Top Three Vibrant Communities | July 4 – 8
July 8, 2016 by Blandin Foundation
1.) Clinton: The 90 year-old “Inadvertent Cafe” is nestled in the small western Minnesota town of Clinton—population 450. Thanks to a fellowship with the Bush Foundation, Brent Olson was able to reopen the cafe four years ago. Olson spent 25 years raising pigs on family land and wrote on the side. After his father urged him to do something to help the struggling grocery store across the street, the farmer-turned-writer saw an opportunity to help his community. Olson leaped into action by his donning his leadership cap and reopening the cafe—supplied with local goods.
“The reason I became a farmer is because I wanted to live here,” Olson said, standing among prairie Grass and pine trees he planted. “I became a writer because I wanted to take a whack at it. Everything else I’ve done since then is because no one else would do it.”
2.) Brainerd: Hugs are the universal medicine. Joe Plut—”the Mad Hugger”— knows this better than just about anyone. So when 200 people gathered to hug the retired English professor, it’s pretty safe to say he was in his element. The hugging event doubled as a fund raiser for Joe’s scholarship endowment, which is awarded annually to students pursuing liberal arts degrees and who have completed an English or Humanities course at Central Lakes College. The event raked in over $11,000 and replenished the fund for years to come!
“I suppose when my classes kept filling and that they allowed me to hug them, because, oh, I was wild in those days,” Plut says. “Some who were really faint of heart didn’t take it. But others took it because they wanted to get more open—creative communication. I would hug after every class. A few over the years just shook hands.”
“I provided the atmosphere—a positive, loving atmosphere. I even stopped grading in red pen (used purple). I would learn names on the first or second day. If a student would hug particularly tightly on a given day, I’d know something was wrong, so I’d write a note to that student. Maybe something was wrong—a grandparent or something,” Plut says.
3.) Monticello: With the sharp decline being seen in the pollinators of our ecosystem, habitat creation and protection is becoming an important area of focus for conservationists, educators and just about everybody else. Monarch butterflies, for example, have experienced an 80 to 90 percent decline in recent years. The simple truth is: most life on earth is dependent—in some form or another—on the work pollinators do. That’s why the effort being put forth to address the issue of pollinator habitat at the Xcel Substation is good news for the bees, butterflies and everyone else. The Monticello Substation is looking to set an example for the nearly 350 substations Xcel has in the MN, ND and SD region, along with countless other utility companies.
“These seven acres of land designated as pollinator-friendly habitat are a beautiful balance to the substation,” said Monticello’s Mayor Brain Stumpf. “This makes a critical contribution to the future of the Monarch butterfly, bees and other pollinators.”
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