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By women...for women...about women.



+ Quilt Art + Geocaching + Motorcycle Mamas + Gardens for Grade Schoolers

Making Waves when it comes to shorelines


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Summer ‘16 Contents


Making Waves


A Snapshot of Cuba


An Artist and Her Alpacas


Motorcycle Mamas


Operation Sandwich


Lakes Area Music Festival

We love our lakes, but do we care enough to preserve them? Claire Steen does. By Jenny Gunsbury

While close in distance, Cuba has been a world apart. Here’s one woman’s story of her week-long visit. By Sharon J. Carlson

Read what Esther Endicott does with a loom, a spinning wheel and five alpacas on 40 acres. By Carolyn Corbett

Not just for guys anymore--women know a thing or two about motorcycles. By Mary Aalgaard

Who cares about peanut butter sandwiches? Hungry kids at lunchtime and the many volunteers who make them. By Jenny Holmes


It takes an army of volunteers to bring about this musical event. Read about three women who help make it happen. By Hannah Burchill

On The Cover Claire Steen loves the lakes and works to preserve water quality.


Photo by Joey Halvorson

In This Issue editorial • 4

Digging in the Dirt by Meg Douglas

her say • 9

Journey of Solitude By Mary Alice Johnson

outdoors • 16

Cache Me if You Can: For the Love of Geocaching By Rebecca Flansburg

sports • 18

entrepreneurs • 12

By Sheila Helmberger

By Marlene Chabot

Where the Wild Things Are

Crosslake’s Mitten Lady memories • 14

Canaries for Sale--A Memory From a Time Gone By By Jan Kurtz

her Voice ISO • 20

By Rebecca Flansburg

missions • 28

Fearless fiber fun, one stitch at a time By Amy Sharpe

fitness • 34

On a Wellness Journey By Denise Sundquist

yard & garden • 42

Gardening for Grade Schoolers

witty woman • 44


“Relaxing” in the Outdoors By Jill Hannah Anderson


The Golden Girls

the arts • 32


By Jill Neumann

Sewing for Missions By Carol Miller

Summer 2016 | her voice 3

from the editor

By women. For women. About women.



Pete Mohs EDITOR

Meg Douglas

in the Dirt Soft, spring rains release moist, earthy smells and just digging in the dirt on a sunsplashed day can produce euphoria! Shelly Boser, Retail Sales Manager at Landsburg Landscape Nursery, knows the feeling. At work, Mother’s Day weekend is like Black Friday, she says. Eager shoppers wheeling plant-laden carts down aisles ablaze with colorful containers. Shelly’s all over the place, her bright smile, greeting customers, answering questions, loving her work of 17 seasons. But it’s not just her job. Digging in the dirt runs deep in Shelly’s blood. At her Grandpa Czech’s hobby farm near Little Falls, where the family went for chicken dinner every Sunday, Shelly learned growing basics. She speaks with awe of grandpa’s weed-free garden beds and still plants gladiolas and dahlias in his memory. The oldest of three children, Shelly grew up on a dairy farm near Lastrup, where she learned to milk cows, drive tractors and run bobcats from her dad, Kenny Boser. Also inheriting his outgoing personality, she continues to charm her customers. Today, Shelly shares her 40-acre hobby farm near Pierz with 50 laying hens who produce four dozen eggs a day, 10-12 goats, beef cows, a dog, a turkey and an assortment of barn cats. Not “pets,” a cow might hear, “Your goal in life is to be tender.” Another, “You’re a house payment.” Besides income, animals 4 Summer 2016 | her voice

Cindy Spilman

are her entertainment, she says with a grin, labeling her seven donkeys “pasture art.” Also on Shelly’s farm is a garden as big as her personality. About 40’ x 80’, this trial and error vegetable garden is where she grows more than she consumes, saying, “My neighbors eat well.” Losses, however, are her customers’ gain. “If it doesn’t work for me,” says Shelly, “no way I can sell it.” Anyone receiving her Landsburg’s E-newsletter knows all about the trials and tribulations of her garden. Not just what to plant, but when to trim shrubs or deter deer. One reader told Shelly, “I feel like you’re talking to me.” Another said, “I love to hear how you screwed up.” Shelly’s not selling a product, she’s sharing what she knows, wrapped up with her love of growing. That same spirit infuses her garden classes and events. Before the cancellation of the Crow Wing County Garden Expo, Shelly was a popular presenter on a variety of topics but this year Morrison County snagged her. At Landsburg’s she hosts a number of events including Girls’ Night Out, pot planting in the spring and wreath making over the holidays. Some area companies have hooked into her energy for team building events. When one employee looked doubtful about wreath making, Shelly’s comment, “You get a glue gun and a pair of pruners,” had him all in. Shelly’s love of growing things is contagious. This summer, catch the fever!

Meg Douglas, Editor


May is that time of year when gardeners are just itching to get their hands dirty.



Joey Halvorson COPY EDITOR

DeLynn Howard


(entertainment tab)

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(218) 855-5871 Mail: ATTN: Her Voice Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401 A quarterly publication of the Brainerd Dispatch. Printed by Forum Communications.

copyright© 2003 VOLUME 13, EDITION 2 SUMMER 2016

Here with you is life-saving heart care close to home.

Jean and Michael, Fort Ripley

Shoveling snow last winter Jean wasn’t feeling right and sought care at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. It was discovered that blood flow was completely blocked to one part of her heart, and her life was in danger. Fortunately, the team was ready in the cardiac catherization lab where a stent was expertly inserted into Jean’s heart just 34 minutes after she arrived at the hospital. Jean continues her recovery by participating in the cardiovascular rehabilitation program and enjoying life with her husband of 60 years.

Marilyn Covey Heart & Vascular Center. For appointments call 218.828.7580

Making Waves

when it comes to shorelines



Claire Steen may enjoy the solitude of paddling around Upper Hay Lake alone in her kayak, but on land, she is a person who knows how to rally people around good causes for the community and future generations.

6 Summer 2016 | her voice

President of Upper Hay Lakes Association, Claire Steen wrote grants totaling $14,500 for nine shoreline restoration projects between 2014-16.

An active community volunteer, the effort closest to her heart is literally in her backyard – Upper Hay Lake. Claire was concerned about the health of the lake and learned about the role shorelines play in water quality. “Shoreline restoration will improve the quality of our lakes for generations. Beyond the positive effects on preventing erosion, the establishment of healthy shorelines will also reduce the amount of phosphorus going into the lake. Upper Hay Lake has phosphorus levels slightly above the ideal according to data from Crow Wing County,” says Claire. As the president of the Upper Hay Lakes Association (UHLA), Claire had learned about shoreline restoration grants available through the county. She organized a meeting with

board members from the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association (WAPOA) to learn about the grant process and attended open houses that were offered by Crow Wing County Soil and Water District (CWCSD) and WAPOA for information on current practices and plant materials. “I believe that shoreline restoration with coir (a fiber from a coconut husk) logs and native plants is important for the long-term,” says Claire. In early 2014, Claire asked Darren Mayers, District Technician and Forester at the CWCSWD to give a presentation to the Upper Hay Lake Association on how a shoreline restoration grant could be used on Upper Hay Lake. “Claire had already talked to her neighbors and had a list of 1215 people interested in the grant mon-


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Claire learned about current practices and plant materials for shoreline restoration from workshops offered by Crow Wing County Soil and Water District.

ey available,” said Mayers. The grant was written by the UHLA Board and reviewed by an interagency team including Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, University of Minnesota Extension, The Nature Conservancy, Mississippi Headwaters Board and the Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation District. The UHLA was awarded a grant for $14,500 for the summer of 2014 through 2016. Seven property owners completed their projects that summer and two others were done by October 2015. Not all of the money was granted out; some remained for future maintenance. This was fortunate as ice ridges that formed during the winter of 2015 did some damage to the newly planted shorelines. “In the spring, property owners were able

to have the Conservation Corps come to help repair the coir logs and stakes,” says Claire. “Some of the residents did re-planting of native plants; others had

“Shorelines with coir logs and native vegetation are weakest the first day they are installed and delicate for one to three years so they need to be tended. From then on, they keep getting stronger. Riprap shorelines (rock) are strongest the day they are put in and only get weaker with time. Ice heaves “One person can damage riprap making them costmake a difference, can ly to repair almost on a yearly basis.” and everyone Natural buffers also prevent sediments from erosion and fertilizers from lawns should try.” from washing into the lakes, maintain~John F. Kennedy ing and eventually increasing water quality. Lake associations, homeowners, camps, churches and schools are now native plants that survived and sprout- vying for the competitive grant moned through the netting.” ey. According to Mayers, the UHLA Mayers explains how restored shore- was awarded the money because Claire lines perform when first installed. already had people interested in doing Summer 2016 | her voice 7

the work prior to applying. “She has a passion and enthusiasm for her shorelines and understands how beneficial it is to use native plants and create a buffer between lawn and lake. Her mindset convinced others to make positive changes,” he says. “She is great at handling the landowners, working with them, helping them. When I get calls from property owners on Upper Hay Lake, I refer them to Claire because she’s really the one that knows the process. I guarantee people are seeing what’s going on and there are more people who want to do work on their land.” Claire’s quest to improve the lakes area has not stopped at the shoreline. She has been instrumental in getting lake residents to test their water for invasive species with the AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) veliger net program, helped the UHLA obtain a grant for 400 hours for the AIS Boat Landing Inspection Program with DNRtrained inspectors, and has testified as a private citizen before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Enbridge, Inc., in St. Cloud, expressing her concerns regarding the pipeline going through so many bodies of water in the Brainerd lakes area. Working as a volunteer in the community were values Claire learned from a young age. She says her mother taught her the value of hard work and education while teachers encouraged her to attend college and apply for scholarships. “These people taught me the importance of making a difference in people’s lives and in my community,” says Claire. When Claire became a teacher herself, she was in a position to do the same for her students. Claire was a family and consumer science teacher at Pequot Lakes High School for 32 years. “My proudest accomplish8 Summer 2016 | her voice


Just the opposite of riprap (rock), shorelines with native vegetation and coir logs require tending the first three years, but once established get stronger.

ment as a teacher was establishing a class called Wellness which became a senior requirement in Pequot Lakes,” explains Claire. “As part of the class, the students were required to volunteer in their community; we felt that it was important for students to become aware of the value of volunteering so they would be more apt to do it in their adult life. The seniors volunteered with a wide variety of community organizations such as Kinship Partners and Confidence Learning Center.” As a 20-year breast cancer survivor, Claire has also served as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure education chair for Greater Minnesota. In this position, she has participated in women’s and health expos to help bring awareness of breast cancer

health and research. Claire is the first person to acknowledge that all of these efforts are not accomplished by one person. “It’s great when a group of people come together for a specific cause. It’s very exciting to see everything come together – each person making their contribution,” she says. She does concede one thing though – her passion is getting people together to get something done. She is a testament to the power of one person making a difference. n

Jenny Gunsbury enjoys learning new things and meeting interesting people as a freelance writer for area publications. She lives near the Pillsbury State Forest with her husband and two teenage children.

her say


It all started with the desire to be alone — to know that I could take on a challenge and see it through to the end.

e .

The idea of “thru hiking” a long distance trail came when I was on a volunteer conservation trip. After reading firsthand accounts of thru hikers, watching movies and documentaries and purchasing all the planning books, I felt that I had the soul of a hiker. I craved solitude, healing and nature. After a tough year of working two minimum wage jobs for 70 hours a week, I needed goals that would satisfy me on a deeper level.

t t r o h ” g e s n

Seeking the healing aspects of nature, Mary Johnson selected the Superior Hiking Trail for a solo hike. Here she rests near Grand Marais, enjoying the view.

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Summer 2016 | her voice 9

my first steps onto the trail, it was magical. I was conscious of every breath I took and every flower and tree. I felt present and aware. For the first week, I was relieved to reach my campsite, my whole body feeling weak and my feet throbbing. I couldn’t wait to take my heavy pack off and lay down in my hammock. I don’t think I fully understood the difficulty of the terrain even after studying all the elevation changes on the maps. When I climbed steep inclines with my pack, I had to take at least three or four breaks to catch my breath and rest my muscles. But one thing I learned, the most difficult climbs have the most rewarding views. Muddy and flooded sections of the trail were common that last week in May. I ran across very few people in the northernmost sections and camped alone almost every night. It was a huge adjustment for a generally social person to be alone 24/7 and have human Views like this are abundant, says Mary, who is contact limited to brief hellos but I found new totally capable of carrying a 40-pound pack. strength in myself. The further south I hiked, the more people I While looking for the perfect trail as a solo female hiker, I came across the Superior met. Contrary to my expectations, I encountered Hiking Trail. Two hundred and seven- more women than men, ages ranging from 20 to ty-seven miles of Northwood’s wilderness, 70. There was an immediate camaraderie with backcountry campsites equipped with fire these women who felt the same drive to feel at rings, latrines, abundant water sources and home in the natural world. Having no clock, I judged time by the posistunning views. Proximity to the towns tion of the sun. Having no company, I learned lining Lake Superior meant that I had easy access to food resupply points. The how to entertain myself with silly songs and trail was far enough removed from the real mantras. When bad weather struck, I learned to world so that I would feel immersed in the enjoy the cooling sensation of the rain and when I got soaked to the bone, I learned the beauty of wilderness. I researched gear carefully, finally invest- crawling into a dry warm sleeping bag. Alone on ing in sturdy boots, a comfortable and light- the trail, I learned the beauty of opposites. By weight 60-liter backpack, a lightweight stove, finding the good in every situation, not dwelling a hammock with a rainfly and bug net and on the negatives, I wasn’t miserable. Having no other assorted necessities. Altogether I had schedule, I took my time with breaks at beautiful 55 pounds to carry across some difficult ter- overlooks for hours, basking in the sun and enrain. For someone 5’3” and 130 pounds, it was joying the wildflowers. Three weeks on the trail, I fell in love with an ambitious weight to attempt. At the time, I thought there was no other choice, but back- the rhythm of trail life. I learned that I could packing helps clarify the difference between ne- push past all my previously perceived “limits.” Exhausted and wanting to quit, I still had eight cessity and luxury. I started my adventure just shy of the Canadian miles to the next campsite, I had no other choice Border at the SHT trail head on Otter Creek than to push through. There were some days I Road. When I climbed out of my car and took would trudge through mud and water for miles. 10 Summer 2016 | her voice

It felt like I was going uphill all day long. I would think of luxuries like my soft bed, my computer and home cooked food. But the days that I knocked out 12 miles of rough terrain with beautiful resting spots made it all worthwhile. I already pine for my next hiking adventure. The things I learned on the Superior Hiking Trail have forever altered me. If you have ever had any inclination to test yourself and live your life in a deep and connected sense, I recommend hitting the trail. There’s nothing quite like it. n Mary slept in a hammock with a rain fly on the trip.

“...the days that I knocked out 12 miles of rough terrain with beautiful resting spots made it all worthwhile.�

Brainerd native Mary Alice Johnson comes from a long line of writers and is currently attending the University of Minnesota. Besides writing, she camps and hikes, a love passed on from her parents, Kim and Jeff Johnson.

Summer 2016 | her voice 11


Crosslake’s Mitten Lady

Pam Sulack knits mittens from gently used wool sweaters, then donates money raised to the Crosslake Food Shelf.

The Mitten Lady For more information regarding sales or venues contact Pam at

12 Summer 2016 | her voice


Pam Sulack is obsessed with knitting mittens, but she cheerfully admits, “I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing until the Lord tells me otherwise.”

This extraordinary entrepreneur’s number one priority is making mittens. Since the fall of 2010, she’s created over 5,000 mittens from slightly used wool sweaters and vests and polyester fleece. All proceeds from mitten sales, other than application fees for six to eight annual events, go directly to the Crosslake Food Shelf. Even though Pam makes the mittens, many people behind the scenes, including her community, offer their support. Husband John helps set up the booth for events, acts as sales person and even prints and cuts the tags. Her amazing sister-in-law, Carol, has made it her mission to be Pam’s major supplier of sweaters and buttons. Church ladies have donated bags of sweaters collected while in Arizona. And still others have donated yards and yards of fleece. What occurred in Pam’s life to get her so wrapped up in mitten making? “Blame it on my younger sister Donna,” the retired Bloomington elementary teacher said, “She was always looking for projects we could do with my older sister Pat who suffered from cancer for 13 years. Donna and Pat made a total of 35 mittens that year, but Pam kept on going like the Energizer Bunny. “My main challenge is budgeting time - keeping a balance.” Every spare minute is devoted to one of Pam’s seven steps leading to the finished product -- mittens. To better understand what’s involved in the mitten making process, Pam showed me where supplies are stored -the basement. One table is covered with piles of sweaters already washed, dried and sorted by color. The second is filled with clean sweaters cut into smaller pieces waiting to be used for a cuff or hand pattern. A third holds uncut bundles of black and white fleece. “I hate cutting fleece,” Pam said. So, she cuts 100 hand shapes at a time. When Pam has plenty of cutout shapes to work with, she matches cuff colors with wool sets and brings those and the fleece ones upstairs to sew. The fleece gets sewn first. “I usually make 30-40 pairs before adding the cuffs.” The next step is piecing the wool parts together and the rest. The final step involves hand stitching: tacking cuffs down and sewing buttons. Sewing a pair of mittens using a machine doesn’t take long to complete. As I discovered, watching Pam whip up a gorgeous set in less than 10 minutes. “The mittens aren’t the only items I’ve created with one of my two old Elna sewing machines,” Pam explained. While taking 12 years off from teaching to raise three children, she sold appliqued household items at the Renaissance Festival. But she didn’t enjoy selling things there despite bringing in lots of money. “In making mittens,” she said,

Pam shows her sweater mittens at the Crosslake Flea and Craft Market.

Marlene Chabot is a freelance writer, novelist and member of several writers’ groups. She’s currently waiting for her fifth novel. You may connect with Marlene on Facebook: Marlene Mc Neil Chabot; Her web site:; pinterest; or

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“there’s no quota to be made, just pure satisfaction in knowing where the funds are going.” When Pam decided to donate the proceeds from her mitten sales, she looked around the Crosslake community to see where the greatest need existed. Earlier that summer she’d donated meat to the food shelf and remembered how the volunteers and their work impressed her. Having never been hungry, she took on the food shelf as her spiritual mission. “Jesus said to love him and feed his children,” she stated, “and that’s what I’m trying to do.” “Being the mitten lady has given me a sense I’m truly a part of the up north community. John feels the same, having met so many people through mitten sales.” Pam and John, who’s also a retired teacher, grew up in South Minneapolis. The couple married while in college and permanently moved to Crosslake four years ago where John spent many memorable childhood summers. Both are extremely active in their community and church. In their spare time they love camping, traveling, photography and being around their four grandkids. Pam acknowledges she owes a ton to Diane Dorr-Ruzzin who used to own the bookstore in Crosslake. She was the first person in the area to help Pam get her mittens into the hands of the public. “When Diane’s store closed, she told me not to worry; she’d talk to other people in town about selling the mittens, and she did.” Crosslake’s mitten lady is humble. She doesn’t seek recognition of any type for herself. She merely wishes to find more venues for sales of mittens. The colorful mittens, $25 a pair, can be purchased in Crosslake at Nordic Haus, Crosslake Days, Crosslake Flea Market, Lakes Area Gallery and Frame Shoppe, and Kicks on Route 66. They’re also sold at Pequot Lakes Bean Hole Days, and Pequot Lakes Art and Crafts Fair. For more information regarding sales or venues contact Pam at n

27098 West Twin Lake Drive • Pequot Lakes


Summer 2016 | her voice 13


A Memory From a Time Gone By Jan Kurtz shares a memory of her grandmother, Nellie, who raised canaries during World War II to supplement the family income.


Rummaging through jars of screws and cans of rusted nails in my dad’s boathouse, I spied a white board behind a few fishing poles. “CANARY BIRDS, FOR SALE” read the black letters and with that find, the memory of my grandmother came rushing back. 14 Summer 2016 | her voice

That morning she had gone out back to the garage looking for a small piece of board. After rummaging through the saws, an ax, a jar of screws and the coffee cans of rusted, straightened nails, she found one about 7 inches by 10 inches measuring by her bent finger. She took it out into the sunlight and ran her hand over it checking for slivers. Smooth. This would do nicely. Tucking it under her ample arm, she followed the garden path back toward the house. The garden was lush with climbing pole beans, corn, radishes marking the carrot rows and a small patch of strawberries. She didn’t need to duck to go under the vine laden arbor arch when leaving the gated garden. Just past the old, green pump, she entered her porch. The yellow canary-birds filled their tall cages with song. Inside the tallest was a tiny nest with even tinier eggs. The seed feeders and water slot dishes were clean and filled. Nellie went to her work table and laid the board next to a can of white

paint. She shook it as she looked over her brood of canaries. After putting a thick coat of paint on her board, she propped it up to dry and entered her kitchen by the side door. The kitchen table held an array of baskets holding the morning’s harvest. She would have time to shuck the peas and scrub the carrots for lunch before the paint fully dried. It was her custom to sit one bowl on the table, one on the floor and one in her lap, house dress draped between her legs to cradle the bowl and catch any errant peas. It was factory work. Pick a pod from the garden bowl, snap it in half, slide a finger the length of the pod sending the peas cascading into her lap bowl and then drop the empty pod into the floor bowl. Repeat. When the peas were done, she turned her attention to the carrots. That bowl went to the sink. Nellie pumped the bowl full of well water before taking out the paring knife and removing the greens. Those were tossed in with the pea pods, which

she would later walk back up the garden path and throw into the chicken coop. The whiteboard was now dry. There would be time before lunch to finish her sign. She chose a ¼ inch paint brush, dipped it into water and pinched it between her thumb and pointer finger. It would be the right size to do the lettering. She placed the small jar of black paint on her work table. There was no need to ponder the script. It was wartime -- World War II. She had to make money to supplement the family budget. That is why she raised canaries. That is why she gardened. That is why she had been called up, as her duty, to scan the skies when she was digging potatoes, to see if any enemy aircraft was flying over the northern Illinois fields of Rock Grove.

She looked at her cages of canaries, so yellow, so full of songs. The black paint tipped her brush and she began the letter ‘C’ followed by ‘A’, being careful not to drip. “Canary,” she wrote, with “Bird” below. Underneath that she added: “For Sale” and laid the plaque on the windowsill to dry in the breeze. Back in the kitchen, she put a fresh chicken into the oven and returned to the table to remove the bowls of peas and carrots. She would wipe off the oil cloth before rolling out the egg noodles. There would be little salt cellars at everyone’s place and a red, antique glass full of spoons in the center of the dining room table when lunch was served. The peas would be creamed and the carrots drizzled with honey. The strawberries would be washed, sliced

That is why she had been called up, as her duty, to scan the skies when she was digging potatoes, to see if any enemy aircraft was flying over the northern Illinois fields of Rock Grove.

and covered with a teaspoon of sugar. The sign would dry and the birds would be sold. Later, she would raise miniature white poodles and their tails would be kept in jars of formaldehyde lining the porch window ledge. By that time, Nellie would be my Grandma. She would have a poodle named Gigi who would have pups. I would be given one and name it Mimi as I knew about as much French as Grandma. The days of Nellie’s canaries are long gone. Five hundred miles north of her porch and some 60 years later, I spied her sign and the memory came flooding back. n

Jan Kurtz once led student groups abroad but her recent travels have been intra­state with family. Both offer new discoveries and adventures, but being a ‘Nana’ opening these doors is an added joy!

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Summer 2016 | her voice 15



Cache Me If You Can: For the Love of Geocaching By REBECCA FLANSBURG

Picking up steam in popularity nationwide and the Brainerd lakes area is a unique form of recreation called geocaching.

Geocaching is a mix of treasure hunting, map reading, hide-and-go-seeking and hiking. Participants love the challenge, but also love that this “any season” adventure can take them to new places in their own hometown and beyond. There are 2 million geocaches worldwide and hidden caches are all over the U.S. Geocaching is the act of locating hidden capsules of trinkets that are marked and mapped via GPS coordinates. Treasure hunters can also use one of the many geocaching apps on their iPhone or Android devices to track down a cache. Geocaching can involve walking, driving, hiking and even canoeing to locate a hidden cache. This fun, and sometimes challenging, activity is an individual or family activity and there are even handicap accessible caches. Deerwood resident and avid geocacher Terry Swanson is what you could call an early adopter. Terry caught the “caching” bug back in 2008 after attending an event at Kathio State Park, hosted by the Minnesota State Geocaching Association. “By the end of the day, I was hooked. Not only was it fun and challenging, I was able to meet many amazing people that day who shared a true love for the sport,” says Terry. Currently she has 118 hides and over 1,800 finds to her credit. During the next few years, Terry says that she only geocached on occasion instead choosing to focus on helping to launch the local GeoNuts Challenge in 2011 and 2012. But by 2013, she knew it was time to grab her GPS, lace up her hiking boots and get back into the sport she loved. 16 Summer 2016 | her voice

An avid geocacher from Deerwood, Terry Swanson traveled to Portland, to see where geocaching originated in 2000.

GEOCACHING RESOURCES Minnesota Geocaching Association Minnesota DNR GEOCACHING RULES AND ETHICS ( When you are geocaching, always try to tread lightly on the land so you minimize the impact of your activity on the environment. Any caches in Minnesota state parks or on state trails have been placed above the ground, and in relatively well-traveled areas. Never remove a cache, or relocate it even a little bit. Leave the cache exactly how you found it so others can have the fun of finding it too! Observe all laws and respect property rights. If you are geocaching in a Minnesota state park, know and follow the park’s rules. Be considerate of others and avoid causing disruptions. WHAT YOU WILL NEED WHEN GEOCACHING GPS unit (free loaners available at the 35 geocaching checkpoints at certain Minnesota state parks) Cache Coordinates Boots or Sturdy Footwear for Hiking Sunscreen and Hat • Insect Repellant State Park or Trail Map • Water Bottle Tools of the Trade: a tweezer, flashlight and a walking stick. A basic First Aid Kit A Camera

In 2015, she was presented with the ultimate geocaching challenge — one she embraced with open arms. Teaming up with a geocaching friend, she took on a Minnesota State Park’s challenge finding a geocache hidden in 81 state parks. The two started in April, ended in December, finding all 81. Says Terry, “Not bad for only geocaching on weekends! We may live in ‘Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes,’ but for me, 2015 was the year of ‘Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Miles.’” More than adventure, geocaching has health and wellness benefits. It gives those who participate the chance to be not only be active, but to also experience the stress-relieving effects of being out in nature and watching the natural progression of the four seasons of Minnesota. “The beauty of geocaching is that it is something any age can do,” Terry confirmed. “I’ve taken my grandsons with me since they were infants and even my 70 years young parents spend time geocaching.”

Geocaching has taken Terry into some unique places: the site of the first cache in 2000 in Portland and the Buddy Holly memorial in Clear Lake, Iowa. “Each cache is a unique experience and the creativity around how and where they are hidden is half the fun, says Terry. “For those who aren’t keen on trekking around the woods, caches are also located within city limits, at public parks and even around businesses.” For those looking to test the waters of the geocaching pond, Terry points out that there are many great resources for those new to the sport including handy iPhone apps and Facebook groups. She also encourages geocachers to take the time to get familiar with geocaching etiquette to help make the sport as fun and safe as possible. Sites like are great for educating people on how to not only find caches, but what to do when they do find one. Once a cache is located, the finder is encouraged to sign the log in-

side and also leave a trinket inside for someone else to discover as long as it isn’t food or something that has a smell to it. “Geocaching is such an amazing sport and it’s given me such an intense appreciation for nature,” Terry concluded. “It’s also a chance to slow down, appreciate our surroundings and take the time to enjoy the little things in life. As for geocaching challenges in 2016, whichever way my compass points, that will be the direction I will head.” n

Rebecca Flansburg is a proud mom of two, a freelance writer, blogger and project manager for the national children’s literacy event Multicultural Children’s Book Day. When not happily writing and creating content for others, she appreciates being outside, reading and thrifting. You can connect with her on Twitter as @RebeccFlansburg or via her blog

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Summer 2016 | her voice 17




Several years ago

when Richard Lacerte sent an introductory email to soccer coaches in Minnesota, one of the coaches told him that a good soccer player had never come out of Brainerd. That made him mad. He took it as a challenge. Having coached the girls’ soccer team at Brainerd High School for three years, he knew there was local talent. He believed that with a strong partnership with local businesses, like club sponsor Minnesota Center of Orthopedics, and access to professional trainers, the sky would be the limit for these girls. The first year saw 43 girls play on two teams. Last year there were more than 60 players on four teams. This year the program will have over 80 girls, including a new U8 team. Originally called the United North Soccer Academy, the season culminates for some girls with a chance to compete in the USA Cup, the largest International youth soccer tournament in the western hemisphere. Drawing about 10,000 players from 18 Summer 2016 | her voice

This fast growing soccer academy for girls in Brainerd is backed by a professional soccer club, participates in a premier league and can transition girls into professional soccer leagues or college programs.

around the world, players compete in a week-long event held in Blaine at the International Sports Center. In 2014, the academy’s U15 team won the USA Cup in the silver division. Last year both U14 and U17 teams from the academy walked away with golds from the silver divisions, outscoring their opponents 24-7 and ending the tournament with a 6-0 record. Players competed from over 15 countries. “We spend the summer working up to that tournament to compete at our highest level,” says Lacerte. “It’s not all about winning and losing,” says Lacerte, “Coaches Patrick Trout and George Ganey, are supported by Joe Ciardelli of Takedown Gym, and Trevor Harting at Select Therapy. All have reputations for developing strong players, but we’re all about developing skills with character.” Last year Lacerte was approached by a professional soccer team in Mexico to establish an academy in Los Angeles. He convinced them to start the school in Minnesota instead.

“So now, not only are we a young and fast growing club but we are backed by a professional soccer club that participates in a premier league that is ranked sixth best in the world. These girls are not only getting the facilities and professional trainers, but they are in a development program that has already been built and is meant to farm into professional soccer leagues and colleges.” Growing up, Lacerte had five biological sisters and later he was adopted by a family with three girls. He learned a lot about girls. His father coached soccer and his three sisters all played. At that time there weren’t many teams that were just for girls and his sisters had to play on teams with boys. “They weren’t always treated that well,” he says. Lacerte never forgot the way that made him feel. Operating the Xolos (Sho’ los) Soccer Academy in Brainerd gives him an opportunity to offer female youth and high school players a chance to hone their skills, compete at a top level and create an opportunity his sisters never had.

Brainerd’s soccer academy grew from 43 girls to over 80 in three years.

“It’s not all about winning and losing” Sheila Helmberger is a freelance writer in the Brainerd lakes area. For over 35 years, the Lake Country’s premier women’s fashion store ... welcome!

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Coaching girls is different than boys, admits Lacerte. When he was at the high school he passed around a questionnaire at the end of the season. “If you want to be humbled, ask people to tell you what they think of you. An ongoing theme was that I yelled too much. I re-evaluated the way I did some things. I stopped yelling, except to direct actions on the field. Girls are definitely less likely to respond to harsh leadership.” “Most of the development of an athlete is done off of the actual field,” says Lacerte, “There are kids that prop the team up that have a fraction of the skill set of the top player. The most important player is not always your captain. It’s about character development, integrity, how to manage failure, how to manage success, how to be a teammate.” Players at Xolos can elect to play at the academy level which is a little less competitive, or at the travel team level, with tryouts held each year. Lacerte has a six-year plan. By the time these 8-year-olds hit high school they should be recruited by top schools to play soccer. He wants to give them a chance in a field where the competition to play after graduation is stiff. There are only 30 postgraduate soccer programs in Minnesota. Just 10 offer scholarships. “I don’t like it when people make fun of girls’ sports,” he says. “I really think in six years when they are making a list of places producing the best female soccer athletes in Minnesota that Brainerd will be on the top of it.” n

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For more information on Xolos Soccer Academy contact Richard Lacerte at 626-421-9719. Follow the Xolos Academy FC on Facebook or log on to the website at

Summer 2016 | her voice 19

Her Voice


[ in search of ]

Where the Wild Things Are

By REBECCA FLANSBURG Rain or shine, there are many educational and quality time benefits of plotting summer adventure field trips. For those who love animals (which is pretty much almost everybody) a trip to the zoo is a fun way to see the world’s wildlife without ever having to book an exotic vacation. Luckily, Minnesota is chock full of wonderful animal-viewing opportunities, many of which are just a short drive away. n


Paul Bunyan’s Animal Land

Often overlooked, Paul Bunyan’s Animal Land is a cozy little animal park that offers a few unique opportunities zoo-lovers won’t get elsewhere. Located on Highway 2 East, between Bemidji and Cass Lake, Animal Land is home to nearly 100 animals representing every continent on earth. Lions, tigers, bears, camels, lemurs, kangaroos, monkeys, raccoons, three species of deer, bobcats, wolves, reptiles, exotic birds, amazing bugs and various small mammals are just a few of the animals who make their home at Animal Land. And the moment you walk through the doors, free roaming critters like kangaroos and deer are there to pet. Armed with bananas, we were instant favorites with Sydney, Keith and Liam, the three red kangaroos that hopped about. The sika deer took a shine to the discarded peels as well and allowed some petting and ear scratching too. To learn about this zoo, visit them on the web:

Pine Grove Zoo

Just a hop, slither and trot away from the Brainerd lakes area, is the Pine Grove Zoo in Little Falls. Nestled among a grove of white pines, this little zoo has a lot going on. Families or individuals can meander down paved paths and view a variety of exotic, native and domestic animals at home in spacious, natural habitats. Pine Grove usually has several baby animal exhibits for visitors to enjoy and their petting zoo area provides an opportunity to feed and pet the resident donkeys, calves and sheep. The winding paved paths are also wheelchair and handicap accessible and the Cougar Cafe gives zoo-goers the chance to rest and replenish under shaded picnic tables. If your little animals need to “run their wiggles out,” Pine Grove has an adjoining park, playground and walking path area that are gorgeous and well-kept. Open mid-April through mid-October: Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., zoo-lovers can learn more about Pine Grove Zoo at:

20 Summer 2016 | her voice

Safari North Wildlife Park

If your family’s idea of fun includes watching primates frolic in outdoor pens, hand-feeding a sweet giraffe named Puzzles or looking eyeball-to-eyeball with a sandhill crane, Safari North Wildlife Park is just the place for you. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., this wonderful local zoo boasts amazing exhibits from different continents. The sprawling acres of this park includes “must-see” exhibits of exotic animals like striped hyenas, red kangaroos, macaws, muntjac deer, lynx, a black spotted leopard, coatimundi, Nilgai antelope, bears, zebras and water buffalo. A new addition to the park in 2015 was Gator Falls, an exciting chance to see one of the largest exhibits of alligators in the Midwest from an observation platform. There are also plenty of animals to view that are more familiar to us North Americans like black bears, whitetail deer, lynx, skunks, raccoons and even a very big cougar. So if your need to “go wild” comes with travel and monetary restrictions, Safari North is an affordable option right in our own backyard. To learn more about this wildlife park, visit them on the web at:

Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo (RAD Zoo) in Owatonna

If you’re up for a road trip, the RAD Zoo works to put a fun and educational spin on creepy-crawlies. Known as Minnesota’s premier reptile destination, RAD Zoo opened in 2009 and is home to over 150 kinds of animals from all over the world. Visitors can view amazing creatures from the reptile and amphibian world including snakes, turtles, lizards, crocodilians, toads, frogs and salamanders. RAD Zoo also has a daily Everglades Encounter show that educates visitors on the animals of the Florida swamp and even provides an opportunity to pet an alligator or a snake. To learn more about this unique experience opportunity, visit RAD Zoo on the web:

County Fairs

Though not necessarily categorized as “wild,” county fairs are great places to get some hands-on experience with farm critters. I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of seeing beautiful equines in the horse barn or playing with the floppy-eared goats in the petting barn. I even like to give the piggies a friendly scratch (they like it behind the ears) on occasion. If smaller animals are more your style, there are entire 4H and FFA buildings dedicated to rabbits, chickens and even a goose or two. The Crow Wing County Fair dates for 2016 are Aug. 2-6. Cass County Fair runs June 23-26. The Pillager Fair runs July 7-10.

Have a Roaring Good Time

Rebecca Flansburg is a proud mom of two, a freelance writer, blogger and project manager for the national children’s literacy event Multicultural Children’s Book Day. When not happily writing and creating content for others, she appreciates being outside, reading and thrifting. You can connect with her on Twitter as @RebeccFlansburg or via her blog Summer 2016 | her voice 21

A Snapshot of Cuba

Friends (L to R) Verla Engelbrecht, Sharon Carlson and Ruthanne Weaver spent almost a week touring Havana, Cuba in 2014. No better place than Havana to see Spanish-Colonial architecture.


“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue...” In my Johnson/Kjenstad family, life (and American history) was viewed through a decidedly Nordic lens. According to my Norwegian grandmother, the Vikings established colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland 500 years before Columbus set sail. While the above poem conjures up images of three ships landing somewhere around Savannah, Ga., Columbus and his crew never set foot on what is now known as North America. After a fiveweek voyage from Spain, he likely spotted land on one of the islands of the Bahamas. A few weeks later, Columbus explored the northeast coast of Cuba, near Baracoa, the oldest city in Cuba. Fast-forward 520 years. The phone rings and my friend, Verla, says, “Let’s explore Cuba! It’s been on my buck22 Summer2016 2016| |her hervoice voice 22 Summer

et list for years and Paulsen Travel is booking a tour for November. We need to get our names on the list now...right away!” We did get on the list, along with our longtime traveling friend, Ruthanne. Talk about timing -- just two weeks after our return, President Obama announced that the U.S. “would be charting a new course with Cuba.” When we arrived in Havana, after just a 60-minute flight from Miami, we knew we were visiting a country that has been under communist rule for over 50 years. When the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred in 1961, I was a junior in high school, dancing the twist and reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” in English class. When tensions again peaked during the Cuban Missile crisis, I was a freshman at the University of

Minnesota. Arriving at the Jose Marti International Airport in 2014, it was apparent that little had changed over that span of 50 years. What impressions of this fascinating and complicated country do I carry with me a year and a half later? First is the beautiful Spanish-Colonial architecture. After Columbus’ arrival, Cuba became a Spanish colony. Except for a brief occupation by Great Britain, Cuba remained under Spanish rule until 1898. The result was that Old Havana features the largest collection of Spanish-Colonial architecture in the Americas. Its narrow streets are home to buildings in various hues of yellow, pink, green and azure blue that sparkle in the sunshine. Unfortunately, many of Havana’s old structures have been

i s r

y s a r , e d n e e , e y n

crumbling for years. A Cuban architect told us about the innovative and ambitious program for restoring Old Havana. But he also added that resources are scarce and getting building supplies on this embargo-bound island is a challenge. The problem is compounded by the fact that Old Havana is packed with people. Sixty-six thousand residents are crammed into an area of less than 1.5 miles. Cubans are very proud of their health care and education. A trip to a school gave us a first-hand view of the educational system. Nearly all Cubans over the age of 15 can read and write. Schools are free for students at all levels, and many are open 12 hours a day, providing free morning and afternoon daycare. There are 23 medical schools in the country and doctors are one of Cuba’s main exports. Yet only 25 percent of Cubans actually have access to the Internet, and it is one of the most tightly controlled systems in the world. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Cuban economy fell into shambles. Because of ties to the USSR, Cuba lost 80 percent of its imports and exports. Fidel Castro referred to these challenging years as the “Special Period” (Período especial.) Our Cuban guide described years of abject hunger, and the people faced many hardships. While Cubans today receive free health care, education, housing and minimal food rations, they will not soon forget those terrifying times. Prior to our trip we were told, “You’ll have lots of beans and rice and very little meat.” One Cuban restaurateur reportedly said, “You can dream up a recipe you would like to make but then you can’t find the ingredients. You go out to get salt and there is none. I mean, no salt...anywhere.” Fortunately, we had the privilege of enjoying meals in paladares, one of the few privately owned businesses in Cuba. These are small restaurants in private homes, and they often have only eight to 10 tables. Our food was exquisite. As we dined we wondered who the other customers might be. We saw mostly tourists and a few Cubans who had access to for-

eign currency. Cubans receive a food allotment of just $20 a month, hardly enough to enjoy a four-course meal. Before the embargo was lifted, I heard a Cuban speculate in an interview that meat might become more available. As tourists, we had meat every day. For Cubans who have so few material goods, music and the arts seem to be their lifeblood. On the day of our arrival we visited the Pro Danze Dance School, which trains 800 students each year in ballet and folklore dance. The dancers practiced in a crumbling building that was once a hospital, but we learned that many of the performers are recognized internationally for their expertise. Cuban musicians have influenced music around the world. We heard a variety of styles, from salsa to rumba to Spanish guitar melodies to jazz, emanating from bars and cafes. One evening while we enjoyed a live performance, I probably stood out as a tourist. Having failed miserably at chacha lessons before leaving Brainerd, I sat politely in my seat while the locals swayed to the Latin beat. When we stopped at the San Jose Craft Market and Art Center, we got to see how local artists, who have a limited access to materials, use everyday artifacts to design and create works of art. As gifts for my three daughters, I purchased stunning bracelets made from pressed silverware which were shined and set with polished stones. Our visit also included a walking tour of the fascinating Colon Cemetery, founded in 1876 and named after Christopher Columbus. We saw the Museum of

the Revolution, visited the home and workshop of the world famous artist Jose Fuster, and toured Hemingway’s farm. Surprisingly, one of my favorite stops was a tobacco factory where hundreds of workers bent over benches rolling those famous Cuban cigars. We were surprised to hear that the cigar workers often listened to classic literature broadcast over loudspeakers. On our final evening, we were escorted to vintage convertibles parked in front of our hotel. In those shiny 1950s Chevrolets, we rode along the popular coastal Avenida de los Presidentes (Avenue of the President) to our farewell dinner. Later we three traveling friends strolled the streets of Havana, soaking up the warm evening breezes and reflecting on this trip of a lifetime. Our time in Cuba lasted only six days in Havana. Still, our heads were spinning with all that we learned and experienced in that short time. As our Cuban guide said on the first day of the tour, “Your Cuban experience will be very different from those tourists who have come to sit on the beach for two weeks.” And it was! Sharon Johnson Carlson continues to enjoy her retirement from teaching in the St. Peter, Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Crosby and Brainerd school districts. She fills her days with reading, volunteering, entertaining, grand parenting and traveling. She thanks her younger brother, Jerry, for his editing skills, learned many years ago from their father, Arv Johnson, a political correspondent and associate news director for WCCO radio.

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Anjeanette Smith | 866-568-3203 | Summer Summer2016 2016| | her her voice voice 23 23


An Artist


Esther Endicott wants to be a fiber artist and alpaca farmer full time someday. She’s off to a great start, with a loom and spinning wheel, five alpacas, 40 acres and her husband/partner/staunch supporter, Dave.

Esther’s first experience with alpacas was at the Sheep & Wool Festival in Mora. “I was able to feel for myself how much softer alpaca wool is than sheep wool,” says Esther. After researching alpacas, the couple decided they needed more room to raise them. But after moving to Pequot Lakes, they were able to use her mom’s pasture and barns for the alpacas. “I was looking for their wool and companionship; Dave was looking at them as an investment,” says Esther. Dave wants to acquire 10 of the curious, friendly, alert animals, then breed and sell. After many years of investigating, studying and hoping, the Endicotts’ dream of owning alpacas came true. Anna, now 13, and her daughter Savanah came from Brook View Alpaca Farm in nearby Lake Shore. Anna is the matriarch, guard alpaca of the bunch, always the first to notice critters in the area or anything unusual. Savanah seems to always have hay sticking out of her mouth when you see her. Savanah is mother to Stella, the first cria born on the farm. Two-year-old Kramer is the son of Anna, and Alonzo is the newest of the herd. 24 Summer Summer 2016 2016 || her her voice voice 24



Artist and alpaca farmer Esther Endicott tempts her alpaca with a special treat.

Summer 2016 2016 || her her voice voice 25 25 Summer

26 Summer 2016 | her voice

Creating Wool - Start to Finish

The Endicotts’ alpacas are curious, friendly, docile, treat-loving animals and each has its own personality. Alpaca fiber is stronger than mohair, finer than cashmere, smoother than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down and better-breathing than thermal knits.

The “girls” lived with Esther’s mom, Gertraud, for four years on Esther’s family farm near Jenkins. During the winter of 2014-15, Esther and Dave lived there as well, while they built their own house and a new home for the alpacas. “When Esther and Dave decided to bring alpacas to the farm before their own barn and fences were done, I was excited and happy,” says Gertraud. “The alpacas are so cute and gentle. I loved them from the beginning. For me, it’s a reason to get outside every day.” Esther comes from generations of farming. Both her parents came from Germany after World War II. Her father, Wilhelm Kopka, along with his parents and siblings, were sponsored by Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Pequot Lakes, the church Esther’s mother still attends. Farmers in East Prussia, now a part of Poland, they chose Minnesota because the climate was similar. They wanted to farm here. Through friends in Germany, it came to be that Gertraud Jelinski and Wilhelm became pen pals. Eventually Gertraud traveled to Minnesota to visit. After six weeks, Mother Kopka said if the couple was going to live in the house together they needed to get married, so they did. Wilhelm, with his parents and siblings, rented several houses in the area before buying property in Jenkins in the early 1950s. Again the land was chosen for farming purposes, with 30 acres of flat open field and 10 wooded acres. Esther’s grandparents, her Oma and Opa, lived in the small house along with her parents and the children. Esther and her siblings spent their summers outside, exploring in the woods, making forts, doing chores, helping with hay baling. After a hot day of haying, a great treat was swimming and cooling off in the closest lake – Upper Hay. Thirty years on down the road, Esther knows which yarn and which finished projects come from which of her alpacas. The yarn and roving from each is distinctive. Though llamas and alpacas

are both members of the camelid family, they are distinctly different animals. Alpacas are about half the size of llamas. Alpacas are primarily raised for their soft, luxurious fleece, while llamas are used for herding or packing. Alpaca fiber is six times warmer than sheep’s wool and more luxurious than cashmere. It is strong and resilient with microscopic air pockets that allow for the creation of lightweight apparel with very high insulation value. It doesn’t itch like wool because it doesn’t contain lanolin. It comes in a great variety of natural tones, which produce additional colors when blended. It can also be easily dyed. As a knitter, Bernice Rohde had seen many skeins of alpaca yarn on store shelves. “But it wasn’t until I met these gentle creatures of Esther and Dave’s that I came to truly appreciate their wool. It is so incredibly soft, a joy to work with,” Bernice says. “I love the fact that I know where my yarn came from and the way it was cared for before coming to me.” The Endicotts’ alpacas are sheared in the spring at Foothills Alpaca Farm in Backus. Each yearly shearing produces roughly four to six pounds of fleece per animal. The Endicotts take the fleece to the Dakota Fiber Mill in Kindred, N.D. About half of the wool is spun and half processed into roving, which has been washed and carded and is ready to be spun. “We sell both the yarn that was spun at the mill and what I have spun. The spinning wheel was a gift from my family about two years ago,” says Esther. “I have my Oma’s carders that I use to card the wool when I clean and process some of our fleece.” Esther is a gifted and versatile fiber artist. She rug hooks pillows and weaves rugs. She sews, spins, knits, crochets and felts. She creates dryer balls that are environmentally sound, as well as boot inserts and little alpaca figures made from roving. She handcrafts hats, mit...Continued on page 46

Esther weaves unique rugs and other items for families, friends and for sale on the handmade floor loom her husband gave her over 25 years ago.

Summer 2016 | her voice 27


Sewing for



Serving the church,

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the community and missions, are a group of women meeting nearly every Tuesday for Sewing for Missions at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church. The women are single, married, moms and grandmothers. Some have participated in the program for less than a year and others, like Seydelle Johnson, Pat Kirk and Inez Lind, have been involved since its beginnings in the early 1970s. Over time the name and the projects have changed but the mission never has: serving the church, the community and missions. Seydelle believes the program initially began in the Evangelical Free Church as the Women’s Missionary Group. The women in this group would find linens and other items that missionaries might need and put them in what was called the missionary chest. When a missionary would need any of these items they were free to pick out what they needed. Seydelle said this evolved into a program called White Cross, whose main emphasis was to provide bandages to various African nations. The group receives donations of white sheets from various institutions and private individuals, then the sheets are ripped into four inch strips. (This may be why the 28 Summer 2016 | her voice


women say, “we have a rippin’ good them then chose an assisted living or a time.”) The strips are then sewn to- nursing home resident to give the sadgether and rolled into bandages. In dle bag to. A missionary couple who goes to time, Jack Wheeler, a retired machinist, designed and built an electric bandage Honduras every year in the winter roller that can be rolled by one person came back telling stories about mothers more efficiently. with newborns. Often when they left When they began the project, the the hospital they only had one diaper bandages were sent to Rachel Martin, for the newborn and the couple asked a missionary in the Congo who grew the women of Sewing for Missions if up in the Lakewood Church. But that there was anything they could do to became too costly. Now they are boxed, help. After learning how to make dibrought to the cities and shipped with apers, the women took on the project. used medical supplies to several coun- A call went out asking for T-shirt dotries. Sewing for Missions has provided nations and many came in. A diaper many thousands of bandages over the pattern was placed on the body of the years. “It is amazing that our efforts in T-shirt, cut out, and the two parts were putting these bandages together have sewn together with extra padding put served the needs in other parts of the in the middle. In addition, the sleeves world like Africa,” said Glady Voeller. were cut and sewn together on one end Over time the women have been making caps for the newborn. These asked to do many other things or have were then sent to Honduras with the seen other needs and White Cross be- missionaries. Sewing for Missions also made pilcame Sewing for Missions. One of the new projects begun three years ago is low dresses and shorts for children in Hugs and Stitches. Jane Wheeler says Costa Rica. Sometimes they make it’s an opportunity to teach young girls quilts for raffles, lap robes for nursing some basic sewing skills and to give to home and assisted living residents and others. Each summer 12 girls, fourth comfort quilts for cancer patients from and fifth graders, get together for two Lakewood. Jane says many of the candays. They each have a mentor, may- cer patients become very attached to be someone from the church or their the quilts and even take them to doctor mother to help them with their proj- visits when receiving treatments. Ruby ect. This past summer on the first day Marsh knits caps for cancer patients they made tote bags or book bags for and for newborn babies. Almost all the themselves and on the second day they materials for these projects come from made wheelchair saddle bags. Each of donations. What they don’t use, they


Serving both the church and community while they sew for missions are: (L to R) Ruby Marsh, Jane Wheeler, Inez Lind, Seydelle Johnson, Gladys Voeller, Sharon Nance, Susan Fuchs, Clara Heppner, Pat Kirk and Linda Gau. Not pictured: Nancy Thelen, Pat Walker and Ruth Anderson.

The firmament shows His handiwork.

donate to other places. The women agreed they were involved in Sewing for Missions for the fellowship. They also feel blessed to be able to use their time and talents to serve others. Through their faithfulness in ripping sheets, rolling bandages,

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Psalm 19

sewing, and quilting they have touched the lives of people in Africa, Costa Rica, Honduras, their community, and their church and it can truly be said, “If you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” n

Carol Miller is a former coach at CLC and a former executive director at the Brainerd YMCA. She also worked at Potlatch and recently retired from doing medical transcription at CRMC in Crosby. Her interests include counted cross stitch, sports and reading.

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Summer 2016 | her voice 29


Riding season starts as soon as the salt is off the roads.

At age 50, Linda Ruehl first rode a Honda Shadow VLX, “a great starter bike.” Now she rides a 2008 Victory Kingpin.

Motorcycle Mamas

Mary Aalgaard says she does a fair amount of blogging from the back of Biker Chef’s 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King. 30 Summer 2016 | her voice

Sometimes, that’s as early as mid-March, and never later than April 15. You pull your leathers out of the closet, dust off your boots, and don your favorite biker chick shirt. After making sure your bike is tuned up for the season, you plan your first ride. Many women enjoy the ease of riding behind their guys on motorcycle trips, others prefer to ride their own. Holly Holm has been riding for over seven years. Linda Reuhl started riding when she turned 50, and Sondra (Sandy) Dirks has been a rider all her life, learning to operate a motorcycle when she was just a girl on her parents’ dirt bikes. Sandy did ride with her husband, two-up, for several years before she bought her own 1980 Sturgis made by Harley-Davidson. Your first bike is always your first love. Linda’s first bike was a Honda Shadow VLX, “A great starter bike,” she says. She upgraded to a 2008 Victory Kingpin. Holly’s ride is a 2007 Harley-Davidson XL 1200c. And, Sandy now rides a 2008 FLH Electroglide standard. “It’s a great woman’s bike,” she says. You want something that fits your body. You need to be able to put both feet down at a stop and comfortably reach the handlebars. When you’re riding a motorcycle, it’s more about the ride than the destination. You feel the wind in your hair, the throb of the engine under you and the thrill of being in the open air. You, your ride and the elements are on an adventure. It’s a sensuous experience. You smell the wheat fields, feel the heat of the sun and the sudden coolness of the shade when you ride under a tree covered lane. You hear the rush of the wind, the distant thunder, and are aware of the wildlife all around you from the eagles soaring above, to the critters scurrying out of your way. Although deer in particular can cause more danger, Sandy says that they don’t scare her as much. A former driving instructor, Sandy has learned that the worst accidents happen when you try to break too hard and swerve to avoid the animal. “It’s better to keep the gas on and keep going straight.” She says that if she is ever faced with a possible collision with a deer, she’ll be telling herself, “Stay on the gas, girl.” The deer is more likely to bounce off and you’ll stay on the road. Other nuisance hazards pointed out by the other women are gravel, riding lawn mowers, farm dogs, and bees. They said that they’ve all had instances of bees stinging them while riding, or getting under their clothes. Sandy had to practically strip her shirt off to get rid of a stinger. Luckily, she had fellow riders behind her telling her when she was drifting off the road. And, speaking of bugs, they smack into you at any given angle and location. Naturally, your face shield or sunglasses can get gunked up by bug juice. Sandy had a big splat on her glasses when she rolled into a gas station. She’d been riding with her husband and a few other people, but entered the gas

station on her own to use the bathroom. “First,” she said, “the attendant was impressed that a woman rolled in on her own on a bike. Then, when I couldn’t see him through the bug guts, I took off my glasses and gave them a lick so I could wipe them off.” He stared. She said, “Hey, it’s a honey bee. They’re sweeter.” Although none of these women would be afraid to ride alone, they find comfort in riding with a small group. Sandy appreciates her husband’s ability to do any kind of roadside repairs, and Holly said, “I like letting someone else lead the way. It’s more relaxing. I don’t have to think about where we’re going. I can just ride my bike.” Holly’s crew enjoys day trips, visiting unusual sights, or picking a destination and riding for the fun of it. She says she refers to a book called Oddball Minnesota which lists some of the unique attractions throughout the state, like the big toe statue in Vining, the giant turkey in Frazee, or Herman the German in Holly’s hometown, New Ulm. She said they haven’t yet done any overnight road trips, but would like to someday. Linda started riding after she turned 50. She had been riding with boyfriends for years and finally decided to learn to ride her own. “Once you get on, it’s hard to get off,” she says. It’s the thrill of the ride. She said that she had always wanted to ride to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held every year during the first full week of August in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Calling herself “a Sturgin virgin,” she was ready for the adventure. Linda ended up riding with some newfound friends out to the rally, and once there had planned to stay at the Buffalo Chip. Alone! It’s the biggest and rowdiest campground during the rally and hosts large rock concerts. Before she got out there, her girlfriend connected her with her friends and they took her under their wing. It ended up being a sweet deal since they had a camper. She set her tent up next to them and rode with them through the winding and twisting roads which are the true draw to the area. People from all walks of life attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. They might look fierce, but most of them are reg-

Biking for seven years, Holly Holm rides a 1200 Sportster Custom.

ular folks who go back home to their ordinary lives of raising kids, tending gardens and continuing their careers in everything from medical professions to accounting and teaching. What they all have in common is a love for riding. When you stop at a rest stop or gas station, bikers are quick to say hello to each other, chat about where they’ve been riding and where they’re going. Sandy says, “You meet the nicest people riding.” Sandy has been going to the Sturgis rally since 1977. It’s really grown since then, but she still loves the camaraderie of the riders, the challenge and scenery of the roads and the excitement of being on an adventure. “Remember,” she says, “your

driveway is connected to every road in the continental states.” Her dream trip would be to ride up to Alaska. Sandy says that she can’t imagine a season without riding her motorcycle. She’s been to the Redwoods of California several times, and says when her time comes, that’s where she wants her ashes scattered. Sandy describes riding to these majestic locations as a coming home experience. She wrote in her journal a description of Glacier National Park, marveling at the breathtaking beauty and feeling like she’d been there before, but maybe only in her dreams. Riding a motorcycle is a great way to experience this vast country. n

Mary Aalgaard is a freelance writer and blogger. Her words stretch across the globe through her blogs on, which include inspiration, entertainment and restaurant reviews, and travel adventures with The Biker Chef on the back of his bike. Mary is a playwright and has produced her shows in the Brainerd area. She works with both children and adults to create original dramas, and is offering theatre classes for kids in the area. Contact her at


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Summer 2016 | her voice 31

the arts


Combine equal parts color, imagination and humor, stitch them together with meticulous embroidery and a flair for fun, and you have Susan Longstaff’s bold and fearless quilts.

Fearless fiber fun, one stitch at a time. Susan Longstaff creates whimsical, color-filled quilts from her home in Backus. Last summer she exhibited her creations at Ripple River Gallery, near Bay Lake.

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Finding her subject matter in the woods surrounding her home in Backus and at the Florida shoreline where she winters, Susan introduces characters like “Fergus the Flirty Fox,” “Otto the Cat,” the “Flamingo Sisters - Flora, Felicia and Flossie,” and “Ira and Ida Ibis.” Entirely hand-stitched, Susan creates her hangings using brightly hued polyester-cotton fabric paired with equally bright cotton embroidery threads. Basic shapes are carefully appliqued with blind stitching and then embellished with embroidery. Outlines and filled areas are formed with tiny rows of intricate chain stitching. To indicate texture other areas are highlighted with satin stitch or French knots. Last summer Susan exhibited her quilts for the first time at Ripple River Gallery near Bay Lake. The seed for the exhibit was planted several years ago when Susan showed her friends, gallery owners Bob Carls and Amy Sharpe, panels from a quilt project she had begun as a way to pass the time while her husband was in the hospital. Their first reaction? “These are fabulous! Let’s do a show.” “Give me three years!” Susan said. After thousands of hours of stitching, Susan completed 10 pieces for the exhibit at Ripple River Gallery. The quilted panels in the show ranged from about 18 inches by 36 inches to a single bed-sized quilt comprised of 14 panels and 11 animals.







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ten turns to friends for suggestions. A friend named a blue wolf bedecked with floral garlands Tim. Last name? Berwolf, of course. A rabbit clutching carrots is Herb the Herbivore, and Guido who grows gardens is a flamboyant fowl. Susan is passionate about teaching and sharing her design, color, composition and needle working skills. “I will teach anybody, anything, anytime,” she said. “Teaching is the love of my life.” Two sessions last summer at Ripple River Gallery found students stitching sea turtles, dragonflies and even a hamster — all with an eye for color and a sense of playfulness. Another session is planned at the gallery in May 2016. “My goal is to please the eye and amuse the viewer,” she adds. “You have to have a sense of

humor. If you take life too seriously you don’t have any fun.” In addition to her stitched panels, Susan recently completed a colorful and ambitious “Tree of Life” relief in fired and painted clay to surround her shower. She is also working on small bug sculptures created from clay, wire and paint; and is contemplating a foray into bead making with Egyptian paste, a self-glazing clay. “You don’t stop,” she said. “You just need more time.” Susan’s playful quilted panels can now be found in three galleries: Ripple River Gallery, a gallery in Florida and another in Texas.” n

Amy Sharpe calls herself a weaver who writes, or a writer who weaves, depending on her current project. She works in fiber, paper and mixed media and loves to cook for friends. She also leads art exploration workshops, including trips to Ireland and Scotland. A former newspaper editor, for 16 years she published “Homespun,” a magazine “celebrating the art of creative living.” Since 2000, she and her husband, wood artist Bob Carls, have owned and operated Ripple River Gallery, specializing in “original work by exceptional regional artisans.”


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“People loved the show,” Amy said. “The color, the images and the humor made people smile, but when we pointed out that each of the tiny stitches was made by hand, they were astounded.” Susan estimates that a two-foot by three-foot stitched panel encompasses about 300 hours of hand stitching time. To accomplish her time- and labor-intensive work, each day she stitches from about 4 p.m. to bedtime with a half hour break for supper. “I use very basic embroidery stitches to both embellish and unite the shapes and colors of my fabric designs. All of my pieces are entirely hand-stitched, including seams,” she said. “I find a certain earthiness and honesty in the quirks and imperfections of hand embroidery.” Influenced by Native American and Central American indigenous designs, Susan’s color palette and rhythmic repetition of shapes is reminiscent of Guatemalan or Panamanian molas — brightly colored layers of cotton that are cut away and stitched to reveal the color below. Susan figures she has been doing embroidery for 68 years. “You do get better,” she said. Her mother introduced her to the craft when Susan was 8. “I still have an unfinished cross-stitch ‘Home Sweet Home’ sampler that I started in 1949!” she laughed. Susan spent most of her adult life working with children. “I found them to be joyous, fearless, brave and unimpressed with arbitrary rules. My pieces are designed with children in mind: strong colors and big, bold creatures full of wildly unlikely things.” Most of Susan’s pieces include bits of embroidered text. “Because I was a teacher and can’t help myself, many of my pieces include short sentences which play with words: alliteration, esoteric meanings and puns.” The menagerie portrayed in panels on the bed-sized quilt includes Bramble the Porpentine who “Isn’t ticklish, she’s pricklish!” On a small vertical quilt hanging, three orange and fuchsia dancing crabs invite viewers to “Come to the Crabaret.” Susan likes to name the animals featured on her quilted panels and she of-

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Summer 2016 | her voice 33

On a Wellness Journey




Kelly McConkey, before and after lifestyle changes.

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Like any good Norwegian, Kelly McConkey loves sweets. Whenever her daughters baked, she enthusiastically sampled the treats; it would be impolite not to support their efforts. One cookie lead to a few cookies, and like a true Minnesotan, no brownie should be eaten without a scoop of ice cream. Years of putting her family’s needs first, working full time as a special education teacher and being a really good Norwegian caught up with Kelly. She tried several weight loss programs; she cut calories and reluctantly exercised to lose weight. She forced herself to eat foods she didn’t like. Nothing clicked. Kelly met Shanna Davis of “Fortress Fit” a while back and learned about Beachbody, her wellness program. Kelly was interested, but not enough to commit. The following year, Kelly became increasingly frustrated. “I hated having my picture taken; I always hid in the back and I realized my kids wouldn’t have any pictures of me.” Kelly needed a change and the following summer, the time was right. Instead of trying out yet another diet, Kelly had to make healthy lifestyle choices in order to reach her goals. Her wellness program focuses on eating healthy food, not cutting calories. She had to learn to cook without boxed or canned foods. “I thought I was making healthy food for my family, like ‘all natural chicken nuggets;’ I never read a label.” As she started reading labels, she started making changes. “I’m realizing how easy it is to make things with good quality food.” Sometimes she doesn’t tell her family all of the healthy ingredients she has introduced into their dinner. “Everybody loved my meatloaf -- why ruin it by telling them it was made with quinoa.” Kelly also created a new family ritual called “Vegetable Monday” to inspire her young son to enjoy the wonders of this mysterious food group. Every Monday, Eli must, at the very least, try the vegetable served with dinner. Kelly admits, “It’s not great, but he’s gwetting better.” Not all of Kelly’s recipe modifications have been embraced by her family. She was the recipient of glaring eyes at Thanksgiving when she altered the sacred green bean casserole recipe with the addition of Greek yogurt, but she is learning as she goes. “A lot of hits, a few misses -- you have to experiment.” Prior to starting her wellness journey, Kelly’s meal planning was chaotic. She would rush home from work and try to pull together a quick family dinner. Kelly had to get organized. Now on Sundays, she has her weekly menu planned and loads her shopping list with healthy ingredients. She preps her food in the afternoon and starts the week with a majority of meals ready to go.

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Kelly had always exercised with frustrating results. “Before it was something I had to do to lose weight or to get in shape. Now it is part of my lifestyle; I enjoy it and love feeling strong.” Kelly works out 30 minutes a day following an array of Beachbody videos that improve her strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. She works out early in the morning with her dog watching curiously or after work with a group of friends. Being fit and healthy is not about how you look, it’s the quality of your life. “People can see the physical difference but they can also see the difference in my confidence.” In the fall, she auditioned for the local Christmas production, “It’s A Wonderful Life” and landed a small role. “It’s my favorite movie of all time and I honestly know every line by heart!”

April 1 - June 30, 2016

“A lot of hits, a few misses; you have to experiment.”

As people asked about her transformation, Kelly realized that she could help other people on their journey as well. She became a Beachbody health and wellness coach and loves the experience. “Coaching others is so inspirational.” Kelly sets up Facebook group challenges, shares recipes and plans group workouts. “I love working out with people; I love the fellowship and sense of community.” Kelly is also a facilitator for “Faith and Fitness” or “Biceps and Bibles” as her daughter calls it. Faith and Fitness is a local faith-based program where the community can stop in a church for a short devotion and a 30-minute workout. It’s a great way for those too intimidated to visit a fitness center to gain momentum into a more active lifestyle. Kelly is a work in progress. Even though she is stronger both physically and mentally and has so much more confidence, she still has insecurities. But like any good Norwegian, Kelly keeps moving forward, loving every step of this sweet journey. n

Denise Sundquist is the health and safety coordinator for the Brainerd School District. Since her sons left for college, she has embraced a more active lifestyle including local triathlons, running races and mountain biking with her husband, Matt, on the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System.

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Summer 2016 | her voice 35


Jen Lindholm works with volunteers of all ages packing bag lunches for hungry kids during the summer when school lunches are not available.

Operation Sandwich


Never underestimate the power of a peanut butter sandwich.

It was only three years ago a group of church leaders spent their lunch hour with students from a local elementary school. Typically ramping up for three months of summer vacation, the students were less than enthusiastic when questioned about their summer plans. One student finally spoke up and was met with agreeable nods from her peers when she told their visitors some students weren’t looking forward to summer because it meant being left hungry and bored. It was in that moment the wheels were set in motion for what, soon after, became the concept behind Operation Sandwich. Vicki Foss, Director of Youth and Family Ministries at First Lutheran Church in Brainerd, offered the use of the church’s kitchen for making sandwiches and packing bag lunches. As word spread, volunteers quickly signed on for the initiative to spread love and meals to hungry students and their fam36 Summer 2016 | her voice

ilies during the summer months when school meals were not accessible. The groups would take lunches to various locations, including public parks and school playgrounds and distribute to anyone who was hungry. Jen Lindholm, a teaching assistant with the Brainerd School District, heard about the program and signed up to volunteer along with her three children. With her summer months off, Jen said it was a good way of giving back and still serving students. As the popularity of the program began to surge, Operation Sandwich was outgrowing its loose structure and soon began to seek an individual who could provide more organization and coordination. “My heart was telling me ‘yes,’ but my brain was telling me to slow down a bit and think it through,” Jen said when approached in 2014 to coordinate the program. However, after consideration and prayer, Jen accepted the position and took the reins to ensure the critical community service would continue.

“Jen was perfect for the position,” noted Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties – fiscal host of Operation Sandwich. “It was also a good match for us at United Way. It’s synergistic with what we do, what we advocate, what we raise money for. If these kids are hungry, they’re not learning. That’s the bottom line. Basic needs have to be met.” Jen’s position includes organizing volunteers and staying on top of supply and distribution. Beginning each summer, volunteers are recruited to a central location, typically First Lutheran Church, to make peanut butter sandwiches and pack bag lunches with other non-perishable food items. Every bag lunch contains a sandwich, granola bar, fruit snack, fresh fruit and another snack such as crackers, pretzels or a fun snack. All food items and supplies are donated by

months when I don’t have income the public or purchased with donations. Food items were also provided to the Brainerd High School food shelf and coming in. Families go from having 10 The lunches are then taken to predethe Brainerd Learning Center in an meals a week provided for their kids at termined locations throughout the area effort to reach the harder-to-identify school to being the sole provider for and distributed. three months. There are families that “I’ve had people come back in tears,” students. “It’s a need I understand,” Jen exjust can’t sustain that for the whole Jen said, noting the opportunity gives summer. And that’s where Operation volunteers a glimpse into the unfortuplained. “I understand what it’s like Sandwich comes in.” nate reality of poverty in the community. to have to figure things out for three Operation Sandwich will begin “Last summer, I had a group of its summer cycle the first Monday volunteers that went to a local park after school concludes until the to help distribute lunches. When last Thursday before school reconthey were done, the group leader came back and said ‘you won’t bevenes. This year, that means June All items provided by Operation Sandwich come 6 to Sept. 1. Lunches are distriblieve what happened.’” Jen said the from donations. Current needs include: volunteers had approached a mom uted Mondays through Thursdays Plastic sandwich bags during the lunch hour at Garfield, who was watching her children play Plastic utensils at the park and asked if she wantHarrison and Lowell Elementary, Plastic gloves for handling food Kiwanis Park in Brainerd and ed lunch. She eagerly agreed to take Whipple Beach in Baxter. lunch for herself and her children. Paper bags Jars of peanut butter, jelly “Another great perk of my job is After getting the children situated Juice boxes or pouches that I get to meet so many great with their bag lunches at a nearby Non-perishable items including granola bars, applepeople,” Jen said. “We have lots of picnic table, the woman returned sauce cups, fruit cups, fruit snacks, individual repeat volunteers. One of the joys to the volunteer; and, with tears in of my job is that I’m in a position her eyes, explained the reason she portion sized crackers to educate people to the need in brought her family to the park was Cash donations or store gift cards are eagerour community and give them this to distract them from the fact they ly accepted and used to purchase fresh items, experience. I’ve done a lot of miswere hungry and she couldn’t afford including fruit and bread to feed them that day. sion trips and volunteering; but, “That is such a good illustration as often, you don’t see the end result to why we do what we do and why or the people you’re affecting. That’s Forty-one percent of students in ISD 181 qualify it’s so necessary,” Jen said with tears the great thing about Operation for free and reduced lunch welling up in her own eyes. “We adSandwich. You come in and pack lunches and then you can go out vertise that we’re out there and when, In 2015, an average of 75 children were served and look into the eyes of the chilbut I know there are a lot of people each day throughout the summer months we’re not reaching. Fortunately, this dren you’re helping. That’s the best Operation Sandwich served just under 4,000 meals family came at just the right time. I summer job anyone could ever ask in 13 weeks in 2015 call that a God thing.” for.” In 2015, 582 volunteers assisted with OS. Each In an effort to meet youth hunFor more information or to get volunteer spends approximately three-hours on involved, visit operationsandger needs year-round, Operation a typical shift, equaling 1,746 volunteer hours Sandwich has added Christmas or email Jen at opdedicated to Operation Sandwich in 2015. kets to its outreach efforts. For the

Want to Help?

By the Numbers

past three years, backpacks, boxes Financial donations can also be and baskets have been prepared by mailed directly care of United Way volunteers – filled with non-perof Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties at PO Box 381, Brainerd, ishable snacks and easy to prepare Lowell Elementary: 11:45 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. Minnesota 56401. n meals – to help fill the stomachs Garfield Elementary: 12:15 p.m. to 12:40 p.m. of students while away from school Harrison Elementary: 12:45 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. over winter break. In its first year, Oscar Kristofferson Park, Baxter: Noon to 12:30 p.m. 40 to 50 students were reached. In 2014, 110 boxes were distributKiwanis Park: 12:40 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. ed. And, just this December, 275 large reusable shopping bags were filled to the brim and distributed by Jenny Holmes is a former reporter for the Brainerd Dispatch and currently Family Service Collaborative Workers owns a public relations and communication business. She lives in Nisswa to the families deemed most in need. with husband, Tim and their two school­-aged children.

2016 Summer Distribution Locations

Summer 2016 | her voice 37

The Lakes Area Music Festival runs July 21 - Aug. 31. All concerts are free of charge. For more information on programs, musicians, or to volunteer, visit

Eight Seasons of Making it Work

The Lakes Area Music Festival is more than just music


For the past eight years, the Lakes Area Music Festival has brought together a community of music lovers for three weeks of free classical music concerts, alongside a robust education and social calendar. Nearly 120 musicians are flown in from across the country, all supported primarily by a dedicated squad of volunteers. Ruth Gmeinder, Mary Anne Bennett and Arla Johnson represent only three of the over 200 volunteers that provide transportation, meals, housing, and perhaps most importantly - support, for what has very rapidly become a beloved summer tradition for thousands across the lakes area. The Lakes Area Music Festival wouldn’t happen without a dedicated corps of over 200 volunteers including: (L to R) Mary Anne Bennett, Arla Johson and Ruth Gmeinder.

PHOTOS BY JOEY HALVORSON 38 2016||her hervoice voice 38 Summer Summer 2016

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H e r small frame contains a boundless enthusiasm for the arts, as well as endless praise for the corps of grassroots organizing and volunteering that makes LAMF come to life every summer. i “One of the W things that I really grooved on is radical hospitality. When [the festival] started, nobody paid a dime. There was a basket [at the entrance], and you just made due with what was in the basket,” she said. While the festival has grown tremendously, the radical hospitality Bennett A

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As the former chair of the Lakes Area Music Festival’s board of directors, Mary Anne Bennett has enjoyed a front


Building An Arts Oasis

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Ruth Gmeinder began sewing for a practical purpose. As the oldest daughter in a family of eight children, she first cut her teeth on a sewing machine mending clothes for her family before starting on her own masterpieces at the age of 12. Now, Ruth has run a costume shop for 30 years. “I’ve always had this artistic side to me, even though I always thought I was left-brained dominant,” says Ruth, “But there was always a part of me that loved to create.” When a chance encounter at a Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation philanthropic banquet brought Ruth and Lakes Area Music Festival founders Scott Lykins and John Taylor Ward together, it was an immediate match. Lykins and Ward were seeking to costume their first opera production. While Ruth estimates some costumes can take over 100 hours of labor, and are valued at up to $10,000, she regularly donates to area non-profits as a way of giving back to the community. Ruth’s love of music has taken her around the world to see operas in Prague and London, amongst other places. Her travel bug nicely compliments her desires for colorful and lush fabrics, props and accessories (“Anything unusual,” she notes) -- as well as her beloved Swarovski crystals -- sometimes bringing as much as 100 meters of fabric back in the extra suitcase she always packs for trips. Her globetrotting ways has only made her appreciate seeing her work on the LAMF stage more. “I had fitted all the musicians [the first year], not realizing the talent. I don’t think our area realizes the level of talent and background of these musicians that come. It’s as good as I’ve heard [overseas].” Ruth says.

row seat to witness the explosive growth from a group of student musicians putting on a show at local churches to the current professional music organization that takes over Tornstrom Auditorium each August. “I just felt, and I still do, very strongly that this area needs arts. I want it to be an arts magnet,” says Mary Anne. When the first call for volunteers and support came after the surprising success of the inaugural season, Mary Anne did not hesitate to lend her efforts - beginning her work on what would become the hospitality committee, and eventually delegating out tasks to what would officially become the board of directors.

Ma ry

Dressing For The Occasion

Summer 2016 | her voice 39

weren’t for those hundreds of [volunteers] back there really working. [The board] all just work like beavers. And the chair people of the different committees,” she says. “I think if we figured out some sort of [monetary] value on the housing, all the meals, all the transportation, our budget would be at least double - if not more.” “I love hearing from people that it’s just so wonderful to be up here because it’s so different from other festivals. To me, that’s great. And I think that’s what keeps musicians coming back, keeps the audience coming back.” And what keeps Bennett coming back? “That’s just me. I’m involved,” she says. Arla is responsible for housing and transportation.

of a queen-bee leadership title, Mary Anne shies away from taking too much credit for LAMF’s growth herself. “It wouldn’t happen to this scale if it

From approximately late March to mid August, most surfaces of Arla Johnson’s kitchen is ruled by carefully prepared index cards and Post-It’s. By Arla’s own admission, it may not be the


mentions has as well. Despite this, each concert is still performed free of charge, with free-will donations accepted. While she may have been the owner

Home Is Where The Heart Is

40 Summer 2016 | her voice

most sophisticated system - but when you’re in charge of finding housing for over 120 musicians throughout a three-week span in the summer, efficiency takes precedence over sophistication. The system has yet to fail. “I don’t think we’ve lost any musicians,” Johnson jokes. “I don’t think we’ve had to make anyone sleep on the street.” As the head of the housing committee, Arla works alongside Thalia Duffield and Diane Rook-Johnson to match musicians with host families during their stay. Once host families are identified, their information - including accommodations, availability, as well as other factors such as pets - are listed out on an index card. Meanwhile, each musician is assigned a Post-It note. Then, the months-long process of matching musician to host begins. Despite the heavy workload leading

up to the festival and the last minute changes, Arla remains the reliable center of a consistently moving operation. A lifelong music lover, she began working with LAMF by arranging lunches for the musicians. After finding that to be outside of her interest, she remained resolute in staying involved. “I guess I would feel guilty going to the concerts if I hadn’t volunteered in some way! And I can’t think of any other way I’d like to volunteer,” she explains. Arla’s level head has suited her well in her position, and her naturally hospitable nature has also lead her to open up her own home as well. The bond between hosts and musicians tend to be substantial, with many hosts and musicians alike requesting to stay with each other season after

season - as well as staying in touch throughout the year. When Arla heard on NPR that the home orchestra of her previously hosted musician would be moving into their new venue this fall, she texted. When Christmas arrived that winter, holiday wishes were exchanged. But, of course, for Arla - it all comes back to the music. “When you see how full that auditorium is on a Wednesday night, or a Sunday afternoon - I think it’s made people feel that this is worthwhile, that this is exciting, this is something that the community supports and needs to support.” n

Hannah Burchill is the digital media manager for the Lakes Area Music Festival. During her festival offseason, she works in Client Services at Russell Herder and skates with the North Star Roller Girls under the name Maul Bunyan. She lives with her 20-pound tabby, Dr. Spaceman.

The Women of CENTURY 21




Summer 2016 | her voice 41

yard & garden

Growing Plants, Growing Minds

42 Summer 2016 | her voice

Last year, student gardening at the Washington Educational Services Building and at Forestview Middle School was a big win. Lisa Stawarski, the Brainerd Public Schools Youth Programs Coordinator said, “Students, families, staff and invested partners gained a greater understanding how food is grown and harvested while enhancing the knowledge of healthy food choices.” While academics thrive, it’s also fun for students to grow plants and eat the results! Logan, a 6-year-old in the garden last year, was known to ask, “Can I eat this? How about this?” while looking over the green plants. The young gardeners learn a lot about a variety of subjects. Gardening students have been overheard telling one another, “Our soil needs the worms-you cannot take them!” Students learn valuable lessons about worms and their roles - and about seeds and plants, picking a garden spot, preparing soil, planning for maximum production for fruit and vegetable gardening, and caring for plants including watering, harvesting, produce use and production. Research regarding the impact of school gardens on academic performance has shown “overwhelmingly that garden-based learning had a positive impact on students’ grades, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior,” according to the Review of Educational Research in 2013. This year, students will have more opportunities in horticulture. The 2016 “Gardening 101 (G101), Junior Master Gardener ( JMG) Earth Diggers Garden” summer program at the Northland Arboretum will run from June 7 to Aug. 30. The success of the program allowed organizers to expand the curriculum. The 2016 program now includes students from third to 12th grades. For inquisitive adults, a new Adult Gardening 101 class will be taught on the same days as the youth sessions.


Gardening for Grade Schoolers


Judy Morgan, Crow Wing County (CWC) Master Gardener, helped teach the JMG 101 program last summer. “What a blast!” she says. “The kids were so attentive and enjoyed taking care of their own garden and watching it grow. We even had a ‘who pulled the most weeds’ contest. I can’t wait for next summer, when the gardens will be even better.” These programs were developed with the support of many generous partnerships and donations of time and talent. Ken Lueken, Senior JMG Coordinator, U of M Ext. Crow Wing County (CWC) Master Gardener (MG), originally partnered developing and resurrecting the JMG program in CWC with MG Coralee Fox (former JMG CoCoordinator), and Jackie Froemming (U of M Extension Educator). Other MGs were instrumental in creating a JMG program in CWC, and 2015 success depended on many skilled MG instructors. JMG programming continues to expand to the Discovery Woods Montessori

School and other entities. Funding for the garden came from a grant from Crow Wing Energized through Healthy Community Grants, to support efforts to move our community to a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice. Also, Home Depot donated materials and funds, Brainerd Public Schools provided Community Education staffing and leadership and the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners of Crow Wing County provide extensive hands-on garden education, leadership and knowledge. Eric Sullivan of Navillus Land Company, Baxter, contributed extensive leveling work and the Brainerd Lakes Area Master Naturalists and CWC Master Gardeners built raised beds. Nick Reindel, DNR Fencing Specialist (retired), Master Gardener Ken Lueken, and the Jones family from The Farm on St. Mathias providing fence post auguring and deer fence post installation. During spring of 2016, a garden perimeter stone block retaining wall, outdoor

class area, deer and rabbit fencing, gates and soil filling the raised beds will be completed. For more information on Junior Master Gardener programming, contact Senior JMG Coordinator Ken Lueken at For more information on Crow Wing County Master Gardeners, to access horticultural information, and learn how to become a Master Gardener, visit the University of Minnesota Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardener website. Call the MG Helpline at 218454 GROW (4769). For more information about the Northland Arboretum in Brainerd or becoming a Master Naturalist, contact Peg at n Parent of two, Jill Neumann lives in Brainerd, is active in the community and works for UnitedHealthcare as a senior underwriting consultant.

The G101 JMG Diggers group will meet at the Northland Arboretum Visitor Center every Tuesday starting June 7 through Aug. 30 from 10-11:30 a.m. There will be an introduction to the class on June 6 at 10 a.m. and a Harvest Day and Garden Cleanup Day on Oct. 15. As each year’s youth and adult gardener groups increase their knowledge and abilities, more advanced sessions will be offered to graduates of the JMG Earth Diggers program. The Adult Gardening 101 will meet the same Tuesdays as the Youth and Junior Master Gardening sessions with adult programming from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

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witty woman

Fighting the heat was a challenge as Jill attempted to embrace the outdoors.


I’ve got words of wisdom if you’re planning a relaxing summer weekend getaway. Be specific in what you consider relaxing, as others— such as your husband—may confuse relaxing with challenging. 44 her voice voice 44 Summer Summer 2016 2016 || her

Last summer we had a rare free weekend. I mentioned I’d love to get away and relax. My husband, we’ll call him TVOR (The Voice of Reason), suggested we canoe a “nice, easy” stretch of the Mississippi River. It sounded wonderful… being outside with nature, soaking up the sun while “floating” along the river. We dropped my car off at the landing where we planned to end our trip before heading north in the truck with our canoe. It was high-noon when we embarked on the river… and 84 degrees. TVOR had planned for two short “easy-floating” days, so it would be a breeze, right? Speaking of breeze, we had none. Sweat drizzled down our bodies as we paddled. Hoping to cool off, we banked the canoe to wade… and ended up knee-deep in muck! Swimming was out of the question. And did I mention the heat? How about the fact we’d launched miles north of our plan, making our “easy day” longer in our now 90-plus degree weather. What fun! Wearing black biking gloves for my arthritic hands, they felt like burnt toast as I paddled (something I’d been assured I wouldn’t need to do!) Then there was my jack-hammer-migraine from the extreme heat. TVOR suggested I put my head down, close my eyes… and keep paddling towards camp. The problem was we couldn’t find the campsite! TVOR had marked it on his GPS via the DNR website. The sun was setting and we’d paddled way past where it should’ve been. We turned around and paddled back up river, sure we’d passed it, knowing DNR signs are the size of a fingernail. Meanwhile, we searched for other possible camp options. There was nothing but mucky banks and woods. So we turned and paddled south again. In our delirious-heat-exhaustion-state, miles after where it should’ve been, we spotted the tiny sign for the appropriately named Ms Keto campsite! After dragging the contents from our overloaded canoe up the mucky hill, my husband observed my nausea-green face. Ever-helpful, he pointed out a commode for me in the middle of the woods a block from camp. While envisioning my middle-of-the-night demise, TVOR nudged me. “C’mon, let’s move this cooler.” Helping to lug the enormous cooler, my arm was yanked from its socket. “How far do we have to go?” I may have whined. “How close do you want the bear?” TVOR asked. We finished setting up the tent before dragging out our air beds… and discovered we forgot to pack the bed-pump. With determination, TVOR blew them up, swooning from light-headedness. I was busy swooning from my heat exhaustion. After collapsing inside the tent, we fantasized about a cool one while I wrangled with my rising fear. What if I needed to get to a hospital? “We’d have to get back in the canoe and keep paddling until we came across a road,” said TVOR. Get back in the canoe in the pitch-black night? No thanks. I focused on calming Lamaze breathing and checked the time on my phone. And laughed. “What’s so funny?” TVOR asked. “It’s still 84 degrees!” It was after 10 p.m. In the complete darkness I may have asked a dozen times, “What was that?” whenever I heard a sound. Eventually I succumbed to exhaustion.

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Jill Hannah Anderson recently signed a two-book deal with Pandamoon Publishing. Her first women’s fiction novel, “The To-Hell-And-Back Club,” has an estimated publishing date of early 2017. She is currently working on her second women’s fiction novel set in the Brainerd lakes area and looking forward to a “relaxing” summer.


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More than once during the night, my body had to release the gallons of water I drank during the day. I refused to visit the commode a mile away. With my flashlight, I quivered out of the tent. My knees shook like Don Knotts on “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” as I “watered the plants” amongst the bears, wolves and snakes. Eventually, day broke. Hoping to beat the projected 90-plus degree high, we paddled like madmen. In two days we never saw another living soul on the river… although in the distance we heard “Dueling Banjos,” propelling us to paddle faster. By mid-afternoon we finally spotted the landing where we’d parked our car. Yay! Soon we’d be on our way home to air-conditioning, a shower and a cold beer. Or not. As we dragged the canoe out of the river, I had a nagging memory of a conversation we had after I’d parked my car at the landing and jumped in the truck with my car keys. I had planned to throw them in my bag when we loaded the canoe…until TVOR said, “Throw them in here.” You see where I’m going with this—we needed my car keys to drive back to get the truck! I don’t foresee a “relaxing weekend” this summer, but if I get one… it won’t be spent embracing the outdoors! n

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Summer 2016 | her voice 45

...Continued from page 27 tens, bags and an array of other products. During the winter they lived with Gertraud while building their house; she taught her 83-year-old mother to spin. Esther weaves with a handmade floor loom Dave bought her 26 years ago as a Christmas present. The man who made the loom showed Esther how to weave. Her movements as she works in her sun-filled craft room are graceful. Sitting at her loom, with its pedals and strings and bench, she resembles an organist. Sharon Endicott says, “My daughter-in-law, Esther, is one of the most talented people I know, also one of the kindest. She has been making handmade items for the 30-plus years I have known her and has shared with me her woven rugs and bags, which I use daily. I am lucky in that I get to feed the alpacas when David and Esther are away from the farm.”

Gertraud, the self-described alpaca’s grandma says, “I’m very thankful to Esther and Dave for the alpacas and that I am able to get out to talk to them and feed them. Having baby alpacas is the best you could wish for. Raising them is just like raising your own kids! I got a kick out of seeing the difference between the boys and girls, how they act, just like your own kids.” n

Esther considers husband Dave, a retired school superintendent, her biggest booster.

Prior to her pastime of playing with words, Carolyn Corbett taught elementary school for 14 years before resigning to sail off into the sunset. Upon her return, she tutored English and writing at Central Lake College. Today, as a freelance writer/editor, Carolyn has over 250 articles published in cruising, parenting and general interest magazines.

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Her Voice Service Directory • Summer 2016 Appliances


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Clothing Leslie’s Clothes

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St. Joseph’s Medical Center 218-829-2861 Brainerd Clinic (218) 828-2880 Baxter Clinic (218) 828-2880

Optometrists Lakes Area Eyecare

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Her Voice Magazine Summer 2016  

• Making Waves: We love our lakes, but do we care enough to preserve them? Claire Steen does. • A Snapshot of Cuba: While close in distance,...

Her Voice Magazine Summer 2016  

• Making Waves: We love our lakes, but do we care enough to preserve them? Claire Steen does. • A Snapshot of Cuba: While close in distance,...