Posts Tagged: community builders

Read the Fall 2018 Inspire(d)!

Cover photo by Arrival Arts / Lindsey Harman

The Fall 2018 Inspire(d) is filled with fun ideas for getting out of your comfort zone – we are so excited to share it with you! Here’s what you’ll find:

Fly Fishing • Seed Savers visits Svalbard Seed Vault • Roadschooling • Community Builders: Kelly Momsen & Gaby Peterson; Misty Lown; Katie Ruff • Pumpkin Surprise Balls • And More!

A note from Aryn:

Roxie and I were doing an activity in her (okay, our) Highlights Magazine the other day and it said, “Draw a picture of your happy place.” Roxie drew a picture of us, in bed, reading books. She asked me what mine would be, and I thought for a bit… “Probably sitting out on the patio. Or working in the garden,” I say, then pause… “Or maybe on the couch, watching TV.”

“Oh, yeah, I love to do that too!” Roxie says with a big smile.

These happy places – they’re basically the epicenter of our comfort zones – and to be honest, they’re not bad places to be in (of course not!). But a life spent only in the comfort zone could mean we’re missing opportunities along the way.

So this issue of Inspire(d) is all about embracing some of the leaps and bounds that take us to places we’ve never been. Occasionally getting a little “uncomfortable” will help us learn more about ourselves, and maybe discover our comfort zones are bigger than we think (check out page 23 to learn more)!

CLICK HERE to read the Fall 2018 issue of Inspire(d) Magazine!

I kicked my research off by trying something totally new to me: Fly fishing! There is an amazing community of fly fishing women building up across the Driftless, and they are super excited to welcome more women to the sport (pg 14). I had a blast getting to know them… AND learning more about fly fishing!

And then I was totally inspired when I read Kristine Jepsen’s story highlighting area families that have taken time to try roadschooling (pg 34). I don’t think we would ever do a whole year (or who knows?!), but a month in the winter? I could get on board with that.

We’d definitely would be interested in an exploration to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (even if it IS the Arctic Circle). The place sounds amazing – read Sara Friedl-Putnam’s story about Seed Saver’s executive director Lee Buttala’s trip on pg 26 to see for yourself. The work of the folks involved, and the connections they’re making, will undoubtedly help keep this world spinning for future generations.

Yes, it’s all about connections and community. This issue marks our 11th anniversary of making Inspire(d). I’m grateful for each year we’re able to bring positive news to – and about – our neighbors here in the Driftless. We’re excited to continue the Community Builders section this Fall Inspire(d), and plan to keep doing so for each Fall Anniversary issue ahead. Read about Kelly Momsen and Gaby Peterson of Yarnology in Winona, Minnesota; Misty Lown, of Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wisconsin; and Katie Ruff of By the Spoonful in McGregor, Iowa. These folks are working to bring people together, and we love that so much!

We hope you have a wonderful fall (I love this season)! Maybe get out of your comfort zone a bit… plan a night out with friends, or take a road trip to explore the region, or try something totally new to you! This is a big world we live in – let’s not let anything awesome pass us by.

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

P.S. You know what else is totally awesome? Voting! Don’t forget to do so on or before Tuesday, November 6. XOX -A

CLICK HERE to read the Fall 2018 issue of Inspire(d) Magazine!

Community Builder: Greg Wennes

Community Builder: Greg Wennes – Sunrise Care Facility, Spring Grove, Minnesota

Story and photos by Kristine Jepsen • Originally published in the Fall 2017 Inspire(d)

It’s a sunny Thursday morning, and Greg Wennes is waiting in a plastic lawn chair, under the mature trees shading Sunrise Care Facility, just “Sunrise” for short. It’s a farmhouse on the outskirts of Spring Grove, Minnesota – known by locals as the Gilbertson place. As many as 10 men, all recovering alcoholics or addicts, can eat, sleep, work and find community and support here. They may stay weeks, months or years as they transition between formal rehabilitation treatment and regular, productive lives.

When Greg, owner-operator of Wennes Communications Stations, helped found Sunrise in 1988, it was among the first of its kind in this part of the Driftless. And while these days he’s a guy who has the glow of wintering in warmer places and who drives a glittering burgundy motorcycle, among other classic rides, he needs you to understand this about him first: He’s a recovering alcoholic, a lifelong condition.

There was a time when he himself came home from residential treatment to find his house empty but for a mattress and a dying spider plant, his wife and kids gone. He’s been to the depths, and he knows what it takes to climb out (and stay out), one handhold at a time. Sunrise was founded to provide the footing.

“Drinking is a lonely occupation,” he says, “but ‘sober lonely’ is incredible. It’s one of the most difficult parts of recovery.”

Opening a care facility isn’t the easiest thing in a tight-lipped Scandinavian community, where people keep problems to themselves, but beneath any public stigmatization that existed, Greg and other founders quickly assembled a broad base of support, across medicine, recovery treatment policy, public health, law enforcement, and ministry. The home opened as a non-profit with significant help from the Tweeten Foundation, previous owners of the local hospital. Renovated twice to date, Sunrise operates with resident fees paid privately or subsidized by state and federal public health systems. Supporters aspire to add a private wing for women soon, too.

“It takes an alchie to know and help an alchie,” Greg says of his friend and colleague Greg ‘Gregor’ Rostad, using recovery slang for an alcoholic, as opposed to a ‘normie’ (an un-addicted person). Gregor, also a successful business owner, is in his fifth year as administrator on-site at Sunrise, a job layered with management, mentoring, discipline, and compassion. “It takes being both an achie and a business person to make this place work,” Gregor says. Above all, he has to keep inevitable social challenges from trampling the bottom line.

Residents, each with his own private room in the stately farmhouse, make meals together in teams. They coordinate clinic and therapy visits, run errands in Sunrise’s two shuttle vans, and perform all the maintenance of the house and five-acre grounds. They also host and attend recovery meetings, both on-site and at other meeting spaces around the region. Friends and family can sign in to visit, and it’s common for residents to walk the mile or so into downtown Spring Grove to shop on their own, enjoy the view of neighboring pastures, and get a breath of normal, small-town life.

“Anyone can quit drinking,” Greg says. “The question is, ‘How do I learn to live and function in society as a sober person?’ Our goal is to provide a sober, safe sanctuary.”

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To join the conversation, Greg and Gregor recommend Facing Addiction (facingaddiction.org), a resource hub for those living with addiction or wanting to support someone who is. To learn more or support Sunrise Care Facility, visit sunrisecarefacility.com.

Community Builder: Shannon Dallenbach Durbin

Community Builder: Shannon Dallenbach Durbin: ArtHaus & Creative Community

By Aryn Henning Nichols • Originally published in the Fall 2017 Inspire(d)

“I got this.”

It’s a phrase Shannon Dallenbach Durbin has found herself saying a lot. Usually it’s about a job or a project that will bring artists, kids, and/or creativity together.

“Computers can do so much now. They can replace manual labor and intelligence,” she says. “But creativity can’t be replaced. It’s what humans have… and we don’t nurture it enough.”

Fostering a creative community started early for Shannon.

“I always wished I had that one best friend,” she says, “But instead I had a bunch of friends from a bunch of different groups. And maybe that’s because of my personality – I like almost everyone.”

She grew up in Arlington, Iowa, and went to school at Starmont, where she was active in pretty much every activity possible: musicals, choir, saxophone, piano, art, dance, tae kwon do (she’s got a black belt!), future homemakers, future business leaders, chess, drama, yearbook, quiz bowl… you get the idea.

“I really wanted to experience everything,” she says. “And nothing about that has really changed.”

In high school, she was also on what she called a “LOVE mission.”

“It was my goal to make sure that no one felt unloved,” she says. “I wrote lots of letters to random classmates sharing what I liked about them, I went to graduation parties I was afraid wouldn’t have many attenders, and I bought anonymous gifts for people.”

After an eighth grade trip to the Holocaust Museum, she came across a Dalai Lama quote: “It is not enough to have compassion, you must act.” This became Shannon’s motto, and even drove her college choice, the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota, because of the school’s strong emphasis on Social Justice. Shannon got a degree in art education, then moved back to Starmont to teach high school art.

It was a great job, just not quite the right fit.

“I realized I loved organizing curriculum but teaching wasn’t my favorite,” she says.

So Shannon took an ad design job at a newspaper in Elkader, but shortly after she started, most of the folks in her office left to start another newspaper. Shannon stayed on. “This newspaper had been around for decades and I really didn’t want to see it end,” she says. The owners of the newspaper said, “You got this?”

“I had no idea what I was doing, but I still said, ‘Sure! I can do this!’” Shannon started running the place, hiring writers and designers – even her husband, Bryce.

It’s this can-do attitude that has helped Shannon grow creative communities across Northeast Iowa. Shannon and Bryce moved to Elkader in 2008, where they had their two sons, Lincoln and Felix (now 8- and 3-years-old). She ran the newspaper for two and a half years. Next up was a two-year stint with AmeriCorps, then two years running a retail shop in Elkader called Whimsy Market, while also volunteering with the Elkader Main Street Committee, and helping to organize the first Art in the Park in Elkader.

Then she landed a job that brought all her passions to one place: program coordinator for the Clayton County Extension office in Elkader. Her work focused on planning community events and youth programs like a makers’ space, lego robotics, youth after-school clubs, and more.

“I loved that job so much,” Shannon says. It was hard to conceive of leaving, but in 2016 a job opportunity arose: Executive Director at ArtHaus in Decorah.

“I basically said, ‘If you can make this job a lot like my current job, then I’m your gal,’” she says. The board was excited to have Shannon’s background in the arts, business-ownership, kids, and the region as a whole. They offered her the job, and she accepted.

“There is a great group of people on the board, and they give me the flexibility and freedom to do what I think will work best for ArtHaus,” she says.

That means promoting cool classes that are all about community. Folks can come together for a casual night of subversive cross-stitching, or head in for open studio time or join in on a singing or writing workshop.

“I want to make it easier for people to make their own art,” she says. “ And I want to make the arts community accessible for everyone.”

“I think I found my groove,” she says. “I love partnering with other groups to make things happen and reach sustainability,” she says. “ Then it’s my turn to say, ‘You got this.’”