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3, 2013 2 y r a u r Feb


Photo by Dain Sullivan

Pictured is the new Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School.

A school of their own Community dedicates new WDC facility

Dain Sullivan Originally published September 1, 2012

There wasn’t an empty seat in the house Wednesday evening, as community members, students and staff flooded into the new Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School gymnasium for the facility’s long-awaited dedication ceremony. After an EF4 tornado moved through Wadena on June 17, 2010 and destroyed much of the town’s old secondary school, the new building’s doors were finally opened. School leaders estimate approximately 2,500 people showed up to celebrate. When Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom stepped up to the podium toward the front of the gymnasium and threw her arm up in the air, the crowd exploded in applause. “Thank you all for your support over the past two years,” she said with a smile, as people listened from an area largely taken up by bleachers and folding chairs. The walking track that surrounds the sky-lit gymnasium was also packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder.

Dahlstrom went on to explain that while the school is 98 percent completed, she and other school leaders are thankful and impressed with the work that has been done to bring the school back to life. School Board Chair Steve Techam also spoke to the crowd, and reminded everyone that the community “faced the challenge of adversity and won.” “May this awesome new facility be looked upon with pride by administrators, faculty, staff, students and all those who enter the doors,” he said. WDC senior Sayde Anderson also spoke, highlighting the progress that the community has made since disaster struck two years ago. “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next,” she said. WDC Principal Tyler Church stood up after Anderson, granting credit to all those who made the new school possible. M State – Wadena, the WDC Elementary School, project architects Perkins + Will, construction professionals Kraus-Anderson, the WDC School Board, alumni students and staff were among those he recognized. “For me, it’s hard to imagine just over two years ago we were standing at this same spot trying to figure out what we were going

to do with our school,” Church said. Additionally, Church thanked his wife and kids for their support. “I know I haven’t spent nearly enough time with you in the last two years,” he said to his family through tears, “but thank you for being there for me. I love you very much.” Following the ceremony, some stayed in the gymnasium to chat, while others lined the doors to tour the school, with student council members and faculty as their guides. As he watched people eagerly move toward the school’s main entrance to get a look at what amenities the facility has to offer, James Howarth, one of the main Perkins + Will architects behind the new school, expressed his excitement for Wadena. “It’s really fun to see people enjoying the building and hearing the wonderful words from the principal, the school board, the superintendent. It’s really been exciting, he said.

is a scrapbook of the progress the Wadena area made in the calendar year 2012. Featuring continued recovery from 2010, new businesses, new owners, new technology and new ideas. Inside are some of the milestones from 2012.

A spe cial supple m e nt to the Wade na Pione e r J ournal

3 1 20

New school Continued on page 5

Wadena Area Community Progress

Page 2

136 121 119 115 115 108 W EN SMA N S EE D 103 YEARS IN BUSINESS

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February 23, 2013

Funeral home under new ownership Rachelle Klemme Originally published June 16, 2012

After more than 50 years with the Johnson family, the Wadena funeral home service is under new ownership. Joe and Meg Schuller took over Johnson Memorial Home May 31 from retiring Jon and Henry Johnson. The new Schuller Family Funeral Homes ownership includes the Johnson Memorial Home in Verndale and Domian-Anderson Funeral Home in Bertha as well as Johnson Memorial Home in Wadena. Joe Schuller had worked for the Johnsons since 1995, and the brothers asked Schuller if he wanted to buy it. The Schullers also lived above the funeral home in Bertha for many years. Meg Schuller teaches English at the Bertha-Hewitt school system, but previously she was a stay-at-home mom and helped with answering phones, cleaning and gardening. She said their kids grew up around the Johnsons, and their families have known each other for a long time. Office manager and family assistant Bev Komula has worked with Johnson Memorial Home nearly five years. “Most of the time I’m here in the office, and I get to meet with the families and help them create the obituaries for their loved one,” Komula said. “I get to create the video tributes that we put on our website and share at the visitations.” She said it is an honor to help the families in a difficult time. “She keeps track of everything, does a great job,” Meg Schuller said. Joe Schuller said any changes would be subtle and gradual. “With the exception of Jon and Henry retiring, our staffing is remaining the same,” he said. “The Johnsons have created a very

Photo provided

Joe and Meg Schuller took ownership of Johnson Memorial Home May 31 as the Johnson brothers, who had the business since 1982, are now retired. From left, Joe Schuller, Meg Schuller, Henry Johnson and Jon Johnson.

good business, and we’re hoping to continue that tradition.” He said since he started working for Johnson Memorial Home in the 1990s, there have been changes in how they can do business. With technology and computers, they can provide services they could not provide before, such as being available with cell phones and pagers. “Technology has really driven, in a positive way, the services that we do provide to families,” Joe Schuller said. He said they will continue to maintain the Johnson Memorial Home website and the Domian-Anderson website. Johnson Memorial Home has a long history in the area. The funeral home in Wadena was established in the 1890s, and the Schullers are the fourth family to own and operate it. Jon and Henry Johnson took ownership of the funeral homes from their father, Jerry, in 1982. Before that, Jerry Johnson and Albert Messer took ownership of the funeral home in 1960. In 2007, Jon and Henry Johnson also bought the Bielema Family Funeral Home of Wadena and Verndale from the retiring Alan Bielema.

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Wadena Area Community Progress

February 23, 2013

Burger Depot to open in Verndale Zach Kayser



Originally published December 29, 2012

It takes a lot of effort to start a business, but husband and wife Chris and Valerie Black have been working overtime to get their restaurant up and running. The Burger Depot sits on the north side of Highway 10 in Verndale, near the town’s main intersection. When the restaurant opens in late January, it will mean a decade-long dream has finally become a reality for the Blacks, who live in Staples with their three children. A combination of Valerie’s background in finance and Chris’s experience in the fast-food industry has gone into the Burger Depot plan. They want the new spot to be as convenient as regular fast food, but with better quality and more attention to detail. “We’re going to make the food to order, so the quality is going to be there, the service is going to be there. We’re not going to try to push people out of our door in 10 minutes,” Chris said. “A homey atmosphere where people can come in, relax and enjoy a nice meal that’s served quickly, but it’s not the fast-food feeling to it.” The Burger Depot name, which Valerie came up with, reflects the sense of community that surrounded historical train depots. “Back in the old days, when we had more

96 93 91

YEARS IN BUSINESS Photo by Zach Kayser

Chris and Valerie Black stand underneath the sign for their new restaurant, Burger Depot, in Verndale on Highway 10.

train depots that were active, people would come to meet and catch up on the news of the day, sit back, relax with friends,” she said. “‘Depot’ just seemed to fit the area here.” Chris said besides burgers, the restaurant will feature a number of other menu items that will serve to set it apart from the average fast-food joint. Cheese curds, wraps and corn dogs are some of the hot goodies the Burger Depot will offer. But Chris said about half the menu will also be made up of ice cream treats like sundaes, splits and shakes. The couple has not set a grand opening date for the Burger Depot, but their start in 2013 will give food enthusiasts a new place to try for the upcoming year.



Page 3

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Theisens open firefighter-themed bar and restaurant Rachelle Klemme Originally published July 28, 2012

Bluffton volunteer firefighter Tim Theisen used to say that if his town’s fire department got a new hall, he would have to turn the old building into a bar and restaurant. Something close to that has happened. After Tim and his wife, Christina Theisen, purchased the former Country Manor property on U.S. Highway 10 west of the Wadena city limits in 2011, they remodeled everything and painted the exterior deep red. First, they finished the Firehouse Apartments, and finally in early June they opened the Firehouse Bar and Grille. The inside of the restaurant is also painted dark red and decorated with a vintage firefighting theme.

“We robbed our collection from at home and went to antique stores and went shopping online,” Christina said. The Firehouse has a full bar, and also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is open Monday through Saturday and opens 6 a.m. They have a DJ on Friday nights. The Trackside Lounge and Restaurant used to occupy the building, attached to the old Country Manor, and the vacant area underwent extensive remodeling to become The Firehouse Bar and Grille. Christina said they ripped off the floors down to the original existing flooring, and they also put in new sheetrock, windows, vinyl, roof, doors, light fixtures, tables and chairs. The kitchen has new appliances, and only one shelf in the kitchen is the same. They said business so far has

been great, and better than expected. Amanda Weller is the head cook and restaurant manager. “She is the one that helped us brainstorm everything on the menu and helped us get the kitchen up and running,” Christina said. “She was the brains behind the operation in the kitchen.” Originally from New York Mills, Weller said she gets ideas for menu items through experimenting, customers giving suggestions, other employees, the Food Network and what she likes at home. Weller said it was not a hard choice to take the job at The Firehouse. “I’ve known Tim and Christina for many, many years,” she said. For the Theisens, owning their Photo by Rachelle Klemme own restaurant has been “a little Tim Theisen, left, and Christina Theisen opened The Firehouse Bar and more work than a guy thinks,” Tim Grille west of the Wadena city limits in early June. The couple also owns the Firehouse Apartments on the same property and Theisen Construction. said.

Wadena Area Community Progress

Page 4

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89 88 83 82 81 79 78 78

February 23, 2013









Photo by Zach Kayser

Kim Aagard, chief financial officer for Tri-County Health Care, and Facilities Director Nathan Hendrickson review plans for the hospital’s renovation and expansion project Dec. 21 inside what will become the new rehab center.

TCHC secures $3 million expansion Zach Kayser Originally published December 29, 2012

Tri-County Health Care (TCHC) officials announced Dec. 21 that the hospital will be undergoing a $3 million renovation and expansion that includes a new rehabilitation center, as well as 17 new patient exam rooms intended for use by specialists in general surgery, OB/GYNs, orthopedic specialists, dermatologists and visiting specialists. Nathan Hendrickson, facilities director for TCHC, said the 5,400 square feet of new exam rooms will be located on the second floor in the space that was previously home to the hospital’s administration staff, who have already moved down to the basement in order to make room for the additional specialist exam spaces. “What this will hopefully do is give some additional physician access, comfort and privacy (to the patients),” said Jilene Fiemeyer, TCHC communications specialist. Fiemeyer also said the entire project was projected to be complete near the end of 2013. Chief Financial Officer Kim Aagard said a new rehab center will open for patients Jan. 28. Services involving physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy will

be moved into the newly acquired building on the west side of Jefferson Street, near the hospital. Construction crews were hard at work Dec. 21 with transforming the building from an old TV center to TCHC’s new rehabilitation space. Aagard said the building’s appearance on the market at just the right time helped the hospital avoid having to construct an entirely new health care facility from scratch, saving millions of dollars. Additional features planned for the renovation include a combined hospital and clinic admission desk, a laboratory moved closer to the entrance for convenience, and space for Dr. Aaron Larson’s psychiatry practice to move inside the main TCHC building from its current location inside the Wesley building, on the east side of Jefferson Street, opposite TCHC, Aagard said. Aagard added that the renovation has already allowed TCHC to add 15 new jobs in the past year. Also, many of the contractors working on the project are local, such as Steven Johnson Construction, Doug’s Plumbing and Horizon Painting & Restoration, Hendrickson said. The new project will mean better access to health care for people living in and around Wadena, Aagard said. “It’s exciting to see our facility grow and expand for our citizens, especially with all the unknowns in health care today,” she said.

February 23, 2013

Wadena Area Community Progress

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Page 5



Photo by Dain Sullivan

Virginia Dahlstrom, superintendent for Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School, throws her fist in the air in the WDC gymnasium Wednesday evening as she welcomes community members to the dedication ceremony of the new school building. On June 17, 2010, a tornado moved through Wadena and destroyed the old school. Two years later, the community is celebrating the opening of a new facility.

New school

Continued from page 1 Howarth added that Perkins + Will isn’t going anywhere for the time being. He said the group is sticking around for another year to help finish the building and make sure operations run smoothly. Among the projects that need to be completed is the school’s storm shelter, which Howarth said will also be used as an additional gym, as well as small equipment installations in classrooms. Standing a few feet away from Howarth, Sen. Paul Gazelka spoke with attendees in the gymnasium. He is confident the school will benefit Wadena and its students. “The students have buy-in. This is their school,” Gazelka said. “When you have buyin, when you have ownership in it, you tend to perform at a higher level, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we have high-performing students this year in Wadena.” As people left the gymnasium to tour the rest of the school, they were able to snag a snack from the kitchen, near the gym’s entrance. Long lines extended into the cafeteria as people waited to grab yellow- and blue-colored cookies. From the cafeteria, many people made their way to the second floor, where teachers and students were testing out the school’s state-of-the-arts features and equipment. Near the top of the stairs, Brenda Thelen, a 9-12 grade Spanish teacher, showed people around her room. Thelen is excited to have a corner room that has extra windows. “This is fabulous,” Thelen said as she pulled down different layers of blinds that control the room’s lighting. She also gushed over the storage space she had to work with.

Thelen is excited to start the new school year, after spending the last two years in a windowless room in the M State – Wadena building. “I am so thankful for the space, but it was time for both of us to grow apart,” she chuckled. Outside Thelen’s classroom, senior Addison Crocker tracked down her new locker. She said she liked the space for her school supplies. Between rooms and lockers on the second floor are common areas where students can study, relax or socialize between classes. Many students were already taking advantage of the comfy chairs and high tables Wednesday. Maizie Miller and Lydia Burns were sitting at a table as other patrons roamed to and fro. The two 9th graders are happy with their new setting. “It’s amazing. I like it a lot,” Burns said. Another big hit for those touring the school were the iPads in the Media Center on the second floor. Students and parents alike were testing out the new devices, which will replace many books. Other major features in the building include conference rooms along hallways as well as an auditorium and tech room on the first floor. The new school was well-received by many in the community, and people are excited for a sense of normalcy to return to Wadena. A ribbon-cutting will be held 8:15 a.m. at the school Tuesday, with students cutting the ribbon and VFW members holding a flag raising. The 2010 tornado may have taken a school, but not the community’s sense of camaraderie and spirit. The Wolverines are back and ready for a new year.

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Wadena Area Community Progress

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February 23, 2013


59 59 58 58





58 58 54




Photo by Dain Sullivan

Multiple patrons eagerly gather around an iPad Wednesday evening at the new WadenaDeer Creek Middle/High School, following the building’s dedication ceremony. Students attending the new school will be able to use iPads this year, rather than using certain books.

Wadena has a school for the 21st Century Brian Hansel Originally published September 1, 2012

A school built for the 21st Century is opening in Wadena. Not only will Wadena-Deer Creek’s new secondary school offer some of the latest technology to students in grades 5-12, it will incorporate “green” features that Integration Specialist Kelly Shrode feels will make a positive impact on the entire community. Green technology is weaving itself into the fabric of life all over the planet, and the design of the new WDC secondary school incorporates pages of ideas – from external and internal natural lighting to geothermal heat. The whole idea is to find ways of meeting the needs of people in sustainable ways. “Some of the things you’re not going to be able to see, but in the future they will be noticed,” Shrode said. WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom said the District 2155 School Board was already talking and incorporating new technology into the curriculum when an EF4 tornado destroyed the secondary school in June 2010. Building architect Perkins + Will provided WDC school officials with pages of green technology innovations before construction began. General Contractor KrauseAnderson has been responsible for seeing they are incorporated in the design. “This will be a high-performance facil-

ity with sustainable energy and technology,” Dahlstrom said. The size of the $38.4 million secondary building was enlarged earlier this year by the addition of a $1.8 million storm shelter, a feature the earlier building did not have. People who were inside the secondary school when the tornado struck took shelter in gymnasium locker rooms. The building’s storm shelter will double as a gym, but in case of an emergency it can provide a haven for more than 1,000 people. WDC Technology Coordinator Aaron Johnson has called the experience of equipping the new school “exciting but stressful.” Johnson said the new school will have many features of a “smart home,” with technology playing a lead role. A central core of servers will run the building’s phones, lights, security system, heating and air conditioning. A problem with heating, for example, can be fixed by Climate Makers from their offices in the Twin Cities. There will be 640 iPads in the new secondary school. Faculty members received their iPads in April, and students will be issued there iPads when school begins. The iPad can be quickly and easily updated with information, making it a cost-effective alternative to textbooks. In addition to the iPads, WDC students will find white board projectors in every class room and 57 wireless access points throughout the building. “I think they are going to be excited,” Johnson said.

February 23, 2013

Wadena Area Community Progress

52 50 44


Photo by Cara Newberry

Rev. Del Moen and Mayor Wayne Wolden stand by with several excited youngsters as Coach Tubby Smith and Miss Wadena, Haley Anderson, cut a ribbon to finalize the dedication of the park. Kids were so eager to utilize the new equipment that they crowded the park getting in some playtime while awaiting Tubby Smith’s arrival. The enthusiasm from Wadena youth merely illustrated a quote from speaker Kristi Meyer, “Play is to a child what work is to an adult; it is essential.”

Tubby Smith visits Wadena Cara Newberry Originally published June 23, 2012

On June 17, Wadena area fathers and their families had a chance to meet Gopher men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith at the dedication of new equipment at Wadena’s southwest playground during Father’s Day. Grant money given to the Wadena-Long Term Recovery Committee by the Tubby Smith Foundation was used to reopen a playground in both Wadena and Almora. An opening speech was given by Rev. Del Moen, who spoke highly of Smith’s generosity and recognition of Wadena in a time of need. With a crowd of more than 40, Smith talked about how his foundation strives to support charities that benefit underprivileged children in the state of Minnesota. “I could not imagine the toll that a disaster like this takes on a community,” Smith said. “But you have all managed to come together and are helping rebuild each other’s lives.” The Tubby Smith Foundation has also contributed to children’s needs around the country by funding physical and educational resources like early childhood development, new computers for kids clubs, and donations of clothes to the Salvation Army. Sporting a smile, Smith said Wadena was a perfect example of just what “Minnesota nice” means, as he had observed such an outpour of support from within the town and surrounding communities. Wendy Molstad, case manager for the Wadena-Ottertail Long Term Recovery

Center, and Mayor Wayne Wolden were also speakers at the dedication. “It’s wonderful to know that when the county could not afford to replace the play structures within budget, someone who is involved with as many different projects and charities as Tubby Smith was able to provide the means for kids to enjoy the outdoors again,” Wolden said. Wolden also expressed that more than $2.5 million has been contributed to recovery efforts, yet there is still much to be restored in the Wadena. During the event, which helped mark the second anniversary of the 2010 EF4 tornadoes, Smith was accompanied by his wife, Donna, and Caitlin Mahoney, executive assistant for the University of Minnesota men’s basketball program. The event was organized by Molstad, who initially contacted Mahoney. Mahoney, who is in her sixth year as Smith’s executive assistant, coordinates his schedule and acts as a liaison for several groups he is involved in. During the presentation, Molstad explained just how much of a positive impact new playground equipment has on families with children affected by the June 2010 storms. Many children suffer with lasting trauma from having experienced tornado destruction. Smith was able to see Wadena area children already enjoying the new structures as he joined Miss Wadena 2011, Haley Anderson, in the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the event. The tornado themed book, “Twisted Together”, was also available for purchase at the dedication. Afterward, Tubby was happy to oblige Wadena residents with a handshake and an autograph opportunity.


Page 7


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February 23, 2013

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33 32



Photo by Rachelle Klemme

Firefighter Rick Taggart, left, and Fire Chief Dean Uselman look at the cutter in the extraction equipment by Genesis Rescue Systems during an April 9 fundraiser at Pizza Ranch. At left is the pump, and other tools not pictured are the spreader, hydraulic ram, mini cutter and some accessories. After several months of fundraising, enough money was received to purchase a set, and on Monday the Wadena Fire Department decided to go with the Genesis brand.

Wadena Fire Department to have new equipment Rachelle Klemme Originally published September 22, 2012

The Wadena Fire Department has a busy autumn with several events for the public coming up. It also has a new set of Jaws of Life rescue equipment, after successful fundraising. The Fire Department Relief Association calendars will be distributed to local residents starting this Monday, firefighter Brent Johnson said. Shortly afterward, on Sept. 29, the annual Firefighters Rodeo will take place in downtown Wadena. Organizer Sher Linnes said the event will be held in the parking lot by the Wadena Depot and the nearby city parking lot starting 2 p.m. Fire Chief Dean Uselman said the area fire departments will compete to win prizes for equipment. Competitions include search and rescue, water wars, relay and bucket brigade. The Wadena Fire Department will set up and host the event, but not take part in the competition itself. The Wadena Fire Department will be receiving some of its own new equipment. During the Sept. 11 regular meeting of the Wadena City Council, the purchase of rescue equipment was approved. The city budgeted $15,000 to go to rescue equipment, and Brent Johnson, on behalf of the Fire Department Relief Association, presented

$13,697 in matching funds to complete the amount needed. “Brent did a lot of work to send out all the requests of the various foundations and knock on doors,” Fire Chief Dean Uselman said at the council meeting. Genesis Rescue Systems for $28,697 was chosen among four different brands when the fire department met Monday evening. Genesis Rescue Systems was displayed during an April 9 Jaws of Life fundraiser at Wadena’s Pizza Ranch. The decision concluded several months of the fire department’s efforts to purchase Jaws of Life. Firefighters said the old extraction equipment was working well, but is no longer effective on some newer cars. The old Jaws will be kept and moved from the south fire hall to the north fire hall, so there will be rescue equipment on both sides of the train tracks. Uselman said the rescue equipment takes several weeks to arrive and will not be in in time for the Oct. 8 Fire Prevention Week open house as originally intended, so they hope to have a separate demonstration later. “We’ve got a bunch of neat things for our open house this year,” Johnson said. Another fall event coming up is the annual Firefighters Turkey Bingo, to be held close to Thanksgiving. Johnson said he was thankful for the public response to the Jaws of Life fundraising, and now they have their most important rescue equipment update taken care of.

February 23, 2013

Wadena Area Community Progress

Page 9

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Brenda Lee, Deer Creek City Council member and fitness center organizer, shows exercise equipment in room W6 at the Deer Creek school building Monday evening. Lee said the fitness area will be reopened Oct. 9.

Deer Creek fitness center to be reopened Rachelle Klemme Originally published September 29, 2012

The fitness center in the Deer Creek school building is to be reopened Oct. 9, organizer Brenda Lee said. The Wadena-Deer Creek Community Education Fitness Center is in room W6 in the western area of the Deer Creek campus. After the June 17, 2010 tornado destroyed the previous Wadena-Deer Creek High School building, the district’s junior high students occupied the Deer Creek building until this year’s opening of the WDC Middle / High School. WDC fitness equipment was stored elsewhere in the two-year interim, then moved back to the school building. The exercise equipment includes circuit workout, ellipticals and treadmills. The $20 monthly membership fee covers maintenance and replacement of equipment, Lee said. Hours are to be 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. There are no staff members on site, and members can enter a code on a keypad to gain access to the building. Most users have been from Deer Creek,

but Lee said anyone from the area can purchase a membership – members also don’t have to be residents of the WDC school district. Lee said when the fitness center was originally started several years ago, businesses helped with donations and people in the community helped with organizing and fundraising. “We knew some equipment that wasn’t being used,” Lee said. “We checked into buying this equipment, and everything just fell in place. Previously, Lee said, people would have to travel to Wadena to work out. As far as she knows, the WDC Community Education Fitness Center is the only fitness center in Deer Creek. WDC Community Education also supports other programs such as preschool, activities for students and adults, and other functions beyond K-12 schooling, director Sandie Rentz said. WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom said later during the summer that programs using the Deer Creek School building before the tornado would continue to run this school year. For more information on the fitness center, contact Lee at 218-371-9167.

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February 23, 2013

Wadena receives $4.2 million for wellness center Rachelle Klemme complete the project. Originally published September 15, 2012

The Wadena Regional Wellness Center project was awarded $4.2 million from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Capital Projects Grant Program on Thursday. After reviewing the recommendations from DEED, Gov. Mark Dayton announced his final choices 11 a.m. “We are extremely ecstatic,” Mayor Wayne Wolden said. The award amount was short of the $4.625 million asked for, but Wolden said private fundraising efforts had gone very well and he believes they will be able to

Don Niles, chair of the Wadena 2.0 steering committee and city council member, said the announcement was a happy end to some hard work. “We were on pins and needles not knowing what the governor was going to do,” Niles said. “The city council worked very hard on the DEED application.” Niles also said the community has also been proactive in making calls and writing letters to state legislators and the governor’s office about the wellness center. Niles added that after strong behind-the-scenes private fundraising was led by Mike Craig and Jeff Browne, who brought in pledges of about $3.1 million, public fundraising – or a broad cased appeal to the

general public – will go forward now that state funding has been confirmed. The total cost of the Wadena Regional Wellness Center is estimated to be around $10 million. Wolden and Niles said a groundbreaking date has not yet been set, and they would have to work with architects Perkins + Will and construction management group Kraus-Anderson to finalize a timeline. Niles also said construction was unlikely to begin until spring, but he is hoping for at least a ceremonial groundbreaking sometime this fall. Exact plans will need to be finalized in upcoming weeks, but Niles said the wellness center is to include an indoor swimming pool, racquetball courts, gym

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February 23, 2013 space, a community meeting room and a warm water therapy pool to be leased by TriCounty Health Care. The therapy pool would be small, but the only one of its kind between Fargo and St. Cloud, Niles said. Wolden said the city had been looking to expand the original community center facilities since 2006. In June 2010, an EF4 tornado destroyed the community center and outdoor pool. The same tornado also destroyed buildings on Leaf River Ag’s old location on the corner of Community Center Drive and 5th Street SW, where the new wellness center is to be built. With the Wadena Community Center building destroyed, a temporary Community Center location has been running from a smaller building off U.S. Highway 10 in east Wadena. It lacks some of the amenities of the original community center. But some see a temporary Community Center as better than no Community Center. “It’s definitely a positive attribute for not only Wadena but the surrounding communities,” Community Center Manager Randy Jahnke said. Wolden said he was glad the state completed the job after granting Wadena $750,000 in planning funds in October 2010. At that time, Wadena received those funds,

Wadena Area Community Progress instead of the full funding the city asked for in the fall 2010 special session. The city’s request was also turned down for the bonding bill in the summer 2011 regular session. Additionally, an ice arena that took up much of the space in the original Community Center was at first planned to be part of the new wellness center but ended up being constructed separately in 2011 at the old community center site. In 2012, local projects were again excluded from the legislative bonding bill, but the Wadena was given the chance to apply for the DEED fund. “The third time’s the charm,” Wolden said. Of 90 project representatives applying for the Capital Grants Program, Wadena made the first cut of 37 projects deemed to qualify Monday. Of nine projects ultimately receiving funding, Wadena and a Duluth downtown construction effort were the only two entities from northern Minnesota receiving funding, according to a DEED press release. In the Twin Cities area, the St. Paul Saints Stadium and Southwest Corridor light rail project by the Metropolitan Council received funding. Southern Minnesota communities receiving DEED grants included Litchfield, Hector, Lonsdale, Hutchinson as well as Redwood and Renville Counties.

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February 23, 2013

Bertha gets new water tower Zach Kayser Originally published December 8, 2012

Construction finished Wednesday on an all-new water tower for the city of Bertha, said Joeb Oyster, project engineer for Moore Engineering, the firm that designed the new structure. With a price tag of nearly $400,000, the new tower is part of an approximately $8 million public works overhaul of the city, which city officials said is mostly funded by grant money. Oyster said the previous tower was constructed in 1929, and although portions had been renovated or replaced since then, the tower did not comply with OSHA regulations and had a number of leaking problems. Oyster said work began at the construction site Sept 29. but the new tower will not be completely operational until late spring/ early summer of next year, after crews have had the chance to install the electrical system and coat the entire tower with a protective primer. The new tower is only about 30 feet higher than the old one, but the added height combined with a more fully functional tank will mean increased water pressure for Bertha residents, Oyster said. “If there’s a fire in town, it will give a lot of the people higher pressure,” he said. Bertha Public Works Manager Adam Templin added better water quality to the list of improvements coming with the tower. He said the city will now use new treatment chemicals and other purifying methods to help ensure the Bertha water supply is clean. People in Bertha can expect those benefits to stick around awhile. Templin said the new tower had a projected lifespan of about 50 years. “With proper maintenance, it’ll last even longer than that,” he said.

Submitted photo

A crane positions the tank of Bertha’s new water tower, which has a 50,000 gallon capacity. Construction finished Wednesday, but the tower will not become operational until next spring or summer, said Joeb Oyster, project engineer for Moore Engineering.

Bertha Mayor Dean Klebs said the crane used by construction firm Maguire Iron to build the new tower weighed 350 tons and helped make the tower’s construction a marvel to behold. “The average person has never seen anything like this up close,” he said. Klebs said although the city has chosen the basic colors of the new water tower, he doubts they will be able to afford a special logo to be painted on it, as several citizens have suggested. “We are, at this point, within our budget on the whole project, but I don’t want to spend money if we don’t need to,” he said. Klebs said he would present the idea of a logo to the city council at an open meeting, but predicted council members will choose not to spend the extra money a logo would require. “I would say as of right now it probably isn’t going to happen unless somebody comes forward with a lot of money,” he said.

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February 23, 2013

Wadena Area Community Progress

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Page 13

renda’s New Image



Photo by Rachelle Klemme

Dave Quincer shows the Cozy’s remaining traditional film projector, a machine with some parts dated back to the 1940s and early 1950s. Quincer said the old film equipment works just fine, but is outdated as movie studios are phasing out film in favor of digital files.

Reeling in change at Wadena’s Cozy Theatre Rachelle Klemme Originally published September 8, 2012

The iconic film reels associated with a night at the movies are becoming a thing of the past, and Wadena’s Cozy Theatre has completed its transition to digital projection to keep up with the times. The second and third screens of the Cozy have had their traditional film projectors replaced with digital projectors. The theater’s main screen has been digital since May 2010, although an old film projector remains standing next to the newer machine. With its oldest parts dating back to the 1940s and early 1950s, the old film projector is now the only one left in the triplex, and Cozy Theatre owner Dave Quincer said it may not be there much longer. “Hollywood’s going to quit making film,” Quincer said. With major studios phasing out traditional reel film in favor of digital movie files, Quincer said, small theatres that can’t afford to make the transition are being forced to close. Twentieth Century Fox, for example, has announced it will stop traditional film reels by the end of the year. Theaters not yet equipped for digital technology will not be able to show movies at all. Quincer said he is thankful for the support from the community, and the Cozy is now showing digitally projected movies on the newer two screens. The last Cozy movie screened in film was “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”. “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is being held over this week, but is now showing

digitally. Quincer said many people might not notice a difference in quality, but digital projection has a sharper, brighter image and better sound than traditional film projection. Traditional film was a lot of heavy lifting. Quincer said a box of five reels is about 50 pounds, and he would splice them together into one large reel. Setting up a show took two hours. However, one of the new hard drives being used to contain movie files can weigh a few pounds and is less time-consuming to set up. At the end of a show, the film reel would have to be disassembled manually, Quincer said. With digital projection, all he has to do is press the delete button. Jeremy Hinman of Larry’s Electric is working on wiring the new digital projectors, and said the business also did work in 2010 on Screen 1’s digital system. “Dave keeps us busy here,” Hinman said. The Cozy Theatre, first started in 1914 and having its major art deco remodel in 1938, had only one screen for decades. When the Cozy’s second screen, now known as Screen 3, was added in 1996, digital movie technology was not yet on the horizon, Quincer said. However, by the addition of a third screen – now known as Screen 2 – in 2007, he knew it was a matter of a few years before digital would take over. T.J. Hopland of Bright Star Systems, a movie theater equipment distributor in Minneapolis, said he installed the Screen 2 and 3 original film projectors and recently assisted with taking them out. “We’re just changing with the industry,” Hopland said.






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Wadena Area Community Progress

Page 14

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February 23, 2013







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Submitted photo

Henning Mayor Jim Hermanson and Salvation Army members officially open the new store Nov. 2.

Henning Salvation Army buys new location Zach Kayser Originally published November 17, 2012

After years of being hidden away in a rundown building, the Henning Salvation Army store is finally getting a chance to shine in a prime location on the city’s main drag, and the results have been positive. The new Henning Salvation Army store is at 410 Douglas Ave., and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Every day they’re up more in sales – they’re pulling in people from the surrounding community, they’re getting nicer donations … the community has really fallen in love with this new building,” said Lt. Linda McCormick, commanding officer for Ottertail County. Opening week brought in sales of more than $900, something McCormick has never seen in the town. The new earnings are compared to a previous average of about $300 per week. Currently, two people are employed at the store, and there are plans to hire a third if sales remain high. Although it may appear to have been a simple solution, the move was actually the result of more than a year’s worth of planning and effort on the part of local Salvation Army members. When the process began a year ago, the members of the Henning branch felt their old location was less than ideal. “The old store used to be very dark, and it was an old building, so it looked dingy even though it wasn’t. Now it’s really bright and clean-looking inside, and people want to keep it looking that way,” McCormick said.

In addition to seeing size and aesthetic problems, Salvation Army didn’t like the fact that they had to rent the old building. But with the new location, they own every brick. “There had always been rumors in Henning that we were closing, so (buying the new building) would dispel any rumors because now we’re property owners and we intend to stay.” After the Salvation Army finally closed a deal on the new building in August, the process of actually moving operations there began. All of the old merchandise was liquidated and new items were trucked in from Fergus Falls in time for the Nov. 2 grand opening. A ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by Henning Mayor Jim Hermanson, as well as the head of the Salvation Army’s Divisional Headquarters. The opening may have been a sign of just how much interest the new store has stirred up in the community. McCormick estimates that more than a hundred people walked in the expanded store throughout the day. With more space comes more opportunities for the Salvation Army to serve local residents in need. The organization’s higherups plan to assign a social service director to Henning, which means expanded access to programs that help with things like utilities, rent, clothing and medicine. The Henning branch is now working with local gas stations to set up its Covenant program, which gives gas vouchers to people with lower income. The Henning Salvation Army never had space for a social service director before the move. The fact that one will now visit Henning regularly is just one of the many benefits of the new spot downtown.

February 23, 2013

Wadena Area Community Progress

The Cove has new owners Rachelle Klemme Originally published June 6, 2012

The Pine Cove Inn has been a landmark three miles north of Wadena for decades, and now it is under new ownership and a new name, “The Cove.” Curtis Maas and Mike Turk took ownership of the restaurant May 1, replacing previous owners Ken and Joyce Price. After some remodeling and painting, as well as adding a new bar, TVs and exterior paint, The Cove opened Memorial Day weekend. Turk and Maas said their business venture is an equal partnership and something that neither of them could have done alone. They are both certified chefs. Turk is a recent graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, and Maas is a graduate of Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie. “Combined, we probably have 40 years of culinary experience,” Turk said. They have worked in a variety of dining settings, and their paths crossed when they worked together in Menahga and Park Rapids. Maas and Turk bring different tastes and experiences to the business. Turk said they have homemade sauces, hand cut steaks and contact with local producers. Maas said his favorite food is fried shrimp, while Turk likes pastas. “We do shrimp four or five different ways,” Maas said.

Originally published July 10, 2012

The Wadena City Council gave its blessing to a restaurant owner to add an outdoor seating area. Jim Formanek, owner of The Uptown, presented plans to build an outdoor dining area in what is currently the building’s parking lot. A dumpster would be moved, the outdoor dining area would be handicap accessible and about five tables with umbrellas are planned. Formanek said he hopes to have the project done in August. The plan Formanek presented to the council involved a 4-foot fence around the dining area. He said that height was short enough to be aesthetically pleasing, but a shorter fence would present a safety and insurance liability issue. Police Chief Bruce Uselman said since

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New owners Mike Turk, left, and Curtis Maas opened The Cove, formerly known as The Pine Cove Inn, on May 25.

Turk said he enjoys the creative process of coming up with weekend specials. The two said opening their own restaurant has been a dream, and they are always looking to improve. They added that they wouldn’t have been able to pull off the opening weekend without the help of family, friends and a good support system. Maas’s nephew and the summer bar manager Zach Maas said the opening weekend went well and they filled the place twice a night. A recent graduate of UMD, Zach is saving up money to attend graduate school for chiropractic studies. He said the summer bar manager position was a new level of responsibility for him, but he is familiar with the restaurant business as his father used to own The Uptown. Fourteen full-time and part-time workers are currently employed at The Cove. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. It opens 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Outdoor seating for The Uptown approved Rachelle Klemme

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Page 15

The Uptown serves liquor, he would rather see a 5-foot high fence so people don’t lean over and give liquor to minors or commit other liquor violations. Mayor Wayne Wolden said there are many outdoor dining establishments in St. Paul with short or no fences, and people still control their liquor. Council members also discussed whether to make an ordinance against smoking in outdoor seating areas. Without an ordinance, it is up to the business owner. Council Member Don Niles said it is a public health issue, and the outdoor dining area would be in close proximity to the senior center and senior apartments. Formanek agrees the decision of whether or not to allow outdoor seating smoking should fall to him as the business owner. “I’m the one that’s going to make or break,” he said, adding he would not build if the council would dictate the issue to him. The council later approved the motion to allow the 4-foot fence.


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February 23, 2013

Verndale residents gain grocery store Rachelle Klemme Originally published August 4, 2012

Verndale has a grocery store once again, now owned by Wadena County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC). The business, which is half grocery store and half thrift store, was opened July 12 in the same building as the previous grocery store, Executive Director Sylvia Silvers said. The Verndale Grocery and Treasures Too, along with the Treasure Trove Thrift Store in Sebeka and a variety of work projects around the communities, give job skills and experience to clients of DAC. “We have a little bit of produce, we have dairy, frozen foods and quite a variety of canned goods…and nonperishables,” Silvers said. “On the thrift side, we take donations.” Before the opening of Verndale Grocery and Treasures Too, the town of 602 was without a grocery store for several years. Silvers said the idea to open the grocery store emerged when she went to Verndale to

purchase a piece of equipment and saw that the closed store was still set up to be ready for groceries. Store Manager Linda McGrane said the business provides good training opportunities for clients, as part of the DAC’s purpose to serve people with developmental disabilities. Instructor Connie Umland said they have received positive feedback from the community, and people appreciate the convenience of a grocery store in their own town. McGrane also said if people don’t find what they want in the two aisles of groceries, they can ask for it in the next shipment, and they can also do special orders for churches, organizations and benefits. McGrane added that business has been a little slow but steady, and they hope things pick up when the school year starts. For now, the store accepts cash or checks only, but should be able to accept credit, debit, EBT and possibly WIC in the near future. The store’s hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Bluffton has new fire truck

Rachelle Klemme Originally published July 7, 2012

Bluffton Fire and Rescue has a brand new truck after winning a FEMA grant. Fire Chief Ken Theisen said the new tanker has a 350 horsepower engine, the tank holds up to 3,000 gallons of water and the pumper is capable of 750 gallons per minute. Another advantage of the new truck is that while older tanker pumpers have to be parked before use, this one can “pump and roll,” making it helpful for situations such as following a grass fire along a ditch. The truck, built by Midwest Fire in Luverne, Minn., is up to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. The total grant was for $224,500, of which the federal share was $213,275 (95 percent). The local government match was $11,225 (5 percent). The truck was received May 4, after the grant was awarded fall 2011. It has already been in several summer parades around the area. Jason Hotakainen, Bluffton fire department secretary, said they decided they needed a truck that was safer for firefighters and able to haul more water. It was also important for mutual aid with

the fire departments in Wadena, Sebeka, New York Mills and Deer Creek, as well as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The grant was written by Pat Conroy and George Jordan of Widseth Smith Nolting’s Alexandria office. Theisen and Hotakainen said the firm has successfully written other grants for them in the past. Conroy said Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program from FEMA was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with the importance of fire departments and other responding agencies in the public mind. Bluffton was among 10,000 applicants across the United States applying for the grants, and among 2,000 to 3,000 scoring well enough to receive their requests. Conroy said Bluffton also received another grant with other East Otter Tail County departments worth around $50-60,000 for communications gear. Conroy said Theisen and the firefighters on Bluffton’s roster have demonstrated how small rural fire departments can put their resources to good use, and Widseth Smith Nolting is proud to have worked with them. While Wadena County has been hit by large wildfires this year, it has been less dramatic for Bluffton. “It’s been a quiet year for us,” Hotakainen said.

February 23, 2013

Wadena Area Community Progress

Hide and Fur celebrates successful rebuild Rachelle Klemme Originally published June 30, 2012

Tom and Rich Paper, owners of Wadena Hide and Fur, wanted to pick a sunny day to celebrate the rebuilding of their business property since the 2010 tornado – and Wednesday’s event fit the bill. The large office building was damaged by the June 17, 2010 tornado that ripped through Wadena and needed to be replaced. Construction started in September 2011 and was finished during the winter. Just under 400 people attended the open house. Coffee and cookies were served all day long, with lunch served by TC Backyard BBQ. During the busy lunch time, Rich Paper said the open house was going very well. Longtime employee Tim “Skinner” Stockwell said the new post-tornado building is a step up from before. “It’s like the difference between a Volkswagen and a Cadillac,” he said. Stockwell, who has worked for Hide and Fur since 1977, was working at the time the tornado hit.

• Residential • Commercial • Agriculture • Emergency Calls Welcome George Wheeler Jr., Owner 218-631-3633


Photo by Rachelle Klemme

Brother and sister Reino and Gertrude Karjalainen, left, line up for lunch served by Colter and Tyler Ehrmantraut of TC Backyard Bar-B-Q, during the Wadena Hide and Fur Open House on Wednesday. The event celebrated the grand opening of property rebuilt this winter to replace the warehouse and office totaled by the June 17, 2010 tornado.

“I was one of the six in the bathroom,” he said. Tom Paper added that the business’ warehouse roof was torn off and the walls were pushed off center when the tornado hit. The warehouse and office area were still standing, but were condemned and had to be rebuilt. After the open house, the people running Wadena Hide and Fur can rest, knowing they have made a major comeback.

Aldrich Tractor has a new owner Rachelle Klemme Originally published June 2, 2012

A longtime employee of Aldrich Tractor is now its new owner. Tim Current of Bertha took over the dealership Feb. 1. “I’ve been here for over 20 years, so it was a joint venture between the previous owners and me,” Current said. “I was shop foreman for many years.” Roger Bahls and Ken Broker were the previous owners, and had started the business in 1981. Current started working at Aldrich Tractor in 1986, and the business has expanded throughout the years. One of the newest additions was taking on a Bobcat dealership in November 2011, in addition to existing brands. “We used to be down in Aldrich in a fourcar garage,” Current said. “It was a gas station.” Bahls said he and Broker originally worked together at a dealership, Uselman’s Inc., in Wadena. Uselman’s had an auction sale, and one of the brothers died in a car accident the first night of the sale, leaving him and Broker out of a job, Bahls added. So, the two started their own business. “We just started as a repair shop,” he said.

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February 23, 2013

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Photo by Rachelle Klemme

The Rev. Elden Nelson, left, president of Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC), leads the ordination service for the Rev. Adam Osier at Zion Free Lutheran Church in Wadena on July 1. Osier started as pastor in June at both Zion and Bluegrass’ Bethany Free Lutheran Church.

Rachelle Klemme Originally published July 7, 2012

Before the Rev. Adam Osier started working with a Lutheran parish existing between Wadena and Bluegrass, he was got to live a football fan’s dream. Ralph Berlin, former head trainer of the Steelers and parishioner of Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania, let Osier try on Ben Roethlisberger’s helmet, which was a perfect fit. At Osier’s July 1 ordination service at Zion Free Lutheran Church in Wadena, former Ruthfred pastor Rev. Brent Olson told that story, which he thinks Wadena residents might find interesting. Osier is a recent graduate of Association Free Lutheran Theological Seminary in the Minneapolis area, and spent his undergraduate years at Valley City State University, Association Free Lutheran Bible School and Northwestern College in St. Paul. Osier is a native of Valley City, N.D., and has relatives in the west central Minnesota area.

His wife, Courtney, is originally from Calamus, Iowa. Several years ago, Adam was thinking of transferring to Bible college, and he saw Courtney’s picture on the promotional flyer. “Man, who’s that pretty girl on the front cover?” he recalled thinking. Now, the couple has an 18-month-old son, Jacobi, and another baby on the way. The Osiers moved to Wadena in late June. They said they like living in the small community, but there are some things that take some getting used to. Adam said it was tough at first not having a Starbucks nearby, but he eventually discovered the French roast at Harvest Thyme Bistro was more to his liking. He is also a fan of the caramel latte at Cyber Café. Coffee is just one delight of Adam’s. His family has a number of interests. “We enjoy being outside as much as possible for walks or hiking,” Courtney said, adding that they both also enjoy basketball. The family is still discovering the parks of Wadena and getting to know other aspects of the community. “We’re looking forward to getting to know the people and minister to them to the best of our ability,” Adam said.

February 23, 2013

Wadena Area Community Progress

Pastor accepts call at Immanuel Lutheran

s e v e 4 St ’

4 2 1 1

Rachelle Klemme Originally published July 7, 2012

One of the largest churches in Wadena has a new pastor. The Rev. Nate Loer started July 1 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, and his family moved to Wadena in late June. “We’ve found everyone here so welcoming,” he said. “We’re fortunate to be here.” Loer said Immanuel has a history of generosity and a collection of strong youth and family ministry. He added that he wants to help the church continue in those paths. The Loer family has some familiarity with the area. Nate served at Zion Lutheran Church in Browerville, his first call after internship, for nine years. Loer’s wife, Audrey, is a licensed psychologist for Northern Pines Mental Health in Long Prairie and Staples. She said they have driven through town and been to Larry’s Family Pizza, and Wadena is close enough to Browerville for their kids to keep in contact with their old friends. The Loers have four children: Bereket, 10; Eshetu, 7; Teshe, 6; and Amsale, 5. “Our oldest will be a fifth grader this year. Moving is hard at any age, but they’re a little bit more mobile at this age,” Nate said. Wearing a shirt with the logo of “Compassion International,” a nonprofit that

brings resources to developing countries, Nate described himself as a “project hound” who loves tools. “I love tinkering and puttering and all kinds of things, so I’m kind of a home do-ityourselfer,” he said. He also likes fishing and spending time with his kids. Nate and Audrey have traveled overseas twice to Ethiopia, where their children were born. Nate is a native of East Grand Forks and a graduate of University of North Dakota, Lutheran Bible Institute of Seattle (now Trinity Lutheran College) and Luther Seminary. Parishioner Ann Pate, who was the church council president during the formation of the call committee to find a new pastor, said members of the call committee initially received information from the Northwest Minnesota Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Following that, the committee was impressed with Nate while visiting his previous church. Plus, his former parishioners gave him a good word. “His connection is so multi-generational,” she said. “He does puppet talks for the children’s sermons…He really relates to every age very well.” Immanuel’s interim pastor throughout the last year was the Rev. Marilyn Breckenridge, who oversaw the church during its 75th anniversary.



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The Rev. Nate Loer, the new pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wadena, looks at photos of past clergy members framed for the congregation’s 75th anniversary celebration, held last year. July 1 was Loer’s first Sunday. He is familiar with the area, having previously served at Zion Lutheran Church in Browerville.




Photo by Rachelle Klemme



Page 19

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To keep pace with the increasing needs of our communities, Tri-County Health Care is expanding its campus to improve patient care and allow for additional providers and services to accommodate the needs of our patients.

Join us for an ...

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One block south of the main campus in the former Wadena TV Center building

Refreshments, education and giveaways

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Taking advantage of the opportunity to upgrade its health care facilities and services while “Building on Excellence” is a prime example of Tri-County Health Care’s commitment to it’s patients, families and visitors. The new Rehabilitation Center, plus a growing staff of treatment specialists, ensures that TCHC Rehabilitation Services will remain an exceptional resource for patients today and well into the future.

The 10 new tre atment rooms are patientfriendly, quiet and comfortab le for patients and therapists.

Melissa Lloyd is busy taking appointments for new and returning patients at their new location at 311 Jefferson Street North.

“Revitalizing the strategically located building for our Rehabilitation Department is fiscally responsible and one of four remodeling phases. The building project is not only good for Tri-County Health Care and the city of Wadena, it also serves as an indication to the communities we serve that Tri-County Health Care is a vibrant and growing organization.” — Joel Beiswenger, TCHC President and CEO 415 Jefferson St. North, Wadena, MN

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Progress Guide 2013