GRAA benefits as kids are inspired to move from ‘Me’ to ‘We’

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

Swanville students worked to clear an area at the great River Arts Center in Little Falls, after a wall was demolished to make the area larger. The students cleared the debris, salvaged nails and screws from the wood so it could be reused and hauled the debris out. Pictured above are (from left): senior Corey Poland and sophomores Johnny Gill, Sam Mettler and Carter Loven.

Swanville students worked to clear an area at the great River Arts Center in Little Falls, after a wall was demolished to make the area larger. The students cleared the debris, salvaged nails and screws from the wood so it could be reused and hauled the debris out. Pictured above are (from left): senior Corey Poland and sophomores Johnny Gill, Sam Mettler and Carter Loven.

The Great River Arts Association in Little Falls is in renovation mode, and one wall was removed in the arts center last week to open the space.

Inspired by “We Day” in early October, Swanville students were looking for volunteer projects and to turn “Me” into “We” after learning how they could accomplish much together.

Their principal, Sheryl Johnson, happens to be a board member of the GRAA and offered this opportunity to the students.

After the wall had been demolished, eight students worked with several adults for a couple of hours Wednesday to clear the debris, salvaging nails, screws and boards for future use.

Swanville sophomore Matt Laliberte, hauling out sheetrock.

Swanville sophomore Matt Laliberte, hauling out sheetrock.

Johnson said kids want to volunteer; they simply need to know where those opportunities are.

She was grateful for the positive reception school staff had in letting the students leave class that day, despite the fact that the entire school would be let out Friday for the Upsala Swanville Area (USA) football game at the Fargodome.

Ron Bieganek, another member of the GRAA Board, said the help the students gave was “wonderful.”

“I think they’ll learn that if they give to the community, the community will want to give back to youth projects, too,” he said. Bieganek treated the kids to lunch at Taco John’s to thank them for their work.

Scott Wonderlich, president of the GRAA Board, appreciated the help as well, saying that once the center’s renovation is complete, and even before then, the intent is for it to become a hub of activity in downtown Little Falls.

He said the Board wants to bring its dinner theatre performances into the space and will work with its neighbors the A.T. Black and White and Zylka’s Red Bull Bar to bring folks into downtown.

Swanville students helping sort supplies at the Great River Arts Center Wednesday were (from left): seniors Danielle Sutton, Bethany Schmitz and Ashley Cook.

Swanville students helping sort supplies at the Great River Arts Center Wednesday were (from left): seniors Danielle Sutton, Bethany Schmitz and Ashley Cook.

The center will be used for more than just the arts, but for business meetings, and even small weddings.

“We see this as an economic development engine for downtown,” said Wonderlich.

There is no deadline for the entire project to be completed, as the GRAA Board looks for ways to accomplish its goals and ways to pay for it. “It’s a work in progress,” said Jill Moore, executive director for the GRAA.

She said the sheetrock along the north wall will be removed, revealing the brick behind it — brick manufactured in Little Falls long ago.

The carpet will be removed with hard flooring put in place.

The center will be headquarters during the Nov. 9 “Art Crawl” portion of the Little Falls Pub Crawl event and its “Faces of Morrison County” display begins in mid-November, so the demolition of the wall and the clean-up needs to be completed soon.

“No pressure, right?” Moore said with a smile.

Those who wish to help in the renovation at the Great River Arts Center, may call (320) 632-0960 or email info@greatart.org.

Bethany Schmitz, one of the Swanville students working, said We Day was “fun,” while Ashley Cook wished they could return next year. As seniors, they don’t have that opportunity.

One of the speakers at We Day that had an impact, said Schmitz, Cook and senior Danielle Sutton, was a 10-year-old girl. She talked about starvation in Africa, and what she was doing to help.

 

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