Our most impactful stories of 2020 – Park Rapids Enterprise

By Lorie Skarpness

When times are tough it is easy to focus on all the bad things happening. The first three Hometown Heroes stories were written in April to showcase people who were going out of their way to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hearing how people were helping their neighbors in the community impacted me because it reinforced how fortunate we are to live in a place where people take care of each other.

The first story was about Akeley Police Chief Jimmy Hansen and Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office deputy Josh Oswald reaching out to people in their communities.

Whether a daily phone call to check up on a senior citizen or delivering a bag of groceries, they worked together to assure everyone who needed help received it.

“I work a lot of evenings and call to check in with residents, see how they’re feeling and if they need anything,” Oswald said. “If they need something like groceries I go grab it and drop it off at their doorstep. It just makes them feel better knowing there is someone they can call. I’ll be there for whatever they need.”

Hansen focused on helping families that were having a tough time due to unemployment during the shutdown. “Josh and I agree there are not going to be families with children who go without food in either one of our communities,” he said. “We will help provide food assistance to them until things get back into operation in this country. This coronavirus has put a huge burden on people. There are seniors in the community living on very meager incomes, sometimes with very little food in the house. The government help is going to take awhile and people need help now. It will relieve the stress like you wouldn’t believe.”

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As a result of the story, more than $2,000 was contributed to provide food to those in need.

The second Hometown Heroes story was about how Monkia Wilkins who owns Monika’s Yarn and Quilt Shop on Main Avenue in Park Rapids donated over 80 yards of quilting fabric for making face masks..

“I am very, very proud to be a citizen of this country because it has done nothing but good things for me, and I want to give back,” she said.

Wilkins knows firsthand how important masks are to help stop the spread of infection, having worked at CHI St. Joseph’s Health for 12 years as a surgical technician.

“Because quilting fabric is so tightly woven, it keeps 78 percent of particles out,” she said.

The third Hometown Heroes story was about how the Nevis Fire Department made Savannah Anderson’s 16th birthday special.

Since April 16 was also her “golden” birthday, she was hoping family and friends could celebrate with her. Then the shelter-in-place order was extended by the governor.

But members of the Nevis Fire Department made sure it’s a birthday Savannah will always remember.

“I had seen that other fire departments were using fire trucks to surprise kids on their birthday, so I messaged their Facebook page and Nevis Fire Chief Chris Norton said he’d take care of everything,” her mom Stacey said. “They had every vehicle in the fire department out there. The people inside all waved and a couple of them yelled happy birthday from their vehicles. It definitely felt good to know that through the things that are going on right now there are so many people who are willing to do things for others just to help out. We’ve only lived here for five years and we feel that this is the best community we could have chosen to live in.”

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By Robin Fish

The city closed the purchase of the Armory Square facility, now known as the Armory Arts and Event Center, on May 19.

It was the fulfillment of a project seven years in the making to acquire portions of the former National Guard Armory and its annex, excluding Vallarta’s Mexican Grill, as a regional cultural center.

Taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19, community leaders held a “liftoff” celebration May 25 on the street and sidewalk in front of the Armory.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said event emcee Mike Bruhn.

Despite the long awaited conclusion of the project, not much has happened at the Armory since then – again, out of caution about COVID-19.

Funded by a state appropriation from a bill introduced in the Legislature in 2013, the purchase of the Armory cost $2.5 million and involved a long, fraught closing process that then-city administrators John McKinney and Ryan Mathisrud said was “weeks from completion” for a couple years.

Now the opportunity exists for Park Rapids to host regional vendor shows, conferences and live entertainment in a bigger way than it has since the days of the “corn cob smoker,” which used to be held there every February.

Besides enriching the area’s culture, this could also be a boon for local businesses and real estate agents as visitors attending events at the Armory stroll through our city’s beautiful downtown area and look around.

The city is leasing the Armory to the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, which in turn is subleasing it to the organization that shares the building’s name.

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I hope, with the blessing of an end to the COVID-19 crisis, we will soon begin to enjoy the benefits of having the Armory Arts and Event Center in our community.

By Shannon Geisen

One of the joys of writing for a local newspaper is meeting and interviewing the variety of talented, creative, exceptional people who live here.

At the start of 2020, I met Joel and Amanda Hendrickson. Their fifth-generation Finnish dairy farm in Menahga is exclusively breeding an A2 herd and bottling A2 milk.

“We’re the first in Minnesota to do that,” said Joel, a 2003 Menahga High School graduate.

As Ten Finns Creamery, the couple began bottling and selling their locally produced whole milk in December 2019. The business – and its name – was inspired by their 10 children.

A2 milk is made from cows that only carry the A2 protein. The Hendricksons hope people with milk sensitivities can comfortably enjoy their creamy, real milk.

Their story went viral. The Enterprise’s website and social media saw remarkable numbers of pageviews and clicks. It was picked up by our sister newspapers all across the state. Television stations took interest in the Hendricksons.

Later this year, Ten Finns Creamery expanded their production line to include 2% reduced fat milk and A2 butter.

When Ten Finns first launched, they had just a few retailers in the Menahga and New York Mills area. Now, their milk is available at more than 30 locations across Minnesota, and into Iowa and Michigan.

It’s fun to bring attention to our amazing neighbors, making our world a little more friendly and taking pride in what they have accomplished.



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