You may remember stories from our 25th Anniversary Staff Tour in the southern portion of our region back in July 2010. That two-day trip was such an amazing experience for us – what great people Southwest Initiative Foundation works with in ALL of our region’s communities!
Bright and early Oct. 3, staff boarded the bus again and toured the northern portion of our region. Stops included:
- Willmar Public Library to connect with the Willmar Early Childhood Initiative
- MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar
- Walking tour of Milan with the Milan Community Foundation
- Picnic lunch near Big Stone Lake in Ortonville with various community leaders
- New London’s Little Theatre to learn about the local YES! team
- Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center near Spicer
- Glacial Ridge Winery in Spicer for a wine tasting to wrap up the trip
We’ll share stories from various staff over the next few weeks, starting with the entry below from Jessica Eastling.
Greater Milan Initiative
By Jessica Eastling, Development Assistant
As I wandered through the old Milan school building on our staff’s tour of the City of Milan, memories of my own attendance in a small-town school like this one flashed through my mind. From the beautiful hardwood floors in the classrooms to the old black chalkboards still secured to the walls, to the trophies and photos arranged with pride, something about this building reminded me of my school days in little Winsted, MN.
In 2007, the elementary school closed, and a group of Milan enthusiasts called the Milan MOVERS, bought the building from the school district for $1. Quite the bargain. Milan’s community center is located in this building, which hosts a community exercise and fitness area, public meeting rooms, a second-hand store, and a licensed community kitchen.
As our tour took us down to the old gymnasium, our guide, Greater Milan Initiative Chair Ann Thompson, excitedly told us about a wedding reception that had been held in the gymnasium not that long ago. The look of excitement and pride on her face when she told this story about the reception, made it clear that she took an immense sense of pride in this building and in the Milan community in general. In fact, many times during the tour, she recalled many fond memories of her days attending school here.
I didn’t grow up anywhere near Milan, so why does this building bring back fond memories of my school days? Maybe it’s because there’s something about small towns that work with what they have and do the best that they can with it. Maybe it’s the amount of admirable dedication citizens of small towns have for their communities. The loss of the school building could have been a devastating hit to the community; but instead, a group of dedicated citizens with a vision banded together and made the best of a potentially bad situation.
The statement of, “Look around, everything we need is right here,” seems very fitting.