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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Alumni Impact: McLeod For Tomorrow's 5th Annual WinterFest


Do you or your family have a case of cabin fever?  Do you want to find something different to do this weekend?  Alumni from McLeod For Tomorrow have just the event to get rid of those winter blues and celebrate all that winter has to offer.  McLeod for Tomorrow’s 5th Annual WinterFest will be held this Saturday, February 4 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, MN.  This event features dogsled rides, alpacas, ice skating, the U of M Rapture Center, the opportunity to meet the characters from Frozen and much more!  The day runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and admission and most activities are FREE!  They will have food and beverages available for a small cost.  All money raised from the event benefits the McLeod for Tomorrow leadership program and was created by the program’s alumni.  

McLeod For Tomorrow (MFT) is a county bridging leadership program that began in 2008 in central Minnesota.  Over the course of nine months, participants visit the various communities of McLeod County to develop leadership skills, learn about the different communities and county as a whole, and build relationships with fellow participants.  Christy Christensen, Class of 2011, shared that getting to know people who want to do things in their community was one of the highlights of the program.  Those relationships and networks have led people to join the program such as Al Koglin, Class of 2013.  Al said that he had heard good things from others who went through the program and was not disappointed when he joined the class.  He has actually sent his own staff through the program and plans on sending more in the future.

Both Al and Christy found that through the program they built relationships that helped them want to do more for their communities.  This desire to help strengthen their communities led them to work with others to create WinterFest, an annual day of fun that celebrates the fun that Minnesota winters have to offer.  Now in its fifth year, the event continues to grow.  “There is nothing better than seeing 150 people one year and then 2,500 people the next,” said Christensen who serves as the Chair of the WinterFest Committee.

As WinterFest has grown, alumni from MFT continue to join in the work and help support the event.  Koglin said that working on this event has allowed he and others to use many of the skills that they learned during the program.  “There are so many things that I have taken away from the program and used in my day to day life.”  Christensen feels that alumni continue to be engaged with WinterFest because "there is something about being part of an event that means something to the community.”  He shared that it can be powerful to see all members of the community regardless of their background coming together to enjoy the day.

If you are in the Hutchinson area this weekend check out this great event!  Stay up to date with event details by checking their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/McleodForTomorrow/.   If you would like to learn more about the McLeod for Tomorrow Leadership Program visit their website.

Do you have an event or story to share?  Contact Christy Kallevig, Alumni Program and Cohort Coordinator at kallevig@umn.edu.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Read to Lead


Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
4 part ONLINE book discussion
March 7, March 21, April 4, and April 18
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. (CST)
Register here

We are excited to offer a new opportunity for alumni and friends of the Center for Community Vitality.  The Read to Lead Series gives participants the chance to explore books that are discussed during our various Extension programs.  Over the course of four online gatherings you will explore sections of the book and discuss ideas with others who are excited about making things happen in their community.  The final session will feature a presentation by an Extension Educator on a specific idea of topic from the book.

Our first selection is Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block.  We have all seen our communities become divided or fragmented based on specific issues or work.  We have also seen people become more disconnected from their community.  When this happens we lose out on new ideas and the gifts that those individuals bring.  Peter Block explores how to build community by seeing the possibilities that exist.  He helps us look at ways to create openings for authentic communities and gives real strategies for how to make this happen.

Beth Kallestad, Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator, will join the fourth session to lead a discussion on the power of the invitation.  She will provide strategies to help you open the door to working and learning with others in your community.

Participation in the book discussions is FREE!  You can find Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block at your local library, book store, and through online retailers.

Make sure to register today!  Registration closes February 21, 2017. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Vibrant Economies, Vibrant Communities



Economic development in communities does not happen because one person says that they are going to “do” economic development.  It happens because many community players come to the table to work together to strengthen the local business economy.  University of Minnesota Extension’s Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) Strategies Program is here to help community leaders understand the needs and concerns of local businesses.  By understanding and addressing common business concerns, the community ensures a healthier future for itself.  The BR&E Strategies Program focuses on short term and long term objectives that help your community address issues today while planning for the future.  Extension offers BR&E courses online and in person to help community development professionals and community leaders understand the principles of BR&E and the processes involved.  This course will prepare you to lead a BR&E effort in your community and provide you with access to valuable resources.  You can currently register for course offerings in 2017 by visiting http://z.umn.edu/1bjd!  An in person class will begin on January 31 and the next online class will start on April 5.  Register by January 13 to take advantage of this great program!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Exploring Communities Using Minnesota Compass


The 2017 calendar presents us with 365 days to make a difference in our communities.   A great tool to help us on this journey is Minnesota Compass.  Minnesota Compass is a project led by the Wilder Foundation that gives everyone in Minnesota common information on a variety of social topic areas.  The information is not just statewide data, but is broken down into regional and county specific data.  Data is also presented for larger cities.  Minnesota Compass provides the opportunity to look at data and trends within your county and region to better understand what is really happening and how you compare to other areas of the state.  The data and trends analysis available to users can help you work with elected officials, write grants to support work in your community, or engage leaders in conversations about changes happening in your area.  Take some time to explore the great data that is available through their website as well as following @MNCompass on Twitter and MN Compass on Facebook.  It is a resource you won’t want to ignore as you do your work in 2017.

Photo credit: Flickr user Noga

Friday, December 23, 2016

Season's Greetings from the Center for Community Vitality


All of us at University of Minnesota Extension's Center for Community Vitality wish you a happy holiday season!  We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with you in 2016 and look forward to what is yet to come in the new year.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Changes in Business, Changes in Community


Two of every three businesses in the U.S. are owned by a baby boomer who is looking to turn over the keys to the next generation in the coming years.  That means change is inevitable in the landscape of Minnesota's Main Streets and business communities.   The recent article "Turning over the keys to rural business," from the Winter 2016 edition of Vital Connections, discusses the challenges and opportunities that are presented through this transition.  Bruce Schwartau, Extension's Community Economics Program Leader, indicates that there will not only be changes in community businesses but also changes in community leadership.  Read the whole article HERE and share your thoughts on what you are seeing in your communities.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Happy Election Day!

Make sure to take time and exercise your right to vote.  In case you need help finding your polling location, visit the MN Secretary of State's poll finder website.  "I Voted" stickers are the hottest accessory this time of year!
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