More than 30 show up for ‘Town 101’ collaboration

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

More than 30 people showed up at the “Town 101” meeting in Little Falls.

Led by Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem and Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Executive Director Kristine VonBerge, Wednesday’s meeting was held for area organizations to talk about what they are doing and how to collaborate to make Little Falls a better community.

Those at the meeting represented the city, Healthy Communities Collaborative, St. Gabriel’s Hospital, the Morrison County Historical Society and Charles Weyerhaeuser Museum, the Fair Board, Hands of Hope, Employment Enterprises Inc., the Carnegie Library Board, the Charles Lindbergh Historic Site and Sister City Committee, the Little Falls Area Recreational Complex Task Force, Mayor’s Youth Task Force and the Little Falls Business Association, St. Francis Music Center, Great River Arts Association, Central Minnesota Oasis, Public Health, Pine Grove Zoo and more.

VonBerge said she was looking at a grant request to hire a facilitator to come in and help the group put everyone’s ideas on the playing field and bring those ideas together, all working together.

Another resource, she said, may be a class from St. Cloud State that may use the city as a project, working with organizations on a plan for what the city wanted to portray and attract.

VanRisseghem also shared with the group that several months ago, she and VonBerge, Gabrielle Meyer and Adam Fjeld, had created a video and sent it to “Town 180.” Little Falls made it to round two and videos were made with 10 city residents to send in.

Should Little Falls win, and it’s in the top 10 to date, a reality TV show would be created around the city, for an “extreme makeover” of sorts.

Some of the show’s producer credits include Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Amazing Race and Survivor.

“I was pleased at the amount of people that showed up and felt that the majority of key players in the community were there. They proved to me what I have been seeing in Little Falls these past few years is true — for the first time in the 30 years that I have been working in the community, we have a group of people that have the knowledge and passion to achieve great things for Little Falls,” said VanRisseghem. “This group has more ideas and ways and means to achieve them than I have ever seen before. And they are already moving forward with them. How wonderful is that!”

VonBerge said, “Teamwork, partnership, group effort, alliance, cooperation, relationship — I saw the desire for collaboration! These people want to work together and build a vision for Little Falls.”

The turnout was beyond her expectations, VonBerge said. “Because everyone is very busy and to fit a meeting in to be a part of multiple groups takes time that is valuable to people.”

The next Town 101 meeting will probably be held in February, allowing time for a grant for a facilitator to be written and when things slow down, said VanRisseghem.