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Tying a project together

Ali Wolbeck (left) and Taylor Eastlund, both seniors at Osakis High School, stand in front of the donated pop tabs they brought to the Ronald McDonald House. (Contributed)1 / 2
As members of FCCLA, Taylor Eastlund (left) and Ali Wolbeck, Osakis High School seniors, took on a tie blanket project. They will present their project, Tying in Love, at the FCCLA regional competition on Jan. 25. (Contributed)2 / 2

Last year, Taylor Eastlund and her family spent time at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester. Eastlund was a patient at the Mayo Clinic after she had to have a pelvic realignment surgery.

As a patient staying at the Ronald McDonald House, Eastlund, who is a senior at Osakis High School, received a tie blanket. Every child, along with their siblings, who checks into the house for the first time, receives a handmade fleece tie blanket to keep. The blankets, according to the Ronald McDonald House website, are a cozy comfort in a time of need.

When it came time to come up with a project as a member of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Eastlund knew what she wanted to do.

She and Ali Wolbeck, who is also a member of FCCLA and a senior at Osakis High School, partnered up for their Chapter Service Project. They named their project "Tying in Love."

The two set a goal to make 60 tie blankets. But they needed the help of the community, as well as students and staff at the school.

They made up a few posters and put them around the school as they not only needed donations to purchase the materials, they also needed help to make the blankets.

Three faculty members approached the girls and told them they would help with donations as they were members of Thrivent Financial. The three faculty members, Emily Wolf, Karen Kamrowski and Vicki Hinrichs each provided $250 from Thrivent, said the girls. In addition, Eastlund and Wolbeck approached the Osakis Lions Club and were provided with a $300 donation.

To date, the girls said they blew their original goal out of the water and ended up with 103 tie blankets.

"We brought 50 of them down to Rochester this past weekend," said Wolbeck. "Everybody who volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House was very grateful for the donation. They were surprised with the number of blankets and the amount of pop tabs we had."

Besides the tie blanket project, the girls decided to take on another project, a pop-tab fundraiser at the elementary school in Osakis.

The pop tab program is synonymous with the Ronald McDonald House as the program has been around for years. When pop tabs are donated, volunteers bring them to a local recycling facility in Rochester and exchange the aluminum for cash. All proceeds directly support the house.

Eastlund and Wolbeck chose the elementary school because they knew the kids would like a fun, friendly competition. They decided whichever class donated the most pop tabs would receive an ice cream party to celebrate.

"We knew they would be motivated by ice cream," said Eastlund.

"In our first week, the kids had already donated 60 pounds of pop tabs," said Wolbeck. "I guess we didn't think they'd be that motivated but they sure were."

Eastlund and Wolbeck said they didn't set a goal with the pop tabs, but were surprised by the numbers. Their first round of collection ended on Jan. 11 and they ended up with more than 150 pounds of pop tabs.

Wolbeck said Joey Andreasen's second grade class was the winner with 26.84 pounds of pop tabs.

On Jan. 25, the two seniors will present their tie blanket and pop tab project at the regional FCCLA competition. If they receive enough points to win, they will advance to the state competition and from there, they can move on to nationals.

The two explained that there are 50 different categories they will be judged on based on their display and oral presentation, including display appearance, goals and mission, project scope, cooperative efforts/partners, project impact, uniqueness, organization and delivery, body language, clothing choice and more.

Both girls said they are sad this will be their last year in FCCLA as it has been very rewarding for both of them.

"We just love helping people," said Eastlund, adding that being a member of FCCLA allowed them to do that with their community service projects.

"It's so rewarding being in FCCLA," said Wolbeck. "It's been so much fun."

Eastlund has been a member of FCCLA for five years and Wolbeck has been a member for four years.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242
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