28 February 2011

we're wired, baby.

The Windom Baseball Association is currently on a quest to raise money to rebuild a much needed concession stand at the good 'ol island park ballfield.  They seem to be making some headway thanks to a little friend called holding something close to your heart and Social Networking.  For those of you who aren't familiar with such "hip" terms such as Social Networking, basically it makes raising awareness and, in this case, raising money much easier because Social Networking has limitless potential to reach a limitless amount of people--pretty cool if you ask me.  You think word spreads fast in a small town, try posting something on facebook or twitter, word gets around faster than you can hit send.  So if the Windom Baseball association can generate a quick $700 from people who may or may not have stepped foot at Island Park, imagine how the whole city of Windom could benefit by use of this beautiful thing called the internet. 

The best part is, Windom is completely wired--yup, fiber to every home, isn't that great?  We felt it important enough to spend big bucks on this rural luxury, so lets use it for all it's worth.

Did I mention there are classes our local businesses and organizations can take at the BARC to help use this tool to its fullest potential...yup, Thursday, March 10th from 6-9pm "Doing Business on the Internet." For only $5 you can learn all the limitless potential for your business online.  That's a pretty good deal considering what you could be making if your business was online and online efficiently.  And there are more classes coming, including a class on using Social Networking, a free resource, for your business.  Watch for details.

Oh, and GO WINDOM BASEBALL!!  I've spit a few sunflower seeds at that park in my days and would like the opportunity to do it again. 

24 February 2011

step lively.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, my outfit just didn't seem complete.  Forgive me if you can't relate, but something just seemed to be missing.  As I sifted through my overly stuffed jewelry box, a packed mess of costume jewelry collected from consignment stores, clearance racks and my grandmother's old jewelry box, I was searching for the perfect something to seal the look.  Found it--a vintage, round, silver and turquoise pin.  I proudly pinned the delicate, yet bold statement to my blazer and was ready to take on the day.  Throughout the day I couldn't help but look down at the multitude of tiny torquoise beads working together in perfect harmony to create such a vibrant burst of color and think of who it once belonged to--my grandmother.  I think I have said this before in a former post, but I was blessed with the opportunity to live a mere 2 blocks away from my grandparents while growing up in Windom.  After a small accomplishment I would instantly run down to tell them about it and they would tell me how proud they were.  Just one of many things that shaped who I am today, just one of the values I hold dear to my heart which is having a close relationship with those who support, encourage, inspire and love me unconditionally. 

I remember as a little girl I would dig through her treasure chest of jewelry and drape it around me like a big hug.  She would tell me stories about where she got them, from a vacation or from my grandfather.  These stories proved to be the beginning of my love for stories-a bond.  Stories live forever.

After she passed a few years ago, I found myself going through her jewelry box again and found the pin I wore today among other pieces I recognized from when I was that carefree eight-year-old draped in pearls while listening to grandma's stories. 

So, looking down at that beautiful pin today, I couldn't help but think about what grandma would say about my journey of Finding Windom. What stories would she have as a small business owner--a fabric store owner on Windom's downtown square? It is amazing to think she was a business owner before I knew her.  Such a scary thing to own a business, but she was good at it.  I wish I could have seen it with my own eyes, but I do have stories.  Would she like the idea of "The little city that would"?  Would she be proud just like she was when I got an A on my report card or when I won a golf tournament? 

To tell you the truth, I guess I don't need to know what she would think, not like I did when I would rush to tell her about a small, adolescent accomplishment.  But I do know I was proud to wear that pin today because it belonged to my grandma.

23 February 2011

big wheels keep on turning.

I know, it has been a few days since my last post.  Things continue to be busy, but nothing new to be busy for anyone these days.  Heck, I can't believe it is almost March, but nothing new that time is flying by either.  Things always seem to be even more exhausting when the whole heart is involved.  I guess everyone needs a chance to rejuvinate, clear the mind, and to sigh a good sigh, so the task at hand can be seen a little more clearly. And I needed to dedicate some much needed time for what is most important to me, which is my greatest accomplishment, my son.   

As I continue on this journey I committed myself to back on that fateful day in July when I wrote my very first post titled "poking inspiration with a stick," I couldn't be happier with where the journey has taken me and where it continues to go.  There are so many opportunities for Windom to progress, grow and thrive that sometimes I feel overwhelmed at times, which is a good feeling. 

Here is just one opportunity that can help our community continue to progress, grow and thrive: Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC).

Yesterday, BARC/WECC, along with MN Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC), which has been brought to you by your tax dollars, hosted a class titled "Intro to Doing Business on the Internet," for local businesses owners/managers/employees to attend for free.  It was a great turnout, but there was plenty of room for more.  As the MIRC Local Coordinator, I can't express how important it is for our local businesses to invest their time into these extremely useful classes.  These classes are an opportunity for local businesses to learn how to not only get online, but maintain a useful and efficient website, and also use social networking to reach out to new and existing customers and improve business.

For some people the idea of doing business on the interent can be scary, but this is a FREE opportunity to become familiar with the interent and obtain resources to do business on the internet.  In the year 2011, it is extremely important for ALL businesses to be online because, let's face it, if you aren't online, you don't exist--an even scarier thought for business owners, I'm sure.

There are more FREE classes that will be offered through MIRC at the BARC/WECC.  The next available class titled "Doing Business on the Internet" will be Thursday, March 10th from 6-9pm.  Call the BARC at 507-831-2375 or email barc.ed@windomnet.com to sign up. 

For additional information on ways MIRC can help Windom businesses, feel free to contact me at findingwindom@hotmail.com  We need to use this program while we have it--the internet is a very useful tool to keep our rural community and businesses thriving!

17 February 2011

i think i can, i think i can.

Finding Windom's public presentation went really well last night, although it would have been nice to have a few more people there.  After talking about what Finding Windom has done, our mission, vision and goals for the community, we had a great discussion with the audience about the community.  I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome of our discussion.  Thank you to those who came to support and inquire about Finding Windom.

MN 2020 is at it again, supporting and giving relevance to rural southwest Minnesota!  Here is a great exerpt from the featured article at http://www.mn2020.org/.  Check it out. Windom take notice to the encouraging words written here:

A new book by Minnesota author and former Marshall Independent editor Dana Yost highlights small towns’ challenges and triumphs. Some of the short stories, essays and poems in "The Right Place" help inform and move Minnesota’s public policy debate forward.

The following excerpt is about a speech for the 30th anniversary of the Minnesota Machinery Museum in Hanley Falls. In it, Yost talks about how small towns persevere through adversity, reinvent themselves, and thrive in a new generation.

When I was the editor of the Marshall Independent from 1999-2008, I was strongly behind on the idea of cooperation and commitment to development—if we don't invest in and support the things most vital to us, we will, indeed, struggle even more on the prairie. Stagnation is a death sentence, and too many are willing to let that happen. But not everyone.

I have seen others, in recent years, set aside differences, set aside fears, and be willing to take a chance on something new in order to maintain a sense of the old—a sense of quality to the place they call home.

So back to [Hanley Falls’ Minnesota Machinery] museum and 1980. I've cited those other examples, but the museum and its leaders were trend-setters, ground-breakers: Among the first to take, and make, a stand against rural decline.

I know it has not always been easy since that day the doors opened, but you were among the first to see the value of and to implement major change — adaptation of an old building for new purpose, a new way to serve the people of this region, and an important way to preserve its past. That's quite a bundle all wrapped into an institution that sits in a town of less than three-hundred people. But you have made it happen.

You saw the new reality coming—a town without its school, but instead of being stubborn and sitting there, arms crossed, waiting for the end, you saw beyond defeat and into possibility. That means there was vision. And you turned possibility into what we celebrate tonight. And that means courage. And you have sustained it for thirty years. And that means wisdom, work and dedication.

And I know it connects. Just look at the museum's own Web site and the excerpts of papers written by Professor David Pichaske's students at Southwest Minnesota State University after they toured the museum.

“To my surprise, I was simply amazed by what I saw during my next two hours," one of them wrote.

Some of the other comments: “It is difficult to grasp how much time was consumed doing chores in the past as compared with how it is today, when we let machines do all the work.”

“It’s insane to think about feeding all those men until the entire crop had been harvested.”

“Realizing that people actually used these tools and other things to do daily activities boggled my mind.”

If you can get college students to set aside their cell phones, get off Facebook and react like that, you've done something significant.

And the museum has. A 30th anniversary, in the face of rural decline, is quite an achievement. You have shown that, with commitment and hard work, the prairie is still capable of producing some very good things — a lesson for us all, and proof this area is still worth believing in.


16 February 2011

local supports local.

This is what it is all about, local supporting local.  The Citizen has been a great deal of help with launching our support local campaign, "The little city that would." This is a great example of how different aspects of the community need to work together and support eachother for the good of the our city. 

In today's issue of the Citizen, yours truly has an article explaining some details about the little city that would. The Citizen will also be helping to get the ball rolling by allowing "the little city that would's" supporting businesses to advertise at a reduced rate.  This is great news for Windom businesses!

Don't forget to come to Finding Windom's pubic presentation tonight at 7pm in the BARC library. Come find out what we are all about, what we are working on, and we want your input!!

Here is the article I wrote that was published in today's issue of the Cottonwood County Citizen:

I was on a summer time short weekend trip to Northfield, Minnesota, when I noticed it. It was a bold, brightly colored sticker bearing the all-caps words “BE LOCAL, BUY LOCAL.” It couldn’t be missed—it was all over the town. It wasn’t necessarily the words that struck me because it made complete sense to me what it was representing, but it was that almost every business in downtown Northfield had it displayed in the window or on the door that made such an impact. “Wow,” I thought, “Northfield has so much pride for their downtown.”

Not long after that summertime weekend trip to Northfield, a friend introduced me to the 3/50 project. The 3/50 project is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public the simplicity of keeping the doors of small businesses open by picking the 3 businesses in your town that you couldn’t imagine living without and spending $50 a month at those 3 businesses.

After seeing the impact that a brightly colored sticker can have on a community’s business district and how quickly word travels about campaigns like the 3/50 project, I decided to do some research about support local campaigns and how effective they truly can be for the growth of a community. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how such a simple concept can make such a big impact. From a press release in the Hometown Advantage Bulletin, published by the New Rules Project, a branch of the Institute of Local Self Reliance out of Minneapolis states, “For the fourth year in a row, our national survey of independent businesses has found that those in communities with an active ‘buy local’ campaign run by an Independent Business Alliance or Local First group have experienced markedly stronger revenue growth compared to those located in areas without such an initiative.”

Finding Windom couldn’t be happier to present to you our version of a support local campaign titled “The little city that would.” We wanted the slogan to be open for many uses beyond just shopping local, but supporting the community as a whole. A Windom High School alumnus, Crystal Barlow-Jensen, who is a freelance graphic designer in the Twin Cities, offered her time and talents to design a fresh, progressive logo for our campaign, and it is all we were hoping for and more.

The campaign includes a marketing kit for all businesses, groups and organizations wanting to show support and pride for the community. “The little city that would” marketing kits include an introduction letter, top ten reasons to be “The little city that would,” a window decal, a poster, and full permission to use the logo in any way. What a great way to our show pride and unity!

15 February 2011

windom water tower: a symbol of pride.

Excuse me if I sound too negative here, but after I started to read the book I was telling you about called "Hollowing Out the Middle" a few posts ago, I have to tell you that couldn't finish the book.  I was so disappointed with the introduction pages that I slammed it shut and let out a big, frustrated sigh. While a tiny bit of the words may hold true, I was so offended by the authors' views of the small town of Ellis, Iowa that I couldn't make it through the rest of the book to see if the authors redeemed themselves from the ridiculous statements made in the Intro.  The title of the book or at least the Intro should have been "The City Mouse is from Mars, and the Country Mouse is from Venus."  They made it sound as if they had landed on another planet and the residents of Ellis were, well, aliens or something.  Okay, that word may be a little extreme, but seriously?

So I felt it necessary to write my own version of "the rural brain drain."  I hope it proves to be informational for everyone who reads it...after all it is from an insider's prospective. 

Enjoy the article at MN 2020: http://www.mn2020.org/.

If you are experiencing technical difficulties, here is the article:

This year is a special one for me—this is the year of my ten-year high school class reunion. Yup, like most people, I’m dreading it. I’m not dreading it because I look different than I did in high school or because I haven’t become a millionaire or because I don’t have some life-changing, dramatic story to tell my classmates, I’m dreading it because I know this is the question I will be asked by more than one person, “So, you still live here?” Yup, I can hear it now, “You never left this place?” or “Why would you come back to Windom?” Ugh. To tell you the truth, I’ve been trying to answer these anticipated questions for months now. Rehearsing in my head, trying to make them sounds so fascinating, all these reasons I came back to live in my small, rural town.

So if I absolutely love living in my small, rural town, why would these questions concern me so much?

I left Windom right after high school with absolutely no intentions to come back. Off to the big city of Milwaukee to study at the University of Wisconsin, and I was that much closer to my anticipated dreams of living in New York City. Picture it, this small town girl making it big in the city—that is what I thought I was supposed to do anyway. After 3 years in Milwaukee, as much as I loved it there, I transferred to Winona State University because it was just too far away from what was important to me—my family.

After college, I made the decision to move back to the small city in which I graduated high school, but it took awhile for me to make the transition. People would see me around town and say, “you on break at college” or “back for the summer?” I would just smile, still embarrassed by the idea that I consciously made a decision to come back with my new, proudly acquired college degree from Winona State University. I guess I was embarrassed to tell people I moved back because maybe they would think I was a failure and that I couldn’t handle it out there in the world. I mean, after college the world is supposed to be at your finger tips, right? Why come back to this place?

As I try to search for the perfect reply for my high school classmates as to why I live in Windom, it finally dawns on me that a better question to answer is why I felt like a disappointment to so many, and to myself, after moving back to my hometown? Is this crazy idea stopping more alumni from coming back?

The population of Southwest Minnesota is diminishing, the facts prove it. I can’t help but attribute the ridiculous stigma that high school graduates from a rural area are expected to leave their roots in order to find opportunities and be successful somewhere else.

I’m living the American dream, okay my dream, which is a pretty common dream I would imagine, right here in Windom. I own a house and a car, and even with my bills, I have a little spending money to enjoy life as well. I have a beautiful family and a good paying job. I keep myself busy with family, community events, outdoor activities, and local businesses. Doesn’t sound anything different from an average Minnesotan, right?

Not only does southwest Minnesota offer quality of life, but rural Minnesota is very valuable to the state and the nation. Farming, natural resources, manufacturing, and historical significance are among only a few reasons rural is valuable, and by moving back to my rural roots, I’m investing in this part of America’s future. Rural areas should be invested in by the state and nation and viewed as valuable assets as well.

So I guess my answer to former classmates is “why not?” Everything I want and need is right here. It might not appeal to everyone, but there are many people out there who want these things. Rural Minnesota should be identified as important, progressive and valuable to not only the ones who live, work and play rural, but to potential residents, state and federal governments as well.

In some cases, it’s not the lack of jobs or opportunities that keep people from coming back but the stigma itself that keeps people from returning. So most importantly, rural areas need to empower those who will forever call it home, show them the opportunities that lie between the main streets and the fields of rural. Even if they choose to move away, someday they may be back because they’ve finally realized that it’s okay to call it home.

14 February 2011

be my valentine.

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
I heart Windom,
and do my shopping here too.

Reason number 5 why we should be The little city that would:

Choices.  We don’t want what someone else has.  Independent shops create a distinctive shopping experience, while concentrating on the needs of the local consumer.

Don't forget Finding Windom will be having a public presentation this Wednesday, February 16th at 7pm at the BARC for free for all those interested in what Finding Windom is all about and our visions and goals. And we want to hear from our community about their visions as well!!  See you there. 

12 February 2011


Since the snow is melting and finally revealing the beautiful blacktop of streets and driveways, I figure I better reveal number 4 reason to be the little city that would:

Embrace our uniqueness! Our businesses distinguish us from others.  More than ever people are choosing to live in places that preserve their distinctive character—let’s use it to our advantage. 

      I am so proud of our community for putting us on the map with our "cheers" and ideas for Windom on readersdigest.com.  It was great to see!  We managed to round up 44,016 votes.  We ended up in 50 place, but there were a lot of cities cheering and for a population just shy of 5,000 we managed to make a statement.

11 February 2011

the list continues.

Number 3 reason to be The little city that would:

Jobs, jobs, jobs.  We all need one, and our businesses provide them.  Support them, and you support employment opportunities.

Check out this article.  Thank you, MN 2020, for not forgeting to represent Southwest Minnesota...

09 February 2011


I know you have been dying to know what the number 2 reason is for being the little city that would.  So I won't make you wait anymore.  Here it is:

You aren’t only supporting local businesses, but also our local schools, non-profits and community groups.  Our local businesses contribute goods, services and finances to all of these groups in Windom.

Stay tuned for #3. 

We make it sound as easy as it is to be the little city that would...

08 February 2011


The countdown is on as next week, Finding Windom will be revealing our support local campaign titled "The little city that would."  We hope local businesses, residents and city officials take some time to attend our Finding Windom meeting on Wednesday, February 16th at 7pm at the BARC to learn more details about our campaign and our mission. 

I've been doing much research about support local campaigns and they prove to be quite successful for mainstreets and its small businesses, so we are looking forward to getting it started.  To make things clear, a support local campaign doesn't mean we don't approve shopping at big box retail stores or traveling outside our city to shop, we are just trying to get our community to make a conscious effort to support what we have right here in river city. 

Included in the campaign is our version of the top 10 reasons it is important to support local.  To give you a taste, here is number 1:

Money spent local stays local. We could all use a little more cash these days, right? By staying local to do your business you simultaneously create more jobs, fund more city services through sales tax, invest in neighborhood improvement and promote community development.  It feels nice to know where your hard earned money is going.

02 February 2011

eda: economic development ahoy!

The Finding Windom team met with the new EDA Director of Windom the other night to talk about our favorite subject-Windom, to share our vision, ideas, and hopes for Windom, and to welcome him.  After our meeting, I can tell you, he will be a great asset to not only the City of Windom office, but to the community as a whole.  Looking forward to our journey ahead!