Here are some of the other top storylines from 2017 in Douglas County. Voters reject Brandon-Evansville school plan The Brandon-Evansville School District operates in two aging buildings. The state Department of Education recommends building one school for all grades in one town or the other.
The Jingle Bells Foundation raised about $80,000 with its 69th annual telethon on Saturday, Dec. 9, at the Geneva Christian Center. More than 40 acts performed throughout the evening as viewers called in pledges and groups presented checks from fundraisers for the foundation. The foundation raises money for food and gift baskets that were distributed on Sunday, Dec. 10.
In the midst of accusations of fake news, bias and agendas, newspapers don't always do enough to highlight why they remain important. So as an example of how newspapers still make an impact, here is the story of how the Echo Press saved the taxpayers of Douglas County money. In the fall of 2016, reporter Celeste Edenloff covered a meeting of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. These meetings aren't always exciting, but they are important, and covering them is a staple of good local journalism.
A fund has been established to assist the Garfield couple that lost their home in a fire last weekend. Contribution to the benefit account for Robert and Linda Guptill can be made through Blackridge Bank near Viking Plaza Mall in Alexandria. Robert Guptill said he was spraying a sealant on a plumbing leak in the basement of the home when the sealant ignited on Sunday, Aug. 19. The home went up in flames quickly and was a total loss. Their pet Chihuahua also died in the fire. Guptill said the house was not insured.
A march in support of immigrants and in opposition to the travel restrictions ordered by the Trump administration is planned in Alexandria. Anyone interested is asked to convene at the Big Ole statue in Central Park on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 5:30 p.m. The march will proceed to the Alexandria Public Library. President Donald Trump's administration moved last week to restrict the entry of refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries into the United States.
Music and laughter could be heard inside the Runestone Museum on Friday, Jan. 27, as the inaugural "Big Ole — Little Lena Ball," a father and daughter dance, took place. Most children were between the ages of 3 and 11, girls and boys alike. Many of the girls wore corsages on their arms, which they made at the "Create Your own Corsage" booth. When the children tired of dancing, some rested while watching a movie in the theater area and others explored the Storyland interactive exhibit on temporary display at the museum.
A grant program aimed at helping West Central Minnesota communities fill jobs and retain workers is taking a new approach and looking for new ideas. West Central Initiative, which includes Douglas County among the nine counties it serves, will provide grants to nonprofit organizations or units of government — including schools — on programs that will address recruitment and retention.
Snow and cold have disrupted a lot of lives this winter, including the lives of people who make a point to donate blood. That has led the American Red Cross, which supplies blood for Douglas County Hospital and numerous other health care providers across Minnesota, to put out an emergency call for blood and platelet donors. "The shortage is truly at a crisis level," said Jill Urke, director of laboratory services for Douglas County Hospital and Alexandria Clinic.
Alexandria Area High School is helping fill a pressing need in the area through a program that allows students to become certified nursing assistants. The program was born with the construction of the new Alexandria high school, which opened in 2014, that coincided with a shift to an academy focus that allows students to take classes that will start them down a career path.
It has become an Alexandria Area Arts Association tradition to help ring in the new year with an improv show that's guaranteed to be new. This year's show will have another new wrinkle - more stage time for AAAA's own improv team. The Alexandria Area Arts Association will host its fifth annual Theater Off the Cuff Improvaganza at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31. Theater Off the Cuff includes AAAA associate director David Christman and stage partner Colin Hearn.