities across the country. The “Spread the Warmth” initiative has already partnered with 14 nonprofits coast-to-coast, north to south, from Boston to San Francisco, from Minneapolis to Dallas.

Created by a Faribault Lutheran School student in 2013, the feathers list reasons for thankfulness. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo November 2013)

There is reason to feel grateful for all of these efforts, to see just how much love, care and compassion exist. I feel heartened, thankful, uplifted by the real ways in which individuals, businesses, faith communities, nonprofits and more strive to care for others. Hope rises.

Happy Thanksgiving!

TELL ME: What are you especially thankful for this Thanksgiving in your community?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Along the Cannon River, by a dam in Faribault August 16, 2022

The picturesque Faribault Mill along the Cannon River in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

THE RIVERS RUN THROUGH, the Cannon and the Straight converging on Faribault’s north side at Two Rivers Park.

A view of the Cannon River looking west while standing on the walkway over the dam next to Father Slevin Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

The history, the founding of my southeastern Minnesota community is channeled through these waterways. In the history of the Dakota who first called this place home. In the history of the fur traders, including town founder Alexander Faribault, who settled along and traveled the rivers. In the history of flour mills and sawmills and the renowned Faribault Woolen Mill, established in 1865.

There’s a buffer of plants along the shores of the Cannon in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Whenever I walk the Northern Link Trail in North Alexander Park along the Cannon River Reservoir, I pause to view the 1892 Faribault Mill. Often I photograph this iconic brick building aside the appropriately-named Woolen Mill Dam. I appreciate this long-standing business, still operating today, weaving fine woolen blankets and more that have garnered national respect for quality craftsmanship.

Ghost signs on the Faribault Mill along the Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Ghost signs on the building’s exterior remind me of this mill’s long history here, along the river, by the dam.

There’s a notable absence of water at this dam on the Cannon River in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

A grassy patch away, a second dam manages river flow next to Father Slevin Park. But when I last visited the area on August 7, I saw bare concrete with only a trickle of water leaking through boards at that smaller dam. Rather than rushing water defining this place, stagnant ponding water defines it.

The drying river bed and stagnant water below the dam. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

I observed green algae and litter on the water’s surface. I observed exposed rocks and plants growing where water should flow. All are evidence of the drought conditions we are experiencing here in southern Minnesota. We’ve had some rain since I paused beside the dam. But not enough to totally compensate for the lack of moisture.

Fishing in the Cannon River at Father Slevin Park near the Woolen Mill Dam. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Typically, anglers frequent the river banks below this particular dam. But not now. Not in this summer of drought. These dry weather conditions plague so many locations across the country and world as the effects of climate change continue. One need only look to the West, to the decades of drought, the wildfires and the ever-growing tensions over water to understand the crisis.

I’ve seen more grasshoppers this year than in recent years, including this one among plants on the Cannon River bank. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Locally, low river levels visually remind me that we are not untouched by evolving weather patterns. There was a time when I held a heightened awareness of weather as my farmer father looked to the sky, waiting for rain clouds to open, to drench his corn and soybean fields. I remember the summer of 1976 when he purchased boxcar loads of hay from Montana to feed our livestock. Worry defined that summer.

I spotted this buoy tucked next to a corner of the dam, hugging the shore above the dam. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

And now worry edges into my thoughts as I observe the stillness. No sound of rushing water. No sight of rushing water. Only the exposed concrete dam and the stagnant water pooling below.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling