By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Teaching someone leadership skills could be compared to the Chinese proverb, “If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
Like teaching the man to fish, the leadership training that 24 Winsted people received through the Blandin Foundation’s “Community Leadership Program” two years ago, will be used to promote and refine the City of Winsted way into the future.
Four Blandin leadership teams have already made their presence known in Winsted in 2009 through numerous community projects some very visual, and others behind the scenes. All of them had a major part in enhancing community life in Winsted.
Winsted City Administrator Brent Mareck recently commented he is pleased with the overall positive impact the Blandin teams have had on the community.
“For government to move forward on projects is sometimes slow because of the approval process,” Mareck said.
“What is nice with these groups is they are not burdened by all of that process and in a way, they can be a lot more creative,” Mareck said. “It is that kind of energy that we have in many of our groups . . . who want to improve Winsted, that has some pretty awesome results.”
When the four teams returned from their week-long leadership training, they worked behind the scenes following a three-step procedure they had learned through the Blandin workshop.
“Blandin allowed us to find what was missing in our community or what could be improved,” Jeff Campbell, member of the WHAT UP committee, said.
WHAT UP, Winsted Holding Activities That Unite People, was originally a Blandin leadership team sent back to Winsted to find ways to provide new opportunities for youth and family involvement.
“Our group felt the need for more community activities that would help us get to know each other and bring families together,” Campbell said. “The attendance at our activities has been very encouraging, showing us that this need is being met.”
WHAT UP received the 2009 Don C. Guggemos Community Service Award for the great job it did in sponsoring numerous free family activities for the community.
The original members of the team were Erin Kutz, Michael Henrich, Rose Heimerl, Terry Fasching, Brett Monson, and Jeff Campbell. Since 2007, new members to join the group are Ana Dietrich, Allison Christensen, Leigha Felder, and Stephanie Wegner.
The first WHAT UP family event took place at Mill Reserve Park July 2009.
A crowd of about 150 people were in attendance to watch the featured movie, “Horton Hears a Who.”
The movie, geared toward audiences of all ages, even brought some couples without children to the park for a date night, according to Campbell.
“We were really excited to see the number of people who came to the event,” Campbell said.
Other numerous WHAT UP events followed in 2009, including more movies in the park, kickball in the fall, a Halloween party, a movie at the Blue Note Ballroom, and basketball lessons.
The 2010 activities planned by WHAT UP are scheduled for the third weekend of every month. The next activity will be Saturday, Feb. 20, which is a snowman contest, ice skating, and sledding, in conjunction with the Winsted Watershed Association.
Another Blandin leadership team that has done well is the Winsted Arts Task Force. Its goal is to establish an arts council.
The original Blandin team members were Nancy Fasching, Julie Guggemos, Charlotte Laxen, Mary Neff, Cynthia Stifter, and Michael Thonvold. Other members who have joined are Petie Littfin, Katy Born, and Greg Gehrman.
“If it hadn’t been for the Blandin Foundation, we wouldn’t be as far as we are,” Arts Task Force Member Julie Guggemos said. “They gave us the spark that got the group to become official and gave us a more formal direction.”
In June 2009, the Arts Task Force sponsored a well-attended “Art in the Park” which took place at Mill Reserve Park. The purpose of the event was to attract individuals interested in signing up to be part of an established arts council.
Currently, the Arts Task Force is preparing to register for its nonprofit status and is close to announcing official officers.
The Winsted Arts Center will be located at the old Winsted Farmers Co-op Creamery building, owned by Greg Gehrman and Katy Born, at the corner of Second Street and McLeod Avenue when the renovations to the buildings are complete.
Another Blandin inspired team activity November 2008, was a city council meeting in Holy Trinity school gym to help get the Winsted youth involved in city government.
The team members are Deborah Boelter, Steve Stotko, Lyn Zeppelin, and JoLynn Cafferty.
Holy Trinity students listened to department reports on job responsibilities of the city administrator, PeopleService, public works, the police department, and city engineer.
It was an opportunity for career-minded students to learn about the kind of jobs available as a city employee. They also learned how the town of Winsted’s city staff and council worked together and were able to ask questions throughout the meeting.
A fourth Blandin team used its training to take steps to improve water quality by limiting nutrient invasion via watershed.
The team decided the first step should be to encourage watershed landowners to plant grass strips to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss, which would protect Winsted Lake from runoff.
The group included Dale Maus, James Koch, Max Fasching, Sarah Bisping, Marvin Ebensperger, Glenn Hussong, Timothy Dahl, and Yvonne Maus. A new member, Gary Daigle has been added to the team.
The team shared ideas, then put together a plan and a proposal.
“We got our ducks-in-a-row and contacted the watershed landowners. Out of about 15, two came,” team member Dale Maus said.
Although the original plan wasn’t as successful as the team would have liked, it hasn’t discouraged team members.
Dale Maus and Gary Daigle are currently making plans to contact someone from McLeod County Soil and Water Conservation to talk with a couple of watershed landowners possibly to come up with a cost estimate to plant grass strips, and also to answer any questions the landowners might have.