The Luther College and Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce Luncheon is always a great way to welcome in a new year. 2019 marks the 30th annual collaborative event.
Guest speaker Reynolds W. Cramer ('91), President and CEO of Fareway Stores, Inc. talked about changes in the grocery industry, his family history with Fareway, and of course his memories of being a student on the Luther College campus.
The Lunchoen is a time we pause to say thanks. First, we thank to those that have served the DACC board for their commitment and leadership to the organization. This year the DACC has two outgoing board members. Brian Huinker, Group Benefit Partners, has served 6 years on the board of directors, including the role of president during the 2015 fiscal year. Dawn Muhlbauer, Decorah Bank & Trust, has also completed 6 years of service to the DACC board, including serving as board treasurer from 2013 to 2015.
The DACC also recognized Shannon Duncan, Manpower. Shannon served as the 2018 Chamber President and led the organization through a year of organizational changes, including taking over maintenance and management of the Visitor Center. The DACC also developed a new mission, vision and values under Shannon’s leadership.
We also take time to thank one of the many volunteers that make our community so special. DACC Board of Directors President, Joe Gavle recognized this 2019 Outstanding Community Service recipient, Mark Faldet. Mark was recognized for his years of dedication and service to the greater Decorah community.
Mark's nomination identified him as an unsung hero who has demonstrated exceptional and outstanding leadership through volunteerism for decades. Mark was a volunteer and board member for the Decorah Teen Center in the 1990s. He has lent his hand and expertise to countless other organizations, groups, and to our community at large - often looking to invest in ideas, and people that will continue to grow and strengthen our town and region for decades to come.
Recently, Mark worked with the Decorah Tree Board to plant hundreds of trees in Decorah. Mark has also been known for less structured volunteering, like his regular visits to nursing homes in the area. Others may have seen him volunteering during Nordic Fest with his homemade sweep pan in hand cleaning up post parade trash. You will find him hauling lumber and supplies to help build infrastructure for area events at ArtHaus, Live on Water Street, and more. Or clearing sidewalks, blocks at a time, on upper Broadway after a winter storm (where he's also lived for over 3 decades.) It is these countless gestures that add up over years of service that truly create a community.
Finally, a note on Mark’s career in Luther College admissions. Through his life's work, he has put the interest of young people first. Mark offers guidance as students navigate Luther's educational experiences. He also takes the extra time to make lifelong friends and builds connects through various networks.
The DACC commends the many leaders and volunteers that are silent contributors to the community. Today, we pay special recognition to Mark Faldet for his obvious pride and dedication to the Decorah community.
Well we did it folks; we made it through the holidays and on to a New Year. After eating my weight in potatoes like a good Norwegian, I’m ready to make some intentional changes for the coming year. I’m not the kind of person to make grand resolutions I can’t keep. So instead of setting myself up for failure, I try to make small changes to improve myself, my life, and my community. I really do believe that these small changes can add up for a significant net gain. I have decided to share my little list and invite you to take a look at what you can do to make our little corner of Iowa just a bit better.
1. Support the Arts
Northeast Iowa has a thriving artist community. Buying art locally contributes to the creative fabric of our community. Local art builds character and creates an atmosphere that makes people want to stay and put down roots. Purchasing local art supports small businesses and keeps our economy vibrant.
2. Send a Thank You Card
Everyone talks about how busy we are these days. And it does seem like the more time saving technology we acquire, the more ways we find to fill that time. Taking 5 minutes out of your day to write out a thank you note can be more impactful than you might think. I’m starting by challenging myself to write just one per week for a month.
3. Bring a Bag
Oh I tried so hard last year. My house is full of reusable tote bags that I just can’t seem to bring with me. So I’m tying a string around my finger and won’t forget because this year is different…for sure…I can feel it.
4. Attend a Class, Seminar, or Discussion
We have amazing resources in Decorah for thought provoking discussion and experiences. Luther College hosts dozens of speakers for events that are free and open to the public. The Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center invites the public to attend documentary screenings and discussions with local leaders. There are class opportunities offered through Vesterheim, ArtHaus, and Eagle Bluff Skill School. Learning is a lifelong process that I hope to continue for quite some time.
Working at the Chamber, I am amazed by the impact of our Visitor Center volunteers. In 2018 they put in over 300 volunteer hours to facilitate memorable visitor experiences. That is over 300 hours of time they gave to welcome people to town. This is exactly what makes Decorah the kind of place people want to visit again and again. They have inspired me to find my own volunteer calling in 2019.
If you are looking for volunteer opportunities check out Northeast Iowa Retired and Senior Volunteer Program or contact me at the Chamber. We can always use new friendly folks who are familiar with the area.
May your new year be filled with self improvement and the betterment of your community.