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What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. ~ Jane Goodall

The Free Press MEDIA

Women • MARCH 2019 • 1

1 • MARCH 2019 • Women

Brittany R. King-Asamoa

Jennifer G. Lurken

Kaitlin M. Pals

Women • MARCH 2019 • 1

Table of Contents

6 Annmarie Drake 8 Ginger Neilon 12 Jessica Roemhildt 16 Women in Business 18 Dr. Annette Parker 22 Nicole Crosby 24 Candice Deal-Bartell 26 Sandra Oachs 28 Joyce Kolbet 30 Julie Dempster 34 Women in Real Estate










2 • MARCH 2019 • Women




Many of you have probably heard of Stones Throw Gallery here in St. Peter. We’re the big blue house on Minnesota Ave as you drive thru town. However, you may not know what really goes on here. Hi, I’m Patty Conlin, owner and the Goldsmith here at the Stones Throw. Making custom gold jewelry has been my passion for over 40 years. From birthstone pendants for new Mothers, an inherited piece gaining new life or creating something special for that loved one, are just a few things I do. Did you know we also have a gallery of wonderful creations of art from over 50 regional artists? I’d love to show you around :-)

Goldsmith & Gallery Owner Patty Conlin

420 N. Minnesota St. Peter, MN 507.934.5655

Kristen R. Pinette, CPA & Advisor

Mandy Karl, Accountant

Ana M. Stubbs, Accountant & Business Analyst

Lynn Glaser, Enrolled Agent

Tax Preparation, Planning and Financial Analysis 1021 Madison Ave. Mankato, MN 56001 (507) 388-7583 •


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507.345.5566 Women • MARCH 2019 • 3

The Free Press MEDIA

1750 Northway Drive North Mankato, MN 56003


Women March 2019


Steve Jameson


Marianne Carlson


Bryce O. Stenzel Rachel Hanel Marianne Carlson Nicole Hallman



Rachel Hanel Nicole Hallman Christina Sankey


Danny Creel Joan Streit Jordan Greer-Friesz Josh Zimmerman Marianne Carlson Theresa Haefner


Barb Wass


Christina Sankey Sue Hammar


Justin Niles

Women 2019 is published by The Free Press Media annually at 418 South Second St., Mankato MN 56001. For editorial inquiries, call Marianne Carlson at 344-6338, or e-mail For advertising, call 344-6364, or e-mail

4 • MARCH 2019 • Women


Marianne Carlson 507-344-6338 MnDot#125249

125 Years in Business!

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Jordan Greer-Friesz 507-344-6337

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Cora is calm, compassionate, and highly proficient. As a Legal Assistant, she is specialized in DWI and driver’s license matters. With over 10 years of experience assisting in the field of criminal defense, Cora is well acquainted with the complexities of the criminal justice system. She effectively manages the intricacies of each case, helping our clients to feel informed and secure. Kuettner Legal, LLC, is a boutique law firm, in downtown Mankato, specializing in criminal defense. We provide Southern Minnesota with effective legal representation and counsel. Our firm is committed to providing our clients with a warm, personal, and confidential relationship centered around trusted and specialized legal counsel.

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We are the experts in both print and digital marketing tactics. Contact us to set up an appointment for a needs analysis. 418 South Second St. Mankato, MN 56001 Women • MARCH 2019 • 5

Shattering Stereotypes In A Kind Encouraging Atmosphere A

By Bryce O. Stenzel

nnmarie Drake is the Artistic Director of the Riverfront Performing Arts Center in Mankato. She originally grew up in Chicago, and attended Butler University of Indianapolis, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance, music and theater. After graduating from Butler, Annmarie moved to Europe, in search of work. She spent nine years abroad, working in German opera houses, as well as earning her Master’s Degree (in flute performance) from the Musical Conservatory in Frankfurt, before returning home to Chicago. Since most members of her family live in the Lanesboro, Minnesota area, Annmarie was attracted to an employment notice she saw, advertising a job for a dance teacher in Mankato. Annmarie took the job being offered at Minnesota State University, moved to Mankato, and spent several years here before getting married and moving to Minneapolis. She taught at the Minnesota Dance Theater, and Northwest Ballet. It was at this critical stage in her life, that Annmarie also had her three children (two daughters and a son). Her oldest daughter is now an opera singer in Leipzig, Germany. It was when her son was entering middle school that Annmarie decided to return to Mankato. In 2007, she opened the Fine Arts School of Ballet. In 2016, the name was changed 6 • MARCH 2019 • Women

to Riverfront Performing Arts Center, to reflect the addition of theater and music to the school’s course offerings. Annmarie’s personal philosophy (as well as that of the school) is that arts education should be inclusive and affordable to all. She stressed that Riverfront Performing Arts Center strives to identify, as well as recruit, a diverse student body and faculty. Currently there are two theater, one vocal, and three dance instructors on staff, as well as two master teachers, teaching ballet. There are sixty students currently enrolled at Riverfront Performing Arts Center. It is the only school of its type in Mankato to offer reduced tuition for lower income families; family tuition rates are also available for households with more than one child. Annmarie’s own philosophy stems from the fact that she, herself grew up in a working class home, where she always enjoyed dance and music. She is passionate about offering that same opportunity to the students she teaches, regardless of their income or ethnic heritage. “I really want to make the arts accessible and meaningful to all; I hate elitism,” Annmarie said. By that she meant that art forms such as ballet and classical music often have the stigma attached to them that they are only for the upper economic classes. Through her work with

Riverfront Performing Arts Center, Annmarie also works to shatter the stereotype that ballet is only for girls to enjoy. The school offers a unique boys’ program, in which young men are given the opportunity to study ballet, by taking free classes, in the art. Word of mouth travels fast, and the classes have become very popular. “It is not so hard to get boys involved today,” Annmarie said with a smile. The boys’ ballet program was created in memory of one of Annmarie’s teachers and mentors, Ed Parish, who was born in 1922, grew up in Iowa, and eventually became a ballet teacher in Chicago. Originally, Ed took ballet to strengthen his legs, after an accident he suffered. He went on to become a Navy cook in WWII, fell off a stage in Paris, tried tap dancing on Broadway, and became a foster father for three sons, who were all trained in ballet. Ed’s example became the inspiration for Riverfront’s ballet program for boys. Riverfront Performing Arts Center has put its own unique performance signature on many well-known classics: Secret Garden, Peer Gynt, Tick Talk, The Nutcracker (revised to “North Woods Nutcracker” and Miracle on 34th Street, which was recently performed in December, 2018. Its next show, “Napoli Reimagined,” will be held on April 5 and 6 at Fitzgerald’s theater, in downtown Mankato. The continued success of Riverfront Performing Arts Center can be measured both in the quality of its productions, as well as in the glowing recommendations made by parents of students who attend the school. Becky Dimock wrote: “The perfect combination of professional instruction and a kind, encouraging atmosphere.” Sophie Jakovich stated: “all my 3 children (boys and a girl) are completely in awe of this program where they push themselves, perform and DREAM big! Staff and families [are] always kind and friendly, making it feel like your own family! The best part, tuition is the most affordable of all studios!” With reviews like these, there is only one thing left to say: BRAVO, Riverfront Performing Arts Center! Hats off to you, and to Annmarie Drake for her vision, expertise and passion.

Women • MARCH 2019 • 7

Artistic Roots Leads Business Owner to Success By Nicole Hallman


ankato business owner opened Baubles and Bobbies in 2014 after taking a leap of faith by turning her passion into a successful business from her dining room table. “There’s never a day that I don’t like being here,” said Ginger Neilon, owner of Baubles and Bobbies. Neilon’s hobby started when she began separating jewelry pieces and putting together creative gifts. She would give some jewelry to her friends and family or keep it for herself. This has always been a hobby but it wasn’t until she experienced an epiphany that her passion into reality. She became a successful jewelry artist in college which led her to opening her own artistic business. Neilon has been constructing modern jewelry for classy birds ever since. Each piece is created by hand at her studio in downtown Mankato. Some of her creativity has come from memories, nature, colors and even the land of 10,000 lakes. “Everything that I make is inspired or drawn from something. Something triggered a memory of when I was agate hunting with my husband and it has inspired me to create this piece or this kind of stone,” said Neilon. Growing up in Henderson, MN, Ginger Neilon came from an artistic family with 10 brothers and sisters. Most of her siblings naturally gravitated toward different art forms. She never thought about making her hobby a full-time job, so she began to work in the health care field. After seven years, she decided to go back to school and receive her RN but while taking an elective art class, she realized that her passion was more important. Connecting with her professor, Michelle Johnson and was asked what her major was. When Neilon told Johnson that she was going to school for nursing it left her surprised. She never imagined that was her major. After conversating with her professor, Neilon took a step back and realized art was her passion. “I went home that day and was working on a project and I 8 • MARCH 2019 • Women

was like man, I love art this is just the best and it was like an epiphany of our whole conversation. Like why am I doing this?” said Neilon. Neilon wanted to change her major to interior design although Minnesota State University, Mankato, didn’t offer that degree. She was interning for Salvage Sisters in Mankato and thought she could learn more about interior design from the owner. But they needed a jewelry artist for more modern pieces to sell for retail and Neilon said she could do that. Her unique pieces started to gain attention from other business’ and that’s when her talent took off. She changed her degree to business and her jewelry was picked up from other stores. At this point, Neilon decided to take a leap of faith. “As other stores started picking it up, it was okay, time to quit my healthcare job and start making jewelry at my dining room table and somehow my husband was okay with that,” said Neilon. Neilon opened her business Baubles and Bobbies in fall 2014. She has been received positive feedback being located in Mankato. There is a small amount of jewelry makers in town which gives her an open niche to become a business of eminence. Southern Minnesota gives her the opportunity to create designs that reflect the lifestyle of the community. She enjoys networking with other makers and business owners in town.

“You only benefit from being around more creatives and also bouncing ideas off of each other. I love meeting other people that do jewelry as well as any other maker stuff.,” Neilon said. With the idea of growth in the future, Neilon would like to expand and create retail for her pieces. Her customers usually pick up their orders from her studio. If she could create a space that will double as a studio and retail shop that would anp- ideal situation. She is in no hurry to make that happen, as Neilon is happy where she is at. When the opportunity comes, she will let it happen organically. A huge leap she is looking forward to is the opening of a store in April located in Rosedale Center. She has participated in micro stores which are small sections of a local brand store where she can sell her pieces. She has come together with five brands and six owners that were also involved in the micro store and

connected to build the idea for their future store called, Six 4 Good. Neilon is passionate that herself and other business owners are dedicated to giving back. “The main focus of that store is that, ya know, it’s six of us friends doing this together, six women who own business’ but where also each one of us gives back to an organization,” Neilon said. After Six 4 Good opens in April, Neilon will donate five percent of sales to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. A previous campaign the WFM held is Minnesota Girls are Not for Sale. Neilon is connected to this organization as they held the program Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale. The campaign ends this year, but Neilon plans to continue working with this organization’s future programs. The store plans to hold other events dedicated to donating such as a day where 15 percent of all purchases will be donated. The store name will be incorporated as well, on the sixth day of the month they would donate six percent. “I really want to be connected with a different non-profit or organization that I am really passionate about,” Neilon said. Neilon has experienced many positive experiences as a business owner. The opportunity to meet many business owners and the friendships she’s created. Conversating with a community of makers helps business owners find what Women • MARCH 2019 • 9



10 • MARCH 2019 • Women

works and what doesn’t work. Picking her own employees is also important to her. She loves building her team with people that not only fill the position but also people that can benefit from it. “To surround yourself with good souled people all the time, makes you feel good verses working alone in a cubical,” Neilon said. With the creativity of a vision board, Neilon had a goal to become national. She began reading the Scout Guide based in Minneapolis and featured in other major cities. Neilon was put in their publication in hopes she would become national. While visiting New York, she came across a whole sale mart that sells other local brands and found Paper Source a national, female owned, women empowerment company, had picked up her diffusor bracelets. This was a huge accomplishment that ended in a “happy dance,” she said. Baubles and Bobbies constructs wearable art for the classy birds. Ever since she was little, Neilon and her sisters called each other bird. But every woman is classy and she creates pieces designed to inspire and make any woman feel good about herself. She strives to make women feel powerful and beautiful when they wear her jewelry. She wants pieces to connect with each woman. “Every girl is a classy bird. We’re bad asses and you should do something that makes you feel like a bad ass.,” Neilon said.

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12 • MARCH 2019 • Women

Inspiring Wellness & Dancing In A Nurturing Stressfree Environment By Bryce O. Stenzel


essica Roemhildt is a native of Mankato. She has been a massage therapist and certified personal trainer for thirteen years, as well the founder of Lulu’s (Live Your Life Unique) Wellness Center, which she has operated from a studio in her own home, since 2013. Inspiration for Jessica’s work came from her aunt (also a massage therapist) and helping her own mother treat severe headaches suffered, as a result of an accident. Jessica’s mother described her daughter as having “magic hands.” Jessica’s primary business goal is to provide a comfortable place where clients can relax and let go of their stresses. She strives to offer a setting where clients feel like they are being nurtured. Jessica also offers her clients suggestions on self-care--how to take care of themselves after a massage. She does this by providing exercises that make the massage treatments they receive more complete. She also offers suggestions on different ways for her clients to manage their pain. Sometimes the issue causing the discomfort is one that Jessica, alone cannot completely address in her sessions. She then offers referrals to other professionals that can help her clients find relief from their pain. She has a fluctuating rotation of clients. One of Jessica’s clients, “Pamela” had this to say, regarding the treatment she received at Lulu’s Wellness Center:

‘Two years ago I was having constant pain in my neck and back. I found out I have a bulging disk on my neck and lower back. I also have arthritis on my neck. Pain was a constant and I tried physical therapy and Chiropractor, which only relieved the pain a little. When I met Jessica a year ago my goal was to do Yoga without pain. After a year of seeing Jessica I am able to do Yoga for the first time without pain. I am committed to seeing Jessica once a month because I have felt the results. She truly has changed my life.’ To be a certified personal trainer, Jessica must attend seminars to earn credits to maintain her certification. Recently, she attended a herbalist seminar in Hutchinson, detailing the medicinal properties of herbs, which now provides her with the ability to guide people with therapy through teas, supplements etc. Another seminar Jessica recently attended enabled her to become an advocate for people who are dying. The central question Jessica looks to help her clients seeking this type of therapy is: what can bring more peace to your [the client’s] life now? They do this by developing a three-month plan, in which the client figures out what he or she would do if they had three months left to live. This seminar was hosted in St. Peter by the Conscience Dying Institute of Boulder, Colorado. Growing up, Jessica always enjoyed dancing. Of particular interest to her were any of the styles she could move her hips to: belly dancing, swing, blues music and salsa. On a trip to the Twin Cities with her aunt, Jessica witnessed salsa dancing for the first time. Since she liked to explore different types of dances, and she enjoyed the Latin music, Jessica taught herself Women • MARCH 2019 • 13

salsa, and decided; with the help of her boyfriend who lives in the Twin Cities, to bring the dance to Mankato. In August of 2017, Jessica made and launched a Facebook page to judge interest in the dance, among the local population. Even though the launch of Salsa Mankato took place over a holiday weekend, thirteen people attended the first session; Jessica knew then that the interest was there. Since then, Midtown Tavern has become the site for Salsa Mankato. It is currently closed for remodeling, but Jessica is hopeful that once Midtown reopens, it will again host salsa dancing sessions. As many as thirty people have attended in the past—numbers fluctuate from session to session. As is true for Lulu’s Wellness Center, Jessica’s goal for Salsa Mankato is that she wants people to feel comfortable with



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dancing. As she put it, “for many people, dancing is outside their box—they feel vulnerable,” doing it. Jessica wants people to feel they have a safe environment to dance in, regardless of what level of proficiency they are at—most are beginners. She really likes the fact that Salsa Mankato is full of caring people; they are close-knit, in the sense that they are all engaging in an activity in which they enjoy. However; new people are always encouraged to join, and the older members welcome them. Andrew Foster Davis had this to say: ‘My partner, Sarah Davis, and I have been coming to Salsa Mankato since its inception. Dancing keeps the romance alive in our marriage. We love learning new steps and meeting new people, too. The atmosphere is informal and friendly, which suits us well. We southern Minnesotans aren’t known for being the best dancers, but we are all starting from the same place when we learn together in Mankato — it doesn’t feel competitive or intimidating at all!’ Judging by this (and many others) testimonial she has received, Jessica has more than met her goal.

Women • MARCH 2019 • 15

Women in Business

parties& weddings

A look at local success stories

Belynda brings over two decades of public accounting experience in serving her clients as the managing shareholder of Swanson Hinsch & Co., a Certified Public Accounting firm. She uses a passionate, detailed approach in assisting her individual and business clients with their tax, accounting, and business management strategies. Belynda and the entire SH&Co. team work daily as advocates for their clients. Outside of the office, Belynda is also passionate about serving the area community. She is currently on the Board for Feeding Our Community Partners and is also their Treasurer. Her most recent past volunteer efforts were shared with YMCA, Minnesota River Builders Association and MSUMankato Women’s Sports Classic Committee. Belynda and her husband Heath are the proud parents of their 19 year old son, Dalton and 14 year old daughter, Peyton. 507-345-7277

Jennifer A. Thompson, CPA Jennifer A. Thompson, CPA, CGMA, joined the Swanson Hinsch & Co. team in 2016. With twentythree years of public accounting experience and sixteen years as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of manufacturing and construction-related companies, she provides quality accounting, business, individual, estate and trust tax planning and preparation services. In addition, she offers financial statement and business strategic planning, management and consulting. Jennifer graduated Summa Cum Laude from Minnesota State University-Mankato, with majors in Accounting and Business Administration. A member of the American Institute and Minnesota Society of CPA’s. She also serves on the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) Leadership Circle and the Minnesota State University – Mankato College of Business Advisory Council. She enjoys spending time with family including two grandchildren, as well as training her horses and border collie dogs on her hobby farm.

Swanson Hinsch & Co. Chartered 510 Long Street l Suite 108 Mankato, MN 56001-4342 T 507-388-1770 l F 507-388-4342

Swanson Hinsch & Co. Chartered 510 Long Street l Suite 108 Mankato, MN 56001-4342 T 507-388-1770 l F 507-388-4342

Samantha Hay, CPA

Samantha Hay, Tax Manager, joined the Swanson Hinsch & Co. team in July 2013. She assists in various bookkeeping and tax areas including being our “go to” person for QuickBooks and Sage 50 Accounting software bookkeeping training for our clients. Sami is our payroll expert, assists in preparing financial reports, along with preparing and reviewing income tax returns. Sami grew up in Walnut Grove, MN and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Professional Accountancy and Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Dakota State University, Madison, SD. She is Vice-President of Programming for Mankato Business & Professional Women and Chair of Accounting for American Cancer Society for Mankato. Swanson Hinsch & Co. Chartered

Tia Bernholtz, CPA Tia Bernholtz, joined Swanson Hinsch & Co. CPA’s in December 2017 as a tax season intern. In May 2018, she accepted a staff accountant position on our team. Tia assists in various bookkeeping and tax areas, including: payroll processing and reporting, and preparing and reviewing tax returns. She graduated from Minnesota State University – Mankato in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting after first obtaining her Associates degree from Iowa Lakes Community College in May 2015. Swanson Hinsch & Co. Chartered 510 Long Street l Suite 108 Mankato, MN 56001-4342 T 507-388-1770 l F 507-388-4342

510 Long Street l Suite 108 Mankato, MN 56001-4342 T 507-388-1770 l F 507-388-4342

Mary Reeves Mary Reeves has been an innovator in the telecommunications industry since 1984, when she joined the family business. Her passion for the industry and commitment to her Minnesota Nice brand has set her apart from her competition. She rose through the ranks of telephone operator, to manager and partial owner, all the way to sole owner in 2014. Today Mary leads an ever-growing team of skilled operators to be the bridge between businesses and their clientele. Her team is never “just” the answering service, rather she trains each operator to be an extension of the businesses they serve. Mankato Answering Service was started in 1970, serving clientele in the Mankato area. Today it is known as MAS Communications and they answer calls for clients in MN, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Florida, Ohio and Missouri. MAS Communications prides itself on the ability to answer the call for any industry and for delivering Minnesota Nice from coast to coast. 507-387-6543 • 465 Poplar St., Mankato, MN 56001 • 16 • MARCH 2019 • Women

Melissa Kreuser Melissa is the local American Family Insurance agent with offices in Lonsdale and New Prague, MN. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from SDSU in Brookings, SD and has been working in the insurance industry since 2005. She is licensed in: AZ, IA, MN, ND, OH, SD and WI. She works with clients to ensure adequate insurance coverage and helps them plan for unexpected losses. She specializes in Life, Auto, Home, Farm and Business insurance. Contact her today to receive a personalized insurance review. Melissa is active in the New Prague Chamber of Commerce (past board member), Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce, Lonsdale Chamber of Commerce (current board member), and the New Prague Rotary Club (past president and board member). She is married to Brian and has a daughter named Maelynn and a son named Jack. 1301 1st Street NE 102 5th Ave NW New Prague, MN 56071 Lonsdale, MN 55046 952-758-5460 507-744-2383

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Heidi Baker is a local State Farm Agent who grew up in the Nicollet area, a graduate of the University of Minnesota with an Agricultural Business degree. She has been a State Farm agent for over 25 years in LeCenter, MN. My agency and team members provide prompt, professional and educational service. Our clients are extremely comfortable here and we are happy to help them. We appreciate their business and friendship. We write Life, Auto, Home, Renters, Farm and Business insurance, while also providing bank products including vehicle loans, deposit products, CD’s and credit cards with State Farm Bank. For help with all your insurance and financial needs, please give us a call at 1-888-609-4141, or email to

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Learn more at Women • MARCH 2019 • 17

18 • MARCH 2019 • Women

A Passion For Education

From Non-Traditional Student To President of South Central College


By Marianne Carlson

any people remember the Great Recession of 2008 as a huge turning point in American history. With high gas prices and a weak economy, people across the country lost their jobs to resctructuring and their homes to foreclosure. The resulting loss of wealth led to sharp cutbacks in consumer spending. These cutbacks trickled down through all sectors of the American economy. People had to make hard decisions about career changes not just job changes. They had to decide if there was a future on their current career path or if they should try something new. This led many people to get additional training and even go back to college. The economy has always has its ebb and flow moments throughout history. For Dr. Annette Parker it was the recession of the early 1990s that caused her to analyze her own career path. Annette was born and raised in Michigan where she worked for General Motors. That is where she met her husband Jeffrey, with whom she shares three children. They both enjoyed successful careers at G.M. until a decline in the auto industry. In 1986, G.M. closed 11 older plants and trimmed eight more assembly plants in October 1990, according to the New York Times. It was at this point, Dr. Parker and Jeffrey knew hard decisions had to be made. At age 28, Dr. Parker started in the 2-year drafting program at Lansing Community College. “I chose drafting because when I was in high school and as a kid, I loved the arts, so I thought, ‘how can I draw and use the skills I learned at G.M.’,” Dr. Parker said. While Dr. Parker went back to school, Jeffrey continued to work and help care for their children. During her time at Lansing Community College, Dr. Parker became a lab assistant and discovered her passion for teaching and making a difference in the lives of her students. After getting her Associates Degree in Drafting, she pursued her Bachelor’s Degree in Education Teaching and eventually got a Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration. “It was interesting because I ended up being the manager of the faculty that were once my teachers,” Dr. Parker said. “I used to sit in their class as a student. Then I worked for them as a tutor and a lab

tech. Then I became their collegue and eventually their boss. It was especially interesting because they were all men. There were no hard feelings at all. In fact, they were proud of me.” After 17 years at Lansing Community College, Dr. Parker accepted a leadership position with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System where she served for six years. During that time, she completed her Doctorate in Education Leadership and continuted to grow her reputation as an internationally respected expert in automotive, manufacturing and workforce education. In 2013, Dr. Parker became the first woman and the first person of color to serve as President of South Central College in Mankato. “I was picked up by a search firm,” Dr. Parker said. “I didn’t think Minnesota would give me a look, but here I am.” One of the things, Dr. Parker said she has learned from her international travels across Asia and Europe is that there is nothing like the American Community College system. “Anybody can walk in regardless of age and pursue a career

Women • MARCH 2019 • 19

or re-career,” she explained. “Mankato is fortunate to have a community college in the community.” There has been a lot of talk about skilled labor shortages across the country and especially in Minnesota, Dr. Parker said. “I think the pendulum is finally swinging the other way. I think people are realizing that they can get an affordable education at a place like South Central College and get the skills they need to get a good paying job in the trades,” Dr. Parker said. “Minnesota has challenges demographically. We do not have enough people for the jobs and projections predict that it is only going to get worse.” Dr. Parker explained that in the Great Recession of 2008 people stopped spending money and postponed having babies. As a result, experts say that soon there will be even less people entering the labor force. “2023 is going to be an interesting year,” Dr. Parker said. “There are going to be less kids graduating and entering the work force and those people that are in the workforce will likely need re-skilling. That is where can help. It is our job to get as many people educated as we can to fill the needs of the community.” South Central College prides themselves on their community partnerships. They are part of the Pipeline (Private Investment, Public Education, Labor and Industry Experience) Program which is an innovative approach to address current and future workforce needs. “The program works with employers to change the conversation from ‘How do we find workers with the skills we need?’ to ‘How do we give workers the skills we need?,’ ” Dr. Parker said. “Right now we are working with Jones Metal Products. This is a great way to support employers because their workers receive a combination of classroom instruction strategically paired with on-the-job training.” Dr. Parker said that South Central College works with five different unions and they offer unique training opportunities that some people might not know about. 20 • MARCH 2019 • Women

“We train fire figthers and first responders,” Dr. Parker said. “We train 12,000 people in that sector every year.” South Central College specializes in career and tech education, liberal arts, transfer education and work force development. We have one of the highest transfer rates in the state,” Dr. Parker said. “That means people can do their first two years at SCC and transfer to a school of their choice. That is a testament to the quality of our instruction.” In 2016, South Central College was selected to participate in Achieving the Dream, a nation-wide network of 224 colleges in 39 states dedicated to student success, Dr. Parker said. As an Achieving the Dream institution, South Central College is working to implement, align and scale cutting edge reforms to ensure the success of current students and the sustainability of the college to serve future students. “These are real evidence-based practices focused on closing achievement gaps,” Dr. Parker said. “68% of our students are at risk of not achieving their dreams. Whether they are firstgeneration college students, low income or students of color – they are at risk. It is great to be a part of this movement.” This year, Dr. Parker was selected as one of the 2019 Women of Distinction. Since 1963, YWCA Mankato has recognized women annually with the Women of Distinction award. The award recognizes women in the greater Mankato community who have lived the goals and mission of the YWCA, which are to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Collectively, the efforts of the YWCA have impacted areas

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such as arts and culture; education; immigrant and refugee services and support; public service; social change; volunteerism; women’s leadership and youth development. Throughout her career, Dr. Parker has served as an inspiration particularly for minority and non-traditional students, demonstrating in her words and actions the impact education, combined with resiliency, can make in your life and the lives of others. “I was shocked when I found out because I have been at the banquet every year admiring these women,” Annette said. “I never thought it would be me.”

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Free Press Women 2019 Our “Fascinating” Women


SCC Students at a Glance

(based on FY17 unless otherwise indicated)

• Total Number: 5,090 • Average Age: 29.1 • Traditional Age (18 -24): 52% • Students of Color: 20% • First-Generation (MN definition-parents had no college): 23.5% • Pell Grant Eligible: 36% • Financial Aid Eligible: 66% • Persistence and Completion Rate: 69% • Related Employment of Graduates* (FY16): 93% • Graduates continuing their education (FY16): 35%

Front L-R Geri Kottschade, Laura Kottschade, Amanna Kuball Back L-R Anna Balcom, Ashley Brackelsberg, Kyla Hoffmann, Amber Reichel

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Fitness instructor offers holistic approach to health Photo & Story By Rachael Hanel


hile she was a student at Gustavus Adolphus College, Nicole Crosby came across an opportunity to teach a group exercise class. She became certified as a group fitness instructor and starting teaching classes to fellow students. “When I found that, I felt like that was exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. But in the following years, Crosby focused on raising her children and ran a day care out of her home. It wasn’t until 2013, when her children were older, that she returned to a fitness career. She became re-certified as a group fitness instructor and since then has added many more skills in her quest to help people live healthier lives.

She is one of three women who own Your Time Fitness in Le Sueur. The gym, open since 2018, offers silks and aerial classes, kids and teen classes, and Crosby’s specialties of group exercise classes and personal training. Crosby also offers energy work to clients in the form of reiki. Reiki is a Japanese technique that uses guided touch to redirect a body’s energy to promote both physical and emotional healing. Crosby is certified in three different types of reiki: Usui, Karuna and Holy Fire. She says each one uses slightly different approaches, so she can use all three on a client to bring about maximum benefits. To Crosby, overall health means more than just the physical, but also incorporates mental, emotional and spiritual aspects.

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She says we’re living in a time when people are paying more attention to this holistic approach. “People are looking for help,” she says. Even though Crosby works with clients to help them live healthier lives, her presence isn’t the magic solution. “I’m your compass to find health,” she says. “I’m not a crutch. I’m just one tool in your toolbelt.” On a cold February night, it was easy to see how Crosby serves as a motivator to her students. Several women showed up to a Monday night cardio kickboxing class at the gym. Crosby, in bright orange leggings and her dark ponytail bobbing back and forth, led the class in a high-energy routine, smiling the whole time. It was that energy that spoke to Teresa Tebbe when she first met Crosby three years ago. Tebbe, another owner of Your Time Fitness, was drawn to Crosby’s positivity. “She just has a sense of stability and support,” Tebbe says. “She’s always there when you need her.” Tebbe says Crosby sees challenges as opportunities. “She’s the most positive and grounding out of all three of us,” Tebbe says, referring to the Your Time ownership. True to Crosby’s holistic approach, she notices how everything is connected, Tebbe says. “She tends to look at more than just the physical or obvious. She’s the one to tell you to take time for yourself, ask if you’ve had time to meditate, or if you’ve taken time to work on your spirituality.” Tebbe started on her own journey to healthier living 10 years ago. She knew that good health was holistic, but meeting Crosby helped to make that clearer. “I’d say I was seeking that kind of thing but as soon as she popped into my vision I latched on and thought, ‘She has something I need to know more about.’” Crosby also has advice for women looking to pursue their passions. Start small, and network with other women. Maybe there’s an opportunity for a group business, like Your Time Fitness, where each owner can bring her own strengths to the group. Crosby acknowledges the risk involved when starting a business. “There’s always going to be a fear of failure. But remove that from the equation,” she says. “Don’t let that dream go.”

Nicole Crosby leads high-energy group exercise classes at Your Time Fitness in LeSueur, and also provides personal training and energy work for clients. (Photo credit: Rachael Hanel) Women • MARCH 2019 • 23

When a need arises, find a way to address it Candice Deal-Bartell sits on the steps of what will become Cultivate Mankato, a 160-slot daycare set to open in August in the heart of downtown Mankato. Photo by Rachael Hanel By Rachael Hanel


hen Candice Deal-Bartell and her husband, Nathan, settled in Good Thunder a few years ago, they began the search for child care as they were expecting their first child. Even though Norah’s birth was a few months away, there were no openings available. The couple was forced to scramble, settling on in-home care for a while until a spot opened for Norah. The struggle to find child care is real in Mankato. The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation estimated that Mankato was short just over 900 child care slots. But instead of waiting for someone else to provide options, Deal-Bartell decided to create an option. Cultivate Mankato, a 160-slot child care center in the heart of downtown Mankato, is slated to open in August. “I’ve always been solution-minded,” Deal-Bartell says. When she was a child, her dad would play devil’s advocate, forcing her to think beyond the obvious. He taught her to push against what people might say, to anticipate opposition and be able to address it. Deal-Bartell, who has master’s degrees in English and elementary education, worked for Teach for America, which 24 • MARCH 2019 • Women

sends teachers into schools around the country that face educational inequity. Deal-Bartell worked in east Los Angeles and then moved to Kansas City, where she worked at what was considered the worst elementary school in Missouri. Children there walked through metal detectors to get to class, and some as young as five years old would be carrying knives in their backpacks. Those experiences showed Deal-Bartell that every child has basic needs that must be met before learning can commence. “If they feel loved and valued, education will come naturally.” Later she worked with junior high kids and helped them perform better by using a reward system. If the kids exhibited good behavior, she’d take them to Chuck E. Cheese or a Royals baseball game (pre-World Series when you could get tickets for $1). She enjoyed figuring out where she could be a positive influence upon children. And upon families, as well. Cultivate Mankato will take a holistic approach to child care and education, serving not only children during the day, but also offering classes, workshops and gathering spaces for parents. She plans to bring in community partners—those who have something to offer to families and

children. One community partner is Natasha Frost, who owns Wooden Spoon in Old Town Mankato. Wooden Spoon will provide kids lunch and a snack, as well as educate families about healthy eating options. “We want to help families help their kids be healthy,” Frost says. Deal-Bartell reached out to Frost when planning Cultivate Mankato. “What drew me in was her vision for quality, and her passion for forming partnerships,” Frost says. Cultivate Mankato is located in the Ridley building at Broad and Main streets. It was originally the home of the first Mankato Clinic. Though the building is currently in the process of renovation, the Kasota stone and local brick will remain in place as a representation of Mankato. “Community is a big personal value of mine,” DealBartell says. She used the Small Business Development Center to help formulate a business plan and address marketing and business development. She sees Mankato as a place where people aren’t afraid to take risks and pursue big ideas. She sees herself as a risk-taker, but considers Cultivate Mankato a calculated risk. “It doesn’t keep me up at night,” she says. Frost says that she’s inspired by Mankato’s support for small businesses, and says it’s a great place for women to own a small business. “We have an amazing ability for small businesses to thrive,” she says.

Cultivate Mankato will be open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. to offer more choices for families. It also will offer part-time and drop-in care, as well as be able to send out child care providers to homes. “The [child care] shortage is not one of good options,” DealBartell says. “There is a shortage, period.”

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26 • MARCH 2019 • Women

Humble Local Becomes Owner and Council Woman By Nicole Hallman


mall town Iowa native joked about owning a bar, that turned into reality when a friend sold her Spinners Bar and Grill. Sandra Oachs has always had a knack for working in the hospitality industry. Oachs and her husband Clayton had planned to opening a bar, little did they know the opportunity would fall into their laps. Becoming owners of their own bar happened quicker than expected, but they have been successful ever since. Oachs enjoys the positive atmosphere whether it brings in new customers or regulars. Working in a judgment free zone and learning about people’s stories is what she enjoys most. “You always see a new face or somebody new that comes to town and that’s just the coolest thing, learning people’s stories,” said Oachs. Married for over 20 years to husband Clayton Oachs, both discussed opening a bar with a small-town feel and at the time they mentioned one similar Spinners. Drawing specs and making plans to build their own bar became a long-term goal. Oachs spoke with friend Tonya Angie who mentioned she and her husband were moving and selling their bar. Jokingly, Oachs said, “Okay I’ll buy it.” In July 2016, Oachs and Husband Clayton were officially the new owners of Spinners Bar and Grill. “They called and said, ‘well you are the first person to ask about buying the bar, are you serious about it?’ so I talked to my husband and said yes and within two-three months we purchased the bar,” said Oachs. Oachs has always enjoys bartending and customer service aspect of the restaurant while her husband is keener on the behind-the-scenes part of the business. Her husband has always loved cooking especially barbequing. Their food specials have customers coming back. One of the popular specials is the Hot Beef Commercial. Oachs favorite meal is the Shaved Primed Rib and Chicken Sandwich. There’s always room for more on the menu and Oachs wants to add new items this summer. Cooking fish in unique ways is a plan for addition. Not only will Spinners have new items on the menu for the summer, Oachs will open their pation just outside the back of Spinners. Recently purchasing the land, they now have to opportunity to expand. There is no release date, but we can expect the outside addition. While running a bar and grill keeps Oachs busy, she still has time to run for city council. After settling in as an owner, she wanted to get involved in helping the community. Although she is not someone that likes to be the center of attention or talking in front of people, she still wants to make change. She enjoys

listening, observing and thinking of ways to improve different situations. One of her biggest accomplishments was being voted into a public office her first time running. She was humbled that so many had faith in her. Being a curious woman, Oachs asks a lot of questions but it’s to understand the whole story. What will the results be and what will be a part of the snowball effect? She cares about her community and believes in order to make a change, you have to step in and make it happen. “It’s not just about politics, it’s about doing good for your community and neighbors and making sure you stay engaged,” said Oachs Her community and family are very important to her and that’s who she wants to make changes for. She works hard behind the scenes and even in front of others when needed. Hospitality has followed her throughout her life and she has come to realize, working with people has become her passion. “Your passion drives your purpose and people are my passion,” said Oachs. Oachs grew up in small town Pocahontas Iowa and moved to Mankato in 1992. Her small-town roots are certainly a part of her life while owning a bar and being a council women. Even having a busy schedule, she maintains being a humble person and strives to do good. Her biggest accomplishment was meeting her husband and having children. She wants to do good for her friends, family and her community. “I’m just a small-town Iowa girl just trying to do my thing,” said Oachs.

Women • MARCH 2019 • 27

A matchmaker, and so much more By Rachael Hanel | Submitted photo


mong her colleagues at VINE, Joyce Kolbet is affectionately known as “the matchmaker.” All who know her agree that she has an innate talent for matching VINE volunteers with older adults in the community who may be socially isolated. The Caring Connection program, which right now has about 50 matches, has resulted in lasting friendships. “She just finds that little thing that will result in a good match,” says Carol Ries, who works with Kolbet at VINE. “She’ll say, ‘Carol, I just found the perfect person’ and I’ll say, ‘I don’t know how you do this.’” While most of the VINE volunteers for Caring Connection are older than 60, Kolbet says she’d like to encourage families to volunteer for the program as well. An entire family could come together to provide support and friendship to an older community member. Kolbet has worked at VINE since 2016. Besides coordinating the Caring Connection program, she works as a community living coach to help individuals connect with VINE services and facilitates grief and loss support groups. Kolbet has always had a career serving and helping others. She graduated from Good Counsel Academy and entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She’s worked as a math and music teacher in North Dakota and Minnesota, including at Loyola High School in Mankato. She served as a campus minister at the Newman Center at what was then Mankato State University, vocation director at SSND, hospital chaplain and hospice chaplain. As pastoral minister for a tri-parish serving Good Thunder, Mapleton and Vernon Center, she and another sister took care of day-to-day operations of the parish because at the time the parish had only a visiting priest.

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Women have always had a strong influence upon Kolbet. She was inspired by her teachers when she was growing up in Cresco, Iowa, who were SSND nuns. “I got to know them personally,” she says, reflecting on time spent with them helping out after school or while taking piano lessons. “I saw their other-centered approach.” Once she entered SSND, she took inspiration from Mother Mary Theresa Gerhardinger, the founder of SSND. “I saw how important the education of women was,” she says. The skills she developed in all of her roles over the years make her uniquely suited to provide services to older adults at VINE. “‘Masterful’ is a word that comes to mind,” says Ries when speaking about Kolbet. “She’s just kind and caring, and has an amazing ability to connect with people.” Kolbet also dedicates her time to outside interests, such as biking, hunting and fishing. During a recent interview, she takes a moment to locate a picture on her phone of her holding a nicesized bass. Playing piano and singing continues to play a major role in Kolbet’s life. She plays and sings in church, but also at work. Ries says she looks forward to the annual Christmas party, where Kolbet plays the piano and leads carols. She also plays the piano for adults in VINE’s respite center. Ries says Kolbet is the kind of person who makes everyone around her better. “I’m very lucky and very proud to have her as a colleague,” Ries says. “People just love Joyce.”

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418 South Second Street, Mankato, MN 56001 28 • MARCH 2019 • Women

Sister Joyce Kolbet plays the piano almost daily, whether it be at home, church or at work at VINE. Women • MARCH 2019 • 29

Self Sufficiency Has Many Layers

Always Take An Opportunity To Skill Up By Marianne Carlson 30 • MARCH 2019 • Women


here, you know.

an you hear it? The sound of Old Town? If you have spent any time

If you’re new here, linger a while ... you’ll hear it, too! These are the words that Julie Dempster used in her blog to explain the creation and inspiration for her public art bench titled, “Sounds Of Old Town.” “This bench honors the music and local musicians that Old Town, Mankato businesses have supported throughout the years,” Julie said. “Old Town’s creativity is expressed through the ingenuity of its people who strive to live their passions. From the Wine Cafe at one end to the Oleander Saloon at the other, music has been at the heart of bringing people to the area.” Julie is the owner of “jd designs custom works”. She creates original custom signs and artwork out of sheet metal. She received a grant to create the bench as part of Infuse: Artists on Main Street Mankato, a partnership between City Center Mankato, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, and Springboard for the Arts with support from The Bush Foundation and is funded in part by the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council with an appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature with money from the State’s general fund.

“This was a three-part collaboration,” Julie said. “I worked with Sarah Richards, the CEO of Jones Metal Inc. and Ted Schreyer, president of Associated Finishing Inc. This bench was laser cut with the same piece of machinery that cuts pieces used in power generation, renewable energy, agriculture, transportation, food and the U.S. military. That machine costs about a million bucks, no joke.” According to Julie, the bench also has a one-of-a-kind paint job painted by Schreyer himself. “Ted is a musician and was so inspired by this project that he powder coated this bench himself,” Julie said with a smile. “He understood the placement of this piece and the potential for corrosion and was very thoughtful in planning the correct preparation of the metal to withstand years of abuse. He was excited to get to play with colors and techniques that he doesn’t ordinarily get to do. He took the idea to a whole other level.” Julie said she sees the enthusiasm by both of these people to take on this project as a hint of the need for creativity in all of our lives. “Finding time to step off of the treadmill of our daily work and do something different and fun, even for a moment, can be surprisingly rewarding and rejuvenating,” Julie said. “So get out there and dance, sing, paint, knit, build something, tear something apart. And, if you see this bench in Old Town Mankato, sit in it.” Women • MARCH 2019 • 31

Public Art & Makerspace

After watching her daughter graduate from high school and move away from home to start her next adventure, Julie Dempster began to feel her purpose called into question ... by no one other than herself. “When I realized that Brynnae was on her own, I found myself flustering to fill that empty space,” Julie said. “The next month I was learning how to create metal cutting files and looking for the nearest Makerspace.” Julie has homeschooled her son for the past four years, but he is now a senior. “With Ethan, we’ve had such an intense collaboration the last four years, it’s just fitting that I find a real-life embodiment of my own simmering interests just as he’s finishing up his senior project and looking at the next chapter of his own life,” Julie said. Julie is one of the founding board members of the Mankato Makerspace. Julie joined the team in 2016 and worked with the board until 2018. When you do something for the very first time, Julie said, you are incredibly NOT efficient. “I spent a great many hours fussing and evaluating and adjusting and re-evaluating everything. That’s why entrepreneurship is so closely tied to creatives. That’s also why there’s serial entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial burn out,” Julie said. “Pile on top of that, the need to succeed, or the ‘go big or go home’ syndrome and you can understand the statistics behind the carnage of start-up ‘failures.’ The secret is that there is no such thing as ‘failure,’ each step is just another opportunity to learn in order to take the next step more wisely.” Although Julie resigned from the board in 2018, she created the website and continues to maintain it. The Makerspace is a concept she believes in wholeheartedly and is excited about the “ever growing community of folks who are stepping forward; motivated by, participating in and dedicated to the maker movement happening in Mankato.”

jd designs custom works

Julie got into sheet metal work as a form of “non-verbal storytelling.” She works with customers to capture their idea, create a mockup and make modifications until they like it. Then she translates the mock up to CNC file, have fabricators cut the sheet metal for her, then she does the bench work (grinding off the slag) and finally puts on a finishing coat. People often assume that she also welds bu Julie said she has only created a handful of projects that need well so for now she leaves that to the pros. “It’s honestly a hobby,” Julie said. “I tried mass production, 32 • MARCH 2019 • Women

but don’t care to create and keep inventory. I also prefer doing custom work. I like working directly with the customer to help bring to life their vision for a one of a kind piece.”

Home School

Julie has home schooled her son Ethan since he was in 8th grade. He is now a senior. “I got tired of watching the light in his eyes die throughout the school year,” Julie said. “I wanted to give him the space to follow his own interests and I knew I could cover many of the core curriculum requirements in a more efficient setting while also taking advantage of choice district opportunities: primarily band and engineering classes and YEAP (Youth Employment Acceleration Program).” Julie said she feels incredibly privileged to not only have the ability to stay home to home school, but also to have had the ability to recognize that her child needed something much different than what the mainstream system had to offer. With her daughter’s education, her first child, Julie said looking back she realizes that she was “clueless.” “All I knew was what everyone around me was doing. Her education was the job of the system,” Julie said. “I just had to provide the scolding when the grades were slipping. Well, I couldn’t have been further from wrong with that attitude. I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to see that differently sooner for her.” Julie’s approach to homeschooling had more to do with discovering what curriculum sources and learning systems worked for her son. “Thanks to the Internet we curated our own curriculum,” Julie said. “We heavily utilized Khan Academy, for mostly math. It generates math problems for practice and you can either learn by watching videos (not Ethan’s favorite) or his preferred way of utilizing the hints to better learn the patterns for algebraic formulas. Ultimately he learned how to work through problems and new material on his own through trial and error and he could move on as soon as his skills were good enough. When you and I were in school, we had to move on with the entire class whether we understood the previous skills or not.” Her favorite curriculum is the Big History Project developed

by Bill Gates and David Christian, Julie said. “It combines science and humanities and puts it in a historical context for deeper understanding of the world. It’s mind blowing,” she said. “The Little Big History segments alone will make you look at everyday items such as salt and gold and cows in an entirely new way.” For Julie parenting and schooling are less about directing and more about facilitating. “It’s about watching what they gravitate towards and feeding that, navigating the pitfalls, gradually letting their choices and decisions be their own and regrouping after major successes and failures and talking about what went well, what didn’t and what the repercussions of their choices were,” Julie said. If home school is something you are considering, Julie said to watch any TEDTalk by Sir Ken Robinson. “That’s what I would do when I questioned my sanity the first couple of years of homeschooling,” she said with a laugh.


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The Future

Julie was recently hired by the University of Minnesota Extension to be Brown County Support Staff. “Extension is like being able to walk through the front door of the University in every county,” she said. “Their mission includes ag, food and natural resources, community vitality, family and youth development. When someone walks in and asks me who they can talk to about using a certain pesticide on their field or how to get rid of the ice dam on their roof, I get to help point them in the right direction. In Brown County the main focus is ag and 4-H, so youth programming and the fair is a major part of our year.” Julis said she is excited to have the opportunity to combine all she’s learned from helping start Mankato Makerspace and witnessing the collaborative work of Twin Rivers Council for the Arts. “I relish the opportunity to facilitate community collaboration and help elevate the role of U of M Extension in Brown County,” Julie said. “Self sufficiency has many layers, from cooking to cars, electronics to home maintenance there is always an opportunity to skill up.”

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