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Shining a light on bright, brilliant women of the Perham area

LUMINOUS A special publication of the Perham Focus

Barb Lenius The ‘Ma’ behind the iconic Perham business, Ma’s Little Red Barn

Kay Morris A caring leader for Cross Country and at Crosspoint

Staci Malikowski Arvig CFO finds her strength in numbers

Jada Olsen 17-year-old, recordbreaking gymnast LUMINOUS 2019 | PAGE 1


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CONTENTS

BARBARA LENIUS

6

JADA OLSEN

A SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT TO THE PERHAM FOCUS, OCTOBER 31, 2019

PERHAM FOCUS

300 West Main Street, Suite C • Perham, MN 56573 p: 218.346.5900 • f: 218.346.5901 www.perhamfocus.com Cover photo of Barb Lenius by Carter Jones / Luminous

12

KAY MORRIS

18

STACI MALIKOWSKI

24

PUBLISHER Melissa Swenson mswenson@dlnewspapers.com MAGAZINE EDITOR COVER & PAGE DESIGN Marie Johnson Chris Johnson mtjohnson@dlnewspapers.com cjohnson@bemidjipioneer.com CONTRIBUTING WRITER Carter Jones cjones@perhamfocus.com

ADVERTISING Robin Stalley rstalley@dlnewspapers.com

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‘PERSONALITY PLUS’

Barb Lenius: The “Ma” behind Ma’s Little Red Barn earned her success through hard work, creative ideas, and just being her playful self CARTER JONES For Luminous

M

a’s Little Red Barn is an icon along Perham’s Main Street. For Barb Lenius — better known as “Ma” — getting to this point has taken over three decades, seven different store locations and an unbelievable amount of work. Ma’s Little Red Barn got its name from a 12x16’ hip roof barn Barb’s husband, Mark, built for her years ago on the family’s dairy farm west of Perham on Little McDonald Lake. A natural tinkerer and crafter, Barb spent hours in the barn sewing doll costumes. They were complete with miniature stitched jackets, shirts, socks and buttons. “She’s a natural sewer and creator, old-home-school,” Mark says. She started selling her creations to local businesses and at craft fairs, and then moved into her first retail space on Main Street, where she sold balloons and balloon sculptures. “It wasn’t anything like this,” Barb says, looking around at the flower and candy shop of today. “I PAGE 6 | LUMINOUS 2019

didn’t even have a cash register, it was just a cash drawer.” Around that time, she started to deliver singing telegrams. Dressed as Circles the Clown, a bar wench, or a variety of other characters, she would surprise unsuspecting recipients with a song and dance. “It was the ‘80s,” Barb says of those early years. “People spent money and celebrated.” Barb continued to evolve her business, and by 1988, she had become a florist. She later expanded further into serving coffee, ice cream and other treats. Nancy Carlson, Barb’s friend of over 30 years, says Barb’s talents have propelled her from her humble beginnings in the red barn to the successful business owner she is today. “She is known to be able to take a cow’s ear and make a silk purse out of it,” Nancy says. “I don’t think she even sleeps at night; she just lays awake with these ideas.”


Barb poses for a portrait in her flower workshop at Ma's Little Red Barn in Perham. Barb became a certified florist in 1988. Her decor motto is, "clutter to perfection." Carter Jones / Luminous

LUMINOUS 2019 | PAGE 7


She is known to be able to take a cow’s ear and make a silk purse out of it. I don’t think she even sleeps at night. -Nancy Carlson, Barb’s longtime friend

“BE KIND AND GOOD TO EVERYBODY” Ma’s is probably best known for its customer service. Anybody and everybody who walks in the store is treated like an old friend. Barb says this individualized experience is made possible because of the work she puts in well before the doors open each day. Her days start at 3:30 a.m., giving her the opportunity to fill the coolers and process the flowers without any interruption. “It’s a busy place… We see a lot of people and we engage in a lot of conversation,” she says. “I don’t have to feel guilty when customers come in, and I have time to chat with them.” Nancy describes Barb as “personality plus.” Playful, friendly and a bit theatrical, Barb’s distinctive personality is enhanced by her signature red beret, something she says people don’t recognize her without. The beret was given to her by the late Perham science teacher Wilfred Johnson when she opened her European-styled cafe.

Barb arranges a balloon sculpture in Ma's Little Red Barn in early October. Barb was the first retailer in Perham to sell balloons. Carter Jones / Luminous

PAGE 8 | LUMINOUS 2019

She recalls Johnson bringing in six different red hats and saying, “If you’re going to have a French restaurant, you better have a French hat.” Just as Barb was telling this story, Patrick Mendis, a ‘70s-era exchange student at Perham High School, walked in to buy flowers with his former host mother and Wilfred’s widow, Dorothy Johnson. Patrick, who has gone on to work

with for two U.S. Presidents in the State Department, chatted and took numerous pictures with Barb at different locations inside the store. “Oh my god. Holy freaking,” Barb said after they’d left. “You never know who’s going to come in. You just be kind and good to everybody.”

“YOU’LL GO FAR IN LIFE” Barb and Mark met as teenagers, when they were both attending


Barb set up a special outdoor display for the Perham Street Fair during Turtle Fest in June. Submitted Photo

Perham High School. They’ve been married now for 48 years. While dating in the late ‘60s, the two would talk about what they wanted in life while sitting on the bench seats of Mark’s Ford Galaxie 500. “We would spend hours in a parked car, talking about what we wanted,” Barb remembers. “Both of us wanted to have families, and kids close together. That was our hope and dream, but never once did we talk about me having a business. It turned into way more.” While living and working on their dairy farm, Barb says

she had an awakening during an unpleasant dinner with another farmer. The conversation turned “unnerving” when their guest started to make uncomfortable comments about another dairy farmer’s wife. What she heard that night changed Barb’s life. “Everyone knew who Mark was, and I was his wife,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘What the hell can I do?’” She remembered that one of her high school teachers had written in her yearbook, “With your personality, you’ll go far in life.” “That was my motivation. I knew how to talk to

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Barb and Mark’s family includes four children and six grandchildren. Pictured are, left to right: Mark, Katie, Barb, Marissa, Luke, Jade, Mia, Mathew, Melina, Maria, Maximus, Belle, Paxton and Jarrod. Submitted Photo

customers, and I was creative,” she says. “I have no college education. There’s better business people out there than me.” Barb says she’s been obsessed with constantly changing, something that’s kept the business ahead of the curve. Ma’s has a history of always stocking the latest trend

before anyone else, and then once it caught on, they’d move on to the next thing. Barb and Mark both credit Perham for its support over the years. “We’re very grateful to the community,” Mark says. “We’re not a business that survives on tourism.”

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Nancy says the community would feel a hole in it without Ma’s. “They’ve done so many community-orientated things,” she says. “They’re always in the midst of it whenever there’s area things going on.”

‘CLUTTER TO PERFECTION’ When Ma’s moved to its current location, a former lumber mill on the far west end of Main Street, it was no-man’s land. “We were the first retail down here,” Barb says. More and more businesses have since populated that side of town, and so have the Leniuses — literally. Five years ago, Barb and Mark moved off the farm and into a converted apartment inside the Ma’s building, something Barb had always dreamed of doing. “I absolutely love the concept of living above your business,” she says. The living space’s high, vaulted ceilings, and original floorboards create a space that compliments Barb’s sprawling antique collection. “My motto, and you can quote me on this, is ‘Clutter to perfection,’” she says, showing off her tea set collection. “This location gave me the license to display the collection.”

You never know who’s going to come in. You just be kind and good to everybody.

(Above) Barb sold balloons, dolls, and dressed as a clown to bring singing telegrams to folks around Perham before settling down in the current Ma's Little Red Barn location. (Below) Barb hangs up bras on the outside of her shop for a Bras for a Cause charitable event. Submitted Photos

-Barb Lenius, on her approach to customer service

As Barb and Mark’s four children have grown up and started their own families, the future of Ma’s is now up in the air. In the last year, they’ve cut down on their hours and taken more time away. This recent change has been the first time in their lives the pair has ever had time off, after a life of dairy farming and keeping up with a retail store seven days a week. “The message that sends when we put a note on the door is, ‘Well, I’ll just go to the other place, they’re never here anyway,’” Barb says. But she’s reached a point where she’s prepared to live with that. “Why wait for something? I don’t want people to see me with a limp,” she says. “I’d like to go out when things are good.” Even if the time is right, Barb says it’s still tough to walk away from something she’s so invested in. “It’s hard when you’ve had such a good ride — to end it,” she says. “There’s got to be a good way to end it. It could be a great part-time job, if I could do it that way.” The long-term future of Ma’s may be uncertain, but one thing Ma herself is certain about is that more travelling is in her future. “I can’t say I really have a bucket list, but I’m the kind of girl whose suitcase is packed all the time,” she says. “If somebody would call me up and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Europe. Want to come along?’ I’d do it.” ҩ LUMINOUS 2019 | PAGE 11


GIRL ON THE MOVE

Jada Olsen: At 17, this record-breaking gymnast has made a name for herself as a skilled and determined athlete CARTER JONES For Luminous

J

ada Olsen could walk before she could talk. At just 9 months old, she was already cruising around the house on two feet. In the almost 17 years since then, that early athletic ability has seamlessly evolved into a record-breaking gymnastics career. Jada has medalled multiple times at the state level, competed at the national level, and broken a Perham High School record for vault. She’s been named an All-State Elite the past three years in a row, and has her sights set on winning the honor again this year. Known for her skills and determination, she’s showing no signs of slowing down.

‘I WAS ALWAYS WANTING TO MOVE’ Jada got her first taste of athletics as a toddler, when she was put in a ballet class. She did fine with the dancing parts, she remembers, but had trouble when it was time to sit or stand still for very long. “I didn’t like it,” she says. “I was always wanting to move.” She was introduced to gymnastics at the age of 5, and has never looked back. Perham’s gymnastics program has evolved throughout Jada’s career. She’s worked with four different head coaches, each one of them bringing their own style and philosophy. Since Sith Hansana became the club’s director three years ago, Jada says the program has become more stable, and has grown considerably. The program, Perham Renowned Youth Development, is PAGE 12 | LUMINOUS 2019


Jada Olsen is pictured here in a place that’s like a second home to her: the gymnastics gym at the old Perham High School. Carter Jones / Luminous

LUMINOUS 2019 | PAGE 13


now part of USA Gymnastics, or USAG, which brings levels and structure to the program. In the past, local gymnasts learned skills, “just to learn them,” Jada says. Following the current structure has led to fewer injuries and more success across the whole program. Jada says determination is a must-have in the sport. Her own determination is most evident in how she pushes through injuries in a sport not known for its forgiveness. She’s had minor incidents here and there, including spraining both ankles, but her worst injury happened when she was in sixth grade. While doing a release on the bars, she sprained her back, an injury she still hasn’t fully recovered from. “I more or less folded in half backwards,” she says. It’s frustrating for Jada, who sets tough goals for herself. “The injuries really take a toll,” she says. “I’m just determined to make it through senior year without breaking anything. I’ve never broken a bone, so why start now?” Jada, who is homeschooled, is quick to debunk any myths that homeschoolers are loners. “Everyone thinks we don’t have friends. We do have friends,” she says. “They also assume we don’t have school.” On the contrary, she says her schedule is filled with essays and assignments, just like any other upperclassman.

It’s also especially busy now that she’s taking college classes through a program at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul.

MOVING UP Jada grew up watching and admiring Perham’s varsity gymnasts, and is now one of those herself — an athlete younger gymnasts look up to.

Jada along with her parents Scott and Dina, younger brother Lawrence, and younger sisters Gabree and Lora. Submitted Photo

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It took hard work and conditioning — pain, physically and mentally. It wasn’t easy. -Jada Olsen, on learning a new gymnastics skill

She remembers going to meets and being awed by Perham’s Kelsi Vomacka and Carly Petersen. “I still remember all the corrections they gave me, and the skills they helped me get,” she says. “Carly helped me get my first dismount on beam. It’s so much fun to look back and say, ‘Wow, I can do that now,’ because I was so amazed as a child.” Now in her junior year, Jada has broken Carly’s school record for vault and is working toward being named AllState Elite five years in a row, a record Kelsi holds with four. All-State Elite is a title achieved by placing in the top five in the all-around competition. Jada now coaches “tiny tots” all the way to level three for the Perham Renowned Youth Development program, and says she tries to make the young gymnasts understand why the little stuff is so important.

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“They ask why the big girls got so good, and I say, ‘Well, they’ve been in it longer than you’ve been alive,’” she says. Jada was too young to be on the Perham varsity teams that won eight straight championships from 2004 to 2011, but she’s trying to build the program back up to that level. She says she’s constantly telling the kids that if they keep working at it, they have a chance to build a state-winning team. Perham Head Coach Jenna Kupfershmid says Jada leads by example to get other gymnasts to put in the time and stay with the sport. “She’s like an older sister to everyone in the gym,” Jenna says. “She’s positive all the time, and hugging and encouraging the younger girls.” Gymnastics is a year-round endeavour for Jada. Depending on the season, she works three to four hours a

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She’s like an older sister to everyone in the gym. She’s positive all the time, and hugging and encouraging the younger girls. -Perham Head Coach Jenna Kupfershmid

‘IT’S NOT EASY’

Jada, performing her floor routine at the state tournament in 2018. Robert Williams / Forum File Photo

day, between four and five days a week, to learn and perfect her skills. With all that time in the gym, she says there’s constantly a push and pull between being “fed up” and not wanting to leave. She’s never given up, she says, because the feeling of learning something new is too great. There’s also great satisfaction in perfecting new skills. “You know there is more for you to know,” she says. “As soon as you land a double, you’re like, ‘OMG, I landed a double!’ Then you get to perfect it, and it’s like, ‘Boom! Amazing.’” When she does get a chance to get away from the gym, Jada loves being outdoors, especially when she can admire the sunset. “Sunsets are my favorite thing in the world,” she says. “If I can find an open spot, I will take so many pictures, nothing else.” Jada is very close to her older sister, Zoe, but now that Zoe’s away at college, she spends as much time as possible with her younger sisters, Gabree, 12, and Lora, 11, as well as her younger brother, Lawrence, 8.

Jada says her biggest challenges today are staying consistent and overcoming mental blocks. She describes gymnastics as 90% mental and 10% physical. “If you take a break, even a week vacation, you have to overcome a lot of things, including air sense and soreness,” she says. “If you’ve left on a mental block, it will be 10 times worse when you come back.” She credits her coach’s methods for helping her overcome blocks. Jenna preaches a lot about muscle memory, Jada says, and how to shut your brain off to let your body take over. “I struggle with a lot of mental blocks — on the beam, mostly. It takes me a long time to get through those,” she says. “I’ve never been seriously hurt on the beam, it just scares the crap out of me.” To help get past her fears, Jada has someone stand nearby and talk to her while she’s on the beam. “Since my brain is focused on that, my body just takes over, and then I do the skill,” she says. “So I’m fine; I don’t know what I’m afraid of.” To prepare for a routine at a meet, Jada runs through it 10 times in her head. That helps her stay calm.

Jada, alongside friends Malachi and Jordan. Submitted Photo

PAGE 16 | LUMINOUS 2019


“We’re not supposed to work on what we want to happen, but what we need to do,” she says. Even after a perfect warmup, Jada says she struggles with nerves: “I’m either holding my breath or chewing nails.” The best compliment Jada receives is when she’s told she made a skill look easy. “We know it’s not easy. It took hard work and conditioning — pain, physically and mentally,” she says. “It wasn’t easy.” With graduation around the corner, Jada says she’s thought about continuing to compete if a college will take her, but if not, she’s okay with that. “At the end of my career, it will have been 14 years,” she says. “That’s a lot of years to be bending yourself into weird ways.” ҩ

Jada has medalled multiple times at state, competed at the national level, and broken a Perham High School record for vault. She’s also been named an All-State Elite for the past four years. Carter Jones / Luminous

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COACH AND CONFIDANTE

Kay Morris: Leader of the pack at Crosspoint Alliance, leader of the track for Perham Cross Country CARTER JONES For Luminous

K

ay Morris calls herself a “Perham lifer.” In the 17 years since she and her husband, Jeff Morris, moved to Perham, she has not only helped create a Cross Country dynasty in town, but has also expanded the impact of Crosspoint Alliance Church and positively impacted the lives of thousands of local youth. Tina Dale, Kay’s good friend from church, says Kay has revolutionized the church with her vision, and is always full of positive energy. “I’ve spent so much time with her, and she’s always so excited,” Tina says. Kay grew up in a Christian household, and really became devoted to her faith while in college. As a hurdler on the University of Minnesota’s track and field team, she went on a mission trip with Athletes in Action, spreading messages from the Bible while running races across Europe. It was during a stop in the Czech Republic that she first met Jeff. He was a fellow runner from the U.S. who shared her faith, and she says she fell in love with him, and vice versa, as they journeyed together through Germany, Slovakia and Austria. Both of them were studying to become teachers. The couple married and briefly lived together in Jeff’s native North Carolina until Kay became pregnant with their first child. That’s when they decided to move closer to her family in Verndale.

PAGE 18 | LUMINOUS 2019

Kay Morris stands near the construction site for Crosspoint Alliance Church's expansion, which she has been an integral part of. When completed next summer, the church will have a dedicated space for children and teenagers. Carter Jones / Luminous


LUMINOUS 2019 | PAGE 19


‘I LOVE JESUS’ The opportunity to settle in Perham, Kay says, was a blessing from God. “Jeff was very specific — if he couldn’t teach his math class and coach Cross Country, he wasn’t going to go,” Kay recalls. “That was totally a God thing. He opened up the door and Jeff got exactly what he wanted, so we knew that was the plan.” When Kay couldn’t find a middle school teaching job right away, she instead landed the role of Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at Crosspoint Alliance Church. She’s held that position now for almost 16 years. At first, the program served a small group of 10 kids. Through Kay’s expansion efforts, that number has grown to 100, and Kay’s goal is to get to 150. “There’s so many people that need Jesus,” she says. “If we’re doing what we’re supposed to, it should be growing.” That big jump in numbers has created a need to expand the church’s footprint. In September, Crosspoint broke ground on a $1 million building project that will result in a dedicated wing for youth and children’s ministries. Kay credits Chris Ruther, a youth group member, for stepping up eight years ago to say it was time for a bigger building. “Me of little faith said, ‘OK

Kay and Jeff with their kids Elijah, Mya, Gracie and Zeke. Submitted Photo

PAGE 20 | LUMINOUS 2019

I feel privileged and honored when the kids open up, because I know they trust me then. That’s a huge honor to me, being there for them and knowing they can confide. -Kay Morris


Kay (second from left) with kids from Crosspoint Alliance Church in 2017. Kay leads weekly youth group activities with as many as 200 kids a week, and also leads annual summer camp and missions trips. Perham Focus File Photo

Chris, we are never going to get that big. This is a big youth group, we’re fine,’” Kay remembers telling him. Four years later, the program had expanded so much that they were actually losing members due to too many kids being jammed into each classroom. By then, Kay knew an expansion was necessary. She also knew it was inevitably going to come with a big price tag. Throughout the fundraising campaign, she continually prayed about whether she and the other church leaders were doing what God called them to do. “It’s a lot of money,” she says. “But, we figured our mission field is right here in this community. We have to have a building that we can fit more people into, and keep growing.” She’s praying the project will come in cheaper than expected so it can be paid off in two years. “We want to be responsible, and not in debt, as a church,” she says. Crosspoint started with $325,000 in pledged donations and has raised the rest through fundraisers, including a 5K

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run during Perham’s Turtle Fest. When the 7,700-squarefoot expansion is completed next summer, it will include an auditorium for teen worship, a game area and additional classrooms for Bible studies. The church currently stitches together all of its available spaces, spread out across the sanctuary and classrooms, to

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Kay and Jeff, far right, pose with the Perham girls cross country running team after the Class A Championships in 2018. Perham Focus File Photo

make a functioning youth program experience. The Morrises also host youth group events at their home, but Kay says the setup isn’t ideal. With more room for youth at the church, Kay says there’ll be space to expand the programming even further. The project will also give Crosspoint an opportunity to broaden its overall influence in the community, something Kay and Pastor Michael Bochman are focused on. Church leaders already make the building available to the public as much as possible, including grief support groups and local sports teams, but would like to open the doors even wider. “We’re trying to go to events and be in the community, and support when there’s a need,” Kay says. “I love Jesus. I want this town to know about him.”

says. “She genuinely cares and is so nice and easy to be around.” Moser says he could always rely on Kay to clear her schedule and help him talk through any tough times. “She’s very good with advice and is 100% there when you need her,” he says. Kay, who was named the Assistant Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Coaches Association in 2012, says she and Jeff work better when they’re

together. “We thrive off that,” she says. Rather than clash over coaching philosophies, the two balance each other out. “He’s the motivator. He’s going to get those kids running fast,” Kay says. “He always says I’m the team counselor, and I have to deal with all the drama. It works out really well.” Kay says she and Jeff have created an atmosphere that people keep buying into, and then stay motivated by. “We all need each other,” she says. “This is a place where we can be competitive but support each other, and everyone fits in.” Kay loves to see kids develop in their athleticism as well as behaviorally and emotionally. She

A WINNING TEAM Kay and Jeff have coached Perham Cross Country alongside each other for 16 years, building the program into an unprecedented empire that has amassed numerous state titles for both the boys and girls teams. Reid Moser, a former Perham hurdler, says Kay’s joyful, uplifting personality made him want to be at practice. “She’s awesome at letting athletes know it’s more than sports,” Moser PAGE 22 | LUMINOUS 2019

Kay, left, in a 2017 photo with Crosspoint youth group members Anna Dale and Amber Thompson, at Big Sandy Summer Camp in McGregor, Minn. Kay has a history of leadership at the camp, and takes about 100 Perham area kids and teens there every year. Perham Focus File Photo


likes to watch introverted kids come out of their shell and start to feel more comfortable in their environment after a few weeks — or in some cases, even years — of being on the team. “I feel privileged and honored when the kids open up,” she says. “Because I know they trust me then. That’s a huge honor to me, being there for them and knowing they can confide.” Coaching is also a way to draw more kids into Crosspoint’s youth groups, something Kay says is a ripple effect. “You get so close to them, they just come,” she says. While Kay is seemingly moving non-stop to keep up

with so many kids, she says her favorite thing in the world is just relaxing at home with her family, which includes four kids of her own — Elijah, Mya, Gracie and Zeke. “Everybody thinks I get energy from being around people, but I actually love to be at home,” Kay says. “Just being able to be quiet and together. We don’t get that a lot” Kay says she never thought about being a mom until she was pregnant for the first time, and then it was one after the other. “Jeff wanted six, and I wanted three, so he won at four,” she laughs. All the kids and Jeff are still rooting for more, but Kay insists she’s done. After all, “I honestly feel like I have 150 kids,” she says. ҩ

She’s awesome at letting athletes know it’s more than sports. She genuinely cares and is so nice and easy to be around. -Reid Moser, former PHS hurdler

Kay, in front of Crosspoint Alliance. She has been the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries there for almost 16 years. Carter Jones / Luminous

LUMINOUS 2019 | PAGE 23


STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Staci Malikowski: Arvig’s CFO talks high expectations, love for community, and the surprising connection between business and CrossFit CARTER JONES For Luminous

S

taci Malikowski doesn’t take finances lightly. In her 22-year career at Arvig, she’s never left the realm of numbers. She started as a staff accountant in 1997, worked her way up to accounting supervisor, and then accounting manager and controller, before being named Chief Financial Officer in 2009, a role she still holds today. Staci says these achievements are a byproduct of her working environment and talented colleagues. “Surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and smarter than you and are more talented, helps you become smarter and better and more talented,” she says. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with incredibly smart people.” Staci’s luck began while attending Frazee High School. Frank Hesby, her accounting teacher there, helped her gain the confidence she needed to go to college and pursue her passions. “I’m forever thankful for the role he played in that,” Staci says. After attending Minnesota State University Moorhead, Staci graduated from Metropolitan State in the Twin Cities. She moved to Perham a while after that with her husband, Steve, who had accepted a job at the Perham-based Arvig, the area’s leading internet service provider. Steve is a Perham native, and Staci says it only took them PAGE 24 | LUMINOUS 2019

Staci Malikowski has spent over 20 years working at Arvig, starting as a staff accountant in 1997 and working her way up the ranks to Chief Financial Officer, a role she has held since 2009. Submitted Photo


LUMINOUS 2019 | PAGE 25


Staci, alongside her sister, Traci Elshaug, on the London Eye. Submitted Photo

one day to decide to move back to the area. She’s quick to credit her parents and in-laws for making that decision an easy one. At the time, the couple had one child who was just about to start kindergarten, and another who had just been born. “My mom and dad were instrumental in helping (with the kids),” Staci says. “It really does take a village, truly.”

SETTING THE BAR HIGH Staci says Arvig’s close-knit, family-orientated culture resonates through each work day. “The best thing about Arvig is whatever opportunities you decide to pursue, you can do that,” she says. “It’s big enough that you have so many different opportunities, but it’s small enough that we still pretty much know each other.” Through the company’s educational program, Staci was able to earn her Certified Public Accountant license, and later her Master of Business Administration, all while raising three kids.

Former Arvig CFO Rick Vyskocil, who hired Staci, says he couldn’t be more pleased with his pick. “She’s one of the few people I’ve worked with that had plain common sense,” Rick says. “She’s definitely smart enough, but you can’t teach common sense.”

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If you’re in an environment you love and are passionate about, you’re going to be successful. -Staci Malikowski

Staci, representing Arvig, presents a donation check to Empowering Kids of Perham last fall. Focus File Photo

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She has the innate ability to determine what’s important and what isn’t, for example: “She could see the big picture,” Rick says. “She knows instinctively not to focus too much on the small things.” Rick, who now sits on Arvig’s board of directors, says Staci has grown into her role and exceeded his expectations. “I’m not sure I could do what she’s doing now,” Rick says. “She’s grown beyond where I was.” Rising through the ranks to an executive position gives Staci advantages that someone who swooped into the position wouldn’t have. She says she can be more empathetic to her staff, because she understands the path they’re on.

“Nine out of 10 people will live up to your expectations, regardless of where you set that bar,” she says. “I choose to set it very high for myself and everyone else.”

‘HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?’ Staci is devoted to the Perham community. She has served on numerous boards, including the Boys and Girls Club, Empowering Kids, Perham Health and the Perham Area Community Center, among others. “I care deeply about our community and all aspects of it,” she says. After serving on the PACC board for eight years, Staci is now a member of the capital campaign committee that’s working to raise funds for the

services for seniors, for aerobics, swimming lessons,” Staci says. “The pool we have right now, the temperature doesn’t allow for that, it’s too cold. You can’t bring your babies in that pool for swim lessons; they get out with blue lips.” Her passion for the PACC comes from being involved in athletics since she was a small child. She’s an avid CrossFitter now, and competes in events alongside her friends. She says CrossFit allows her to challenge herself every single day. “You’re not competing against other people,” she says. “You’re surrounded with positive, encouraging and supportive people. It’s the perfect hybrid of athletics and friendship.”

She’s grown beyond where I was. -Rick Vyskocil, former Arvig CFO

“You understand the challenges and you know the pains the staff is having,” she says. “I’ve been in those positions and I know the effect of the things we’re talking about.” Not being able to do everything at once, and having to prioritize what’s important, is the biggest challenge Staci faces. “There’s so much network to deploy, and so many people who want faster, better service,” she says. One criticism she has heard throughout her career is that no one can meet her expectations. She says this comes from the high expectations she sets for herself, which resonates into other aspects of her life. But she’s OK with that feedback. PAGE 28 | LUMINOUS 2019

planned expansion of the PACC’s aquatics center. During her tenure on the board, the center became a 24/7 facility and the major remodeling and expansion project, dubbed the “Fit-Up Project,” was approved. The center “has been instrumental to attracting great people to our community,” Staci says. “It’s key for our kids’ health and wellness. When I think about our community, education, health and businesses, PACC is part of the whole enterprise.” Staci says the aquatics expansion will provide more opportunities for children, families and the elderly, especially with the addition of the therapy pool. “It’s going to be key for providing

Staci says business and CrossFit are similar in that relationships are built through both. “Success in business is dependent upon the people you have and individuals that contribute to the team,” she says. “If you’re in an environment you love and are passionate about, you’re going to be successful.” Also an avid traveller, she prefers to have no solid plan or agenda when she takes off on a new adventure. “We find it thrilling to see where the journey takes us,” she says of her and Steve — a philosophy reflected in her tattoo, which reads “embrace the journey.” In 2015, Staci and Steve backpacked


Staci is an avid CrossFit competitor. “You’re not competing against other people,” she says. “You’re surrounded with positive, encouraging and supportive people. It’s the perfect hybrid of athletics and friendship.” Submitted Photo

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through Italy, and last year, the whole Malikowski family took a road trip through Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. Staci says she stays motivated by remembering that it’s important to share her God-given gifts to make a difference and help people, as well as the community as a whole. “I feel very blessed to be a part of this community,” she says of Perham. “I don’t know why I have these things. Sometimes I shake my head and wonder, ‘How did this happen?’” ҩ Staci’s daughter, Mallory, sons Alec and Mason, husband Steve and son-inlaw Shane Miller in Austria during a road trip across Europe last year. Submitted Photo

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Profile for Perham Focus

Luminous 2019  

Shining a light on bright, brilliant women of the Perham, MN area Barb Lenius: The ‘Ma’ behind the iconic Perham business, Ma’s Little Red B...

Luminous 2019  

Shining a light on bright, brilliant women of the Perham, MN area Barb Lenius: The ‘Ma’ behind the iconic Perham business, Ma’s Little Red B...

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