In its second day at a new location, the Falls Hunger Coalition last week was bustling with activity.
The food shelf recently relocated to Backus Community Center from the basement of the Forestland Annex building, allowing for more space to grow and accommodate new and existing clients.
“It’s been busy,” said FHC Director Ashley Hall, as she answered multiple calls within minutes of one another. “We’re really seeing an increased need.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with additional exposure, is likely for the uptick in clients, Hall said, adding several people who haven’t used services for years have re-signed up. “People are being educated on what is available for them,” she said.
Move to Backus
Relocating the organization has been in the works for a few years.
“When COVID happened and the Forestland building closed to the public, we knew we had to find a new location sooner than later,” she said.
The move to room 104 at Backus made sense. The community center already houses well-utilized food programs including Community Cafe and Ruby’s Pantry, making the addition of the Falls Hunger Coalition a good fit, Hall said.
“People are already familiar with this building,” she said. “We feel the food shelf is more accessible here than it was when it was in Forestland... It’s just a natural and ideal fit.”
A service for all
Hall said the Falls Hunger Coalition won’t turn anyone away. While there are income guidelines, if the services it provides are needed, people will be helped.
“If you’re in need, you can come get food,” she said. “We don’t turn people away.”
To keep up with the local demand, the Falls Hunger Coalition runs on donations and grant funding, Hall reminded the community. Because most of the food is purchased from the food bank in Grand Rapids, monetary donations go much further than food donations.
“I can buy of case of soup, which is 24-26 cans for $8 to $10, depending on what soup is,” she said. “There’s another government program that gives us free food... We’ll never turn food away, but we can make even a donation of $1 go a long way.”
As the weather turns colder and the pandemic progresses, Hall anticipates the need to increase. She hopes to continue pop-up food pantries into the winter months and is exploring options on how to successfully offer that.
In addition, food pantries could soon be available in a local school.
Littlefork-Big Falls school officials have committed to offer a food pantry within the school.
“It’ll be a room in the school and our food bank in Grand Rapids, Second Harvest, will give the school a freezer and fridge unit, shelving and $300 to get them started,” Hall said.
The pantry will be available for whoever is in need of food, she said.
“They’re meant to be emergency, and we’re here for them in the bigger picture,” she said, adding FHC serves as the fiscal agent. “Whatever the school chooses to do with it, is up to them... We will offer as much guidance as they need or want.”
‘Let us help’
Hall reiterated the Falls Hunger Coalition’s commitment to being a helper in the community.
“If people come to us for food and use what money they have on other bills, that is what we are here for,” she said. “Let us help you... Don’t be ashamed to come in here. This is what we’re here for.”
And, if anyone wants to help Hall, she said Falls Hunger Coalition is always in need of volunteers.
“We have many jobs for people to do, if they want to help out,” she said. “If they don’t want to be exposed to anyone because of COVID-19, we have a lot of jobs that don’t require them to be around anyone else.”
Three candidates for a judge position chambered in International Falls have been recommended to Gov. Tim Walz.
The Commission on Judicial Selection announced Wednesday it is recommending three candidates for consideration to fill the current vacancy in Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District. The position was left vacant with the Aug. 31 retirement of Judge Charles Leduc.
The governor has the constitutional responsibility to appoint judges and justices when vacancies arise on the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and district courts.
Frank serves as the chief assistant Beltrami County Attorney. He is responsible for prosecuting major felony crimes, supervising assistant county attorneys, and representing the County Attorney’s Office on the Beltrami County Drug Court.
He previously served as an assistant Beltrami County Attorney, prosecuting all levels of criminal offenses, and represented the county in child protection and other civil cases.
His community involvement includes serving on the Anishinabe Legal Services Corporation Board of Directors and Northwest Minnesota Legal Services. He also serves as a mentor in the Students First Mentor Program at Independent School District #31 in Bemidji.
Shermoen is an attorney and president at ShermoenJaksa Law PLLC, International Falls. In these roles, he manages the firm and handles a wide range of litigation and administrative law matters including plaintiff’s personal injury, wrongful death, and workers compensation cases.
Shermoen also has experience litigating a vast array of other disputes including contract, commercial, real estate, probate, family law, and criminal matters in federal, state, and tribal courts across Minnesota.
Previously, he was a managing partner at Shermoen & Jaksa PLLP, and a partner at Shermoen, LeDuc & Jaksa PLLP.
Shermoen’s community involvement includes serving on the board of the Rainy River Community College Foundation, the Koochiching County Law Library Board, and the Minnesota Association for Justice Diversity and Inclusivity Task Force. He has been a board member for the Volunteer Attorney Program, the International Falls Bass Championship, ISD 36l Blue Ribbon Panel, a volunteer for Junior Achievement, and a youth hockey coach.
Wimmer serves as general counsel for TruStar Federal Credit Union. In her role, she oversees all legal matters for the credit union’s six branches in northern Minnesota.
Previously, Wimmer operated her own solo practice law firm, Wimmer Law Office P.A. In that role, she handled both civil and criminal matters in several northern Minnesota counties. Wimmer also worked as a part time public defender for the state of Minnesota, where she handled all types of criminal and juvenile cases.
Her community involvement includes serving as a team member on the Borderland Substance Abuse Court, board member and treasurer of Friends Against Abuse Board of Directors, and volunteer with various programs in local schools. Wimmer was also a club director and coach for local Junior Olympic volleyball teams.
Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District consists of Koochiching County and 16 other counties in northwest Minnesota: Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, and Roseau.
For more information about the judicial selection process, please visit our website: https://mn.gov/governor/administration/judicialappointments/
A local business owner reports his company is having its best year on record.
Cody Holmestad, who co-owns Greentech Manufacturing with his wife Jessica, along with Ryan and Jaime Horne, said 2020 has been a year of growth and success for the company, located on Crescent Drive. The family owned and operated business manufactures outdoor furnaces known as Crown Royal Stoves, along with a full line of hydronic unit heaters and air handlers called Precision Metal Products.
“We’ve spent a good chunk of the past year working on our products to be more efficient and investing in new equipment,” Holmestad said. “We’ve had a great year.”
The co-owner explained the success 2020 stems back to 2015, when the Environmental Protection Agency adopted regulations for wood-burning appliances, and gave manufacturers five years to bring to market devices certified to meet those standards. The standards had two “steps”— an initial standard for 2015 and a tighter one that took effect in May.
The owners of Greentech made the decision to invest in the testing capabilities of their products.
“We didn’t want to take any risks – it can take a long time to prototype boilers to pass standards,” Holmestad said. “We invested in a state-of-the-art test booth within our facility to make sure we met and exceeded standards.”
The testing facility was installed by experts in the field, and for about a year, Holmestad said models were burning around the clock to make sure everything was in line with EPA standards.
“I literally lived (at Greentech) for about a year,” he said. “Others would take over from time-to-time, but I spent a lot of time here making sure everything was working and running like it should... We stuck with it. We had a lot of (people) involved.”
The investment was worth it. Greentech was one of only four companies to meet the stringent guidelines that took effect in May. To put the accomplishment in context, Holmestad said about 90 manufactures met guidelines back in 2015. The development knocked a lot of competition out of the market, he said.
“Our hard work paid off,” he said. “It’s extremely expensive to set up a test booth and it consumed countless hours, but it was worth it... What we have set up is just like an EPA lab. We can replicate tests they run.”
Efficiency and growth
Last year, Greentech completed its first overseas shipment of Crown Royal Stoves to the United Kingdom. When the company had to do EPA certifications for emission testing in the UK, Holmestad said they were able to utilize what they were going to do in the U.S.
“We passed (UK) standards and came back over to the U.S. to design standards over here,” he said. “For awhile, we were building two different designs, but knew the UK design was going to be transferred to the U.S.”
Crown Royal Stoves are 84-percent efficient, which in that market Holmestad said is nearly unheard of.
“Years ago, 70-percent efficient was hard to reach,” he said. “As of right now, we have the biggest and cleanest cord wood stove on the market, which is pretty cool.”
While Greentech plans continued expansion on U.S. soil, Holmestad said the company hopes to reach more European customers in the future, too.
“That is going to benefit us if the U.S. market does slow down, which will come, but we’ve had an increase every year for five years,” he said. “We do plan on growing our overseas market.”
Nationwide, Holmestad said the quality of Crown Royal Stoves continues to be noticed with more and more dealers contacting Greentech to carry the products. And looking out into the year ahead, Holmestad said plans of physical growth exist.
“We are running out of space in our shop,” he said. “We’re looking to possibly add on.”
The company also has plans to make annual investments in new equipment, which won’t replace employees, but make production more efficient.
“We’re proud of the money we are bringing into this community, as we sell about 90 percent of product out of state,” Holmestad said. “We want to grow and reinvest in this area. We have 40 employees now and we’re looking to add to our team. We have an awesome crew right now, it’s the best crew we’ve ever had. They’re willing to do whatever needs to be done... Our goal continues to lead the market and be one step ahead of where we need to be.”