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It's Our Turn: The power of community

Growing up, I always knew that one day I would pack up my bedroom in my childhood home, load up my car and set off for a new adventure. When I imagined doing so, it was always to move to a city, to follow the hustle and bustle, to be where things happened.

A small town was never part of the plan. Moving farther away from the Twin Cities was never part of the plan. Alexandria, being a small town and located two and a half hours from the Cities, was certainly not part of the plan.

But plans change. A little over two years ago, I made the choice to move to this community in order to be closer to my boyfriend, Brandon, who had secured a full-time job here. I didn't have a job lined up, didn't know my way around town and didn't know a single person (apart from Brandon). I thought we would maybe live here a year or two before relocating and settling down elsewhere.

What I didn't expect was to fall in love with a little community in west-central Minnesota. I didn't expect to be taken in by the downtown charm, the hundreds of lakes or the beauty of the winters. I didn't expect to buy a little hobby farm and start a career at a community newspaper.

Before living here, I never thought those things mattered to me. I thought living in a city would be glamourous and exciting, and living in the country would be the opposite. But I was wrong. My life today isn't less because I live in a small town. In fact, this lifestyle offers more for me personally. I have room to breathe, room to grow, room to be the person I want to be. I see now that city living would have smothered me.

But more than the county charm or the scenery, it's the people here that have made this place home. I love that I can walk into a downtown coffee shop and run into numerous people I know. I love that I can call up a store and have someone I'm familiar with answer the phone. There's something special about living in a place like that versus a place where you're surrounded by strangers more often than not.

I'm often asked if it was hard to adjust to living here. My answer is no, it wasn't. But I think a large part of that answer has to do with my job. As a reporter, I was forced to jump into being involved in our county. I didn't have a choice when it came to getting to know the people that make up this community because I often needed to talk to a variety of different people, depending on the story I was writing.

Over the past two years, I've interviewed countless people from every part of this community. Some of those people have turned into friends. Others I haven't crossed paths with again. Some are just familiar faces when I am out and about.

But by sharing their lives with me, they've all helped me to feel like I have a place here, like I belong in this community. They've all made this once foreign place feel a little more like home with each day that passes.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

(320) 763-1233
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