211 is a 24/7 Link to Assistance


211 is a 24/7 Link to Assistance


The COVID-19 global pandemic has extracted its toll on many fronts – socially, emotionally, professionally, financially – and many more.  

Service agencies experienced COVID’s brunt, too. But there’s one thing about Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley. Its agencies are abundant, sometimes to the point where bewilderment could likely set in while sorting through potential resources.

Good news. Prophetically, a one-stop call network known as 211 was launched through United Way St. Croix Valley ahead of the pandemic. 211’s network in Wisconsin has grown to eight collaborating organizations offering their services, from the St. Croix Valley to Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Menasha, Milwaukee, Wausau, and Wisconsin Rapids.

With or without 211, calls for help and assistance have significantly increased over the last 12+ months. Imagine the region’s most vulnerable and their struggles to cope with loneliness, food insecurity, mental health services, elder care, or housing assistance and shelters. COVID doesn’t discriminate. Add young individuals and families, successful business people, educators, elected officials, and retirees to the impacted list.

Help starts with 211. A call connects individuals to literally thousands of nonprofit and government services in the St. Croix Valley and beyond. Best of all, personal assistance is available through a friendly, understanding voice 24/7/365. A search through 211 services yields response topics on aging and disability services, child and youth, utilities, transportation, health and dental, and employment, along with education and income assistance. 211 associates offer assistance in over 180 languages.

There are many ways to get connected. Simply call 211 from a cellular phone or landline anywhere in Wisconsin. Dial 877.947.2211 if you have a non-715 area code or if the 211 option does not work. Or, text your zip code to 898211. A Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. online chat line is another option. It uses a first name and zip code to get the chat started. Another online option is available at https://211wisconsin.communityos.org/. There’s a searchable database using a key word(s) as well as guided and advanced searches, too.

211 is not the 911 emergency number, and it’s not the all-knowing 411 ‘information please’ number, meaning 211 can’t help with a cat stuck in a tree or hours of operation, take-out specials, or movie start times.

Residents in the St. Croix Valley may wish to preview 211’s options ahead of a problem. And the problem does not have to be COVID-related. Refer 211 to a neighbor or family member who may be in need. Keep the number top-of-mind. It’s a great resource.

Here’s to United Way St. Croix Valley for its vision in launching the 211 network. The local United Way website says it advances the common good by creating opportunities for all. It focuses on projects supporting education, financial stability and health — the building blocks for a good quality of life. It works with businesses, individuals and nonprofits to solve community problems in St. Croix, Pierce, Polk and Burnett counties.

United Way St. Croix Valley responds to local community needs. The 211 network reflects a solution to those needs.

Batter Up! Fish Fry Season in the Valley


Batter Up! Fish Fry Season in the Valley


Umpires will soon start baseball and softball games with their traditional call, “Batter Up!”

A late winter season involving the term ‘batter’ arrived in the St. Croix Valley ahead of balls and gloves – fish fry season. OK, it’s really a Wisconsin classic, but residents of the St. Croix Valley can hold their own, whether it’s measured by selection, side orders, price, or per capita consumption. Pound for pound, valley residents enjoy their fish fries. Hot dog eating champ Joey Chestnut may not stand a chance against a local favorite when it comes to a plate of fish.

How did the tradition come to be? One columnist attributes Wisconsin’s fish fries to three things, religion, Prohibition, and easy access to freshwater fish. Ancestors from Germany and Poland arriving in Wisconsin took the practice of abstaining from eating warm-blooded meat on Fridays during Lent with them. Their alternative choice was fish. Prohibition in the U.S. banned the production, transportation, sale, and yes, consumption, of alcoholic beverages from 1920-1933. Saloon and innkeepers soon introduced inexpensive fish dinners to draw crowds on Fridays. Name the fish – bluegill, perch, and walleye – Wisconsin had them in abundance for the Friday feasts.

And the side orders? Those innkeepers better have many of the following: coleslaw, potatoes – normally French fries, but some offer hash browns, fried potatoes, and even baby reds, dinner rolls, and condiments, starting with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

2021 fish fries are increasingly important, akin to a religious miracle as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cast a dark cloud. Even with PPP assistance and We’re All In grants, bars and restaurants in the St. Croix Valley and across this great divide could use a boost. And who says fish with all the fixings is limited to Friday? Many of the restaurants have pivoted to offer take-out orders, including reserve parking stalls that rival NASCAR pit stops. Give take-out a try and start your own tradition.

If a beer or glass of wine go hand-in-hand with fish fries, then hungry and thirsty consumers may wish for a double play of sorts. There are plenty of micro breweries and wineries in the St. Croix Valley for residents to get out of their comfort zones with a new bottled or canned product. Look for an American Gothic IPA, French Toast Ale, or North of 8 Pilsner and pair with the take-out order. Brewers are creative. Comfort zones may become a thing of the past.

Challenges are ahead even with the rollout of vaccines to battle the pandemic. Batter Up! Let’s give COVID-19 the one-two punch in the St. Croix Valley with an old fashioned fish fry and beverage of your choice. From Main Streets to brewhouses, we got this.

Nothing Says Valentine’s Day Like $21.8 Billion


Nothing Says Valentine’s Day Like $21.8 Billion


Due to the global pandemic, Valentine’s Day 2021 will look far different than in the past. But a pandemic won’t stop love birds from dropping almost $22 billion (with a “b”) in the U.S. to mark the occasion. As a reminder, consumer spending accounts for around 70 percent of the U.S. economy, sometimes referred to as gross domestic product, or GDP. With the economy still leaking oil, $22 billion represents a good jump-start. Attention St. Croix Valley residents, please continue to spend your money on candy, cards, flowers, jewelry, or an evening out, but do it locally!

The multi-billion dollar estimate for Valentine’s Day comes from the National Retail Federation, an organization forecasting consumer expenditures on the likes of back-to-school, Halloween, and holiday shopping after Thanksgiving. NRF’s estimate for 2021 is well below the forecasted $27.4 billion in spending on the 2020 pre-pandemic occasion. Ch-Ching.

And now for the juicy parts of Valentine spending. NRF predicts the average expense for romantics is almost $165.00 per person, down from 2020’s spending of around $196.00. For comparison, just ten years ago, in 2011, $116.00 per person was spent. Despite the 2020 health hiccup, the elevator was trending upward very nicely. The average expected spending for men is forecast at $231.00 while women expect to spend $101.00.

More juice (sweet treats, floral scents, and the aroma of food). More money will be spent on candy in 2021 than the previous year, and at 54 percent planning to make this purchase, it is the most popular choice. Thirty-six percent of NRF’s survey respondents said they plan to make flowers their gift of choice. That’s down from 37 percent from 2020. The pandemic means fewer nights out. Twenty-four percent are planning an evening out in 2021, compared to 34 percent last year. NRF says the 24 percent is the lowest in the survey’s history. An estimated 41 percent say they plan a special dinner or celebration at home. That still equates to consumer spending. And keep take-out in mind. The local restaurants would appreciate it. Most suffered throughout 2020.

Pets are rarely overlooked on any special day, so Valentine’s will be a big day for them as well. NRF says $1.3 billion will be spent on the furry little or big ones. This is more than the $1.1 billion spent on co-workers and the $1.0 billion spent on the mysterious “other”.

Where to shop? NRF says 38 percent of it will be done online, followed by 29 percent at department stores, 28 percent at discount stores, or 17 percent at both specialty stores and local/small businesses. A challenge is hereby made to St. Croix Valley romantics – small shops and businesses deserve at least a 25 percent share.

And finally the best news. Almost 75 percent of people marking Valentine’s Day in 2021 feel it’s important to celebrate due to the global pandemic. Celebrants can expect all kinds of goodies, and flowers, and cards, even if they are handmade or corny. Aside from altered plans and expenditures, let’s make Valentine’s Day in the St. Croix Valley extra special this year.

Into the Future, not Back


Into the Future, not Back


December’s holidays were marked with the return of movie favorites on cable TV. The sci-fi classic, Back to the Future, was enjoyed one more time.

For the benefit of young adults who completely missed Back to the Future on the big screen or tablet screen in more modern time, Michael J. Fox plays 17-year old Marty McFly who travels back to 1955 from 1985 by way of a DeLorean automobile time machine created by McFly’s odd scientist friend, Dr. Emmett Brown. Sidebar: When Marty learns of Dr. Brown’s invention, he asks, “Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine…out of a DeLorean?” And Doc replies, “If you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” The plot thickens when Marty crosses paths with the younger versions of his parents. He must make sure they meet and fall in love or he will not exist upon his hopeful return to 1985.

Marty’s path also crosses with a younger Doc Brown who has trouble believing someone traveled 30-years back in time as a result of his own invention. Doc asks Marty, “Tell me, Future Boy, who’s President of the United States in 1985?” Marty replies, “Ronald Reagan.” Doc laughs, “Ronald Reagan? The actor? Ha! Then who’s Vice President, Jerry Lewis?” As Marty explains the details of the DeLorean’s flux capacitor, Doc realizes he’s telling the truth. Doc had outlined the flux capacitor on the same day Marty arrived in 1955. And the adventures begin.

So, what would happen if Marty McFly traveled into the St. Croix Valley’s future from 2021 to, say, 2051? Great Scott! For starters, there’d be 1.21 gigawatts of amazement. Or in the words of Marty McFly, “Sounds pretty heavy.” Doc Brown may repeat himself with, “There’s that word again, ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” Sidebar: Weight has nothing to do with it.

It’s 2051 in the St. Croix Valley. What does it look like? What has been learned in 30-years? How big did the quaint cities in the ’valley get? We shall soon see. The global pandemic showed that working from home was possible. Employees could set their own hours and schedules within reason, following the corporate edict, work from anywhere, at any time, forever. Brick and mortar structures would soon go the way of Saab vehicles, which are deeply missed by some. More time at home in the ’valley led to spikes in births, which led to growing enrollment pressures for school districts. Savvy superintendents deployed the so-called year-round hybrid model of learning, now accepted as the norm. Some school sports are offered twice a year, and to no one’s surprise, St. Croix Valley teams win many championships in the newly-aligned Twin Cities Winnesota Conference. Take that, Edina! Take that East Ridge!

As for roads and other infrastructure, most were deemed obsolete. This included the St. Croix Crossing, which opened in 2017. It was designated as the 12th wonder of the world following the pandemic of 2020. Remember Doc Brown’s foreshadowing, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Sidebar: OK, maybe the local ones.

Regardless of traveling into the future, St. Croix’s destiny will take careful planning and vision. The charm of St. Croix Valley communities still exists well into the future. The St. Croix River is still a protected natural resource. The St. Croix Valley is still a special corner of the world, but it’ll take hard work and difficult decisions. The ’valley consistently adapts to new advances in technology. Business, industry, and residents here enjoy high livability indexes, a modern term for quality of life, whether it’s 2021 or 2051.  

The St. Croix Valley may be wise to follow Doc Brown’s mantra, “If you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything.”

Here’s to our future.

2021 St. Croix Valley Resolutions


2021 St. Croix Valley Resolutions


2020 is nearly in the rear view mirror of life. Farewell. Goodbye. Adieu.

Make no mistake, 2020 had its rewarding moments. A few. They may come to mind momentarily. Births. Engagements. Weddings and civil unions. Anniversaries. New business incorporations. Graduations. New jobs. Promotions. A new or newer car. A first apartment. A home.

If a favorite team was victorious in professional football’s ‘big game’ or baseball’s world series in 2020, then congratulations. Fame and celebrations are fleeting. Many will recall champions being crowned, but perhaps a majority will be vague on the identity of the winning teams. The commercials were hilarious. Weren’t they? The memory bank suddenly short circuited.

In March a pandemic gripped the globe. No need to plow old ground. Business, industry, government, education, and healthcare all turned on their collective sides. One headline in early December read, ‘July is the new January’ meaning most workers typically use their remaining vacation or personal days around Christmas and return after New Year’s Day. In 2021, the most realistic plan to return in-person is July 1st. Fingers crossed.

High speed bandwidth at home and work has been stretched. Schooling may occur at a kitchen table or couch. Or in bed. Remote workers appear dressed up on screen, but come on, Green Bay Packer PJ’s? The pandemic proved once and for all that digital access is a necessity. And in 2020 the term ‘zoom’ took on a new meaning beyond ‘to move or travel very quickly’. Oh to have been part of zoom’s public stock offering a while back.

The St. Croix Valley in Wisconsin is full of resilient people, businesses and institutions. A hardy lot we are. And a pandemic brought out the best. Kindness, generosity, and volunteering. When bars and restaurants closed, community members responded with take-out orders. More than one elected or appointed official heard it from both sides of arguments. Public and private healthcare personnel stepped up, many working extra hours, seven days a week. Teachers, instructors and professors learned new delivery techniques.

Traditional New Year Resolutions are suddenly passe. A new diet; more exercise; more family time. Raise the bar. For 2021, the St. Croix Valley hereby resolves to lead the way – starting in neighborhoods, in communities, in classrooms, and with business, industry, and civic organizations.

Borrowing a couple lines from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during a daily COVID update last March, he said, “There are two great New York expressions that I use all the time. Anything I build in New York always has two expressions on it. One, Excelsior, says it all. Ever upwards, ever upwards. Aspirational. We can be better, we will be better. We’re going to aim higher. We’re going to improve ourselves. Excelsior, our state motto. It’s on the seal behind me. Excelsior. And the other expression is e pluribus unum, out of many one. Unity, unity. You put those two things together, it says it all. Aim high, do better, believe you can do better, be optimistic. And the way you get there is through unity and togetherness and cooperation and through mutuality and community.”

Challenges are ahead in the St. Croix Valley and across this great nation. But we got this!

Happy 2021 in the St. Croix Valley.

The Grinch Shops ‘Small’


The Grinch Shops ‘Small’


At least one elusive Grinch in the St. Croix Valley was puzzled to see his likeness on display in Big Box retail stores on the first weekend of October. Inside the Big Box, the Grinch action figure was joined by the Jolly Old Elf, a reindeer named Rudolph, a beagle named Snoopy, a Nutcracker Soldier, and a family of snow people, formerly referred to as snowmen (women). All were there a full month (28 days) before Halloween. The Grinch was particularly disappointed because leaves and pine needles were holding tight to branches and Halloween costumes were still marked at full price.

Along came Halloween and a time change, which gave the forward-thinking Big Boxes one additional hour to usher in even more holiday surprises. Trees, mangers, lights, wreaths, cards, and ceramic villages all awaited early bird consumers. Poof. By November 2nd, there was little or no trace that Halloween 2020 ever occurred, although this celebration enjoyed a strong run going back to mid-August arrivals at the same Big Box locales. Grinch missed out on the blowout prices on costumes. Who needs another ill-fitting likeness anyway?

Before there are mad dashes to the regional malls or online cyber deals, Mr. Grinch is hoping for a safe, two-dessert Thanksgiving on November 26th. Appropriate guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control shall be observed. There’s plenty of time for a bumper-to-bumper shopping experience at malls or the point-and-click online experience according to our antagonist, Grinch.

Rest assured, Grinch will venture out for holiday shopping. It may start and end in Whoville. What? Grinch is a hometown booster it seems. First conceived in 2010, an event called Small Business Saturday is a national promotion relying on local supporters to encourage residents to shop in their respective communities. Amateur historians and economists like Grinch recall that in 2010 the world was mired in a deep economic decline, sometimes referred to as The Great Recession. Small Business Saturday worked in its inaugural year and continues to gain momentum.

Shopping ‘small’ makes a whopping impact. Local spending in the U.S. on Small Business Saturday last year was estimated at $19.6 billion, with a ‘b’. And with a global pandemic front and center in 2020, the need to support local shops is imperative. In short, fewer businesses on most main streets are opening or are staying open.

Small businesses and retailers are the foundation of successful, vibrant communities. Through grit and determination, they find ways to persevere. The neighborhood deli, bar and grill, yoga studio, bakery, coffee shop, and art loft all could use an extra purchase. Choose takeout, gift cards, cash, or the same-as-cash chamber bucks option. One study says for every dollar spent at a small business means approximately 67 cents stays in the local community.

For holiday shopping and year-round shopping in the St. Croix Valley, join the new hometown booster Mr. Grinch and experience it locally.

Veterans Day 101


Veterans Day 101


Veterans Day approaches. Unlike Memorial Day which pays tribute to those who died serving in the military, Veterans Day honors all who served. The younger generation may appreciate a backgrounder on the topic while the older, seasoned generation may use it as a review.

The Great War, World War I, officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. The treaty came after seven months of on-again, off-again combat when the adversaries put a temporary stoppage in place on November 11, 1918 – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The stoppage was also called an armistice. The term, the war to end all wars, was widely used to mark the armistice.

November 11, 1919 was the inaugural Armistice Day observance, as proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson.

Federal legislation in 1938 made the 11th of November of each year a legal holiday. Armistice Day was still the term used to honor the veterans. But given World War II in the 1940s, Korea in the 50s, and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines, and air corps (later the Air Force), Congress amended the 1938 Act in 1954 with the term Veterans instead of Armistice.

Another federal law passed in 1968 established three-day weekends for federal employees for four national holidays on Mondays, including Veterans Day.

Old school patriotism and historic pride returned Veterans Day to its original observance on November 11th, starting in 1978. It continues to be observed on the 11th, regardless of the day of the week. Whether on a Tuesday or Saturday, Veterans Day continues to honor America’s vets for their duty, service, patriotism, and sacrifice for the greater good.

The profile of veterans is ever changing. They are older and less healthy. According to stats from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, around 389,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2019. Almost 300 die each day. Vietnam era veterans likely have a median age greater than 68 years. Memories are fading with each passing, regardless of the military branch or service era.

And what’s the oldest branch of the military, Army or Navy? Try the National Guard, established in 1636 when blacksmiths, farmers and ordinary citizens formed militias to defend the colonies against attacks. This means the Guard’s citizen-soldiers have served as the nation’s first line of defense since before America’s independence and have fought in every major conflict in America’s history.

Citizen-soldiers possess both civilian and military skills to enable the National Guard to conduct a wide array of missions, at home or overseas. Duties and roles may include aviators, engineers, emergency responders, peacekeepers, truck drivers, mechanics, and legal. Guards who deploy face disruption in careers and families for lengthy stints. Both are stark realities.

Thanking a vet is easier said than done. Many are unassuming but likely can be found next door or in the neighborhood. Here’s a tip. Attend a Veterans Day program, hopefully in person and while observing social distancing. Our veterans will be there. The St. Croix Valley thanks them all. Honor all who served.

Halloween Spending: Frightening


Halloween Spending: Frightening


What do the countries of Samoa, Grenada, and Barbados have in common with Halloween? It’s almost certain calendars in these countries mark October 31st without the notation of Halloween. Just another day in paradise for them. Economists meanwhile like to use a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of goods produced and services provided annually, to measure the size of its economy. The more goods produced or services provided, the bigger the economy.

Halloween should be a country. America’s love affair with Halloween spending usually exceeds the gross domestic product of 25-30 counties each year. In 2014, AGFinancial reported Halloween spending in the U.S. exceeded the GDP of 11 counties – combined! That’s a lot of licorice and theatrical make-up.

There are numerous websites and reporting bureaus dedicated to forecasting Halloween spending. The National Retail Federation (NRF) is one of them. NRF says it has conducted an annual Halloween survey for over a decade and sometime between September 1-9 over 7,600 consumers were contacted about 2020 Halloween spending.

The results are frightening, even in a global pandemic. More than 148 million adults plan to participate in Halloween activities, but overall participation is down to 58 percent. House parties, handing out candy, or visits to haunted houses have dropped because of social distancing concerns. An estimated 17 percent of surveyed adults plan virtual celebrations.

Halloween spending in the U.S. will reach $8.05 billion this year. That’s a drop from 2019’s $8.78 billion. Even with participation down, Halloween consumers will spend more this year, estimated by NRF at $92.12 per participant, compared to $86.27 in 2019. That spending has nearly doubled since 2004 when $48.48 was forecast.

What’s Halloween without a little candy? Why stop at the 100-piece bag when there’s a mega-bag on the next shelf? Last year NRF forecast $2.6 billion was spent on candy, or about $25 per person. More will be spent in 2020, and this is not approved by the St. Croix Valley Dental Association, if one exists.

As for candy do’s and don’ts, another website tracks ‘best’ and ‘worst’ Halloween treats. In 2019, Skittles topped the favorite list, followed by Reese’s Cups, M&M’s Snickers, and Starburst. Candy corn (least appreciated), circus peanuts, peanut butter kisses, wax cola bottles, and Necco Wafers were deemed the worst five.

Yes, adults still dress up for Halloween. NRF says the most popular 2020 adult custom will be a witch, followed by vampire, cat, Batman, and ghost. No presidential candidates? Upon further contemplation, costumed candidates may find themselves in personal peril. A COVID grim reaper likely faces the same reaction. Should he/she come knockin’ do not answer.

Halloween is not a Holiday. At worst, Halloween is somewhat of a springboard for even more consumer spending leading up to Holidays in November and December. At best, Halloween is a short escape into another persona. In the St. Croix Valley, we are reminded to be safe and keep others around you safe, too. Have safe fun.

Three Claps For Football


Three Claps for Football


High school football returned to Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley. Old rivalries renewed. Pep bands, cheer squads, parents and families, boosters, and concessionaires. All are ready. If visiting fans are unsure of the location of the opponent’s playing field, they just look for the distant glow of lights. Pre-game and post-game, students and fans are bound to bring badly-needed business to local restaurants and pubs.

So what does a coach say to the players before a game? Years ago, New Orleans Saints football coach Sean Payton returned to his high school in Naperville, Illinois and delivered this message, set as the backdrop video to Kenny Chesney’s song, The Boys of Fall:

Coach Payton: “Three claps and we’re ready to play tonight (players and coaches respond: clap-clap-clap).
Three claps (clap-clap-clap).
Three claps (clap-clap-clap).
Twenty-seven years ago I sat in this locker room just like you guys, on a knee getting ready to play a game.
I walked down to the locker room, it still smells the same.
It takes you back real quick.
One of the things that caught me was how fast 27 years goes by.
There are so many people who live vicariously through you.
I would give anything tonight to jump into one of these uniforms with you guys.
That feeling goes away.
It goes away, and it doesn’t come every Friday night.
It comes when you get married.
It comes when your child is born.
So you get it, but you just don’t get it every Friday night.
You’re gonna miss that more than anything in the world.
That’s what I miss.
So you seniors, who are focused on college;
You’re focused on your work after high school;
What you’re gonna do next.
You’re focused on tomorrow, aren’t you?
You’ve got plenty of time for tomorrow.
But these tonight’s, they’re going by fast.
You focus on tonight.
This is about you guys.
This is about the guys in this room.
They care about each other.
They know there are only so many of these nights left.
It’s about you.
They’re a faceless opponent.
They just happened to draw the short straw tonight.
Now get your butts ready to play.
‘Win’ on three.

Here’s to bringing some normalcy to Friday nights in the St. Croix Valley.

The Rivers


The Rivers


An unnamed walker on Hudson, Wisconsin’s old toll road one Saturday morning felt lucky to bump into a face from the past. How early in the morning? The exact time was insignificant, but early enough for it to be darker than it was lighter. Walkers at this hour likely subscribe to beating other walkers and runners who sleep past 6:00 a.m.

The face from the past said he retired several years back. He reminded the unnamed walker that he grew up in Hudson and witnessed many, many changes. The St. Croix River was his to explore, which included running a trapline and having local knowledge of fishing holes, starting as a six-year old. He also mentioned seeing campfires from hobo encampments on sandbars near the pivoting swing bridge upstream from the toll road. The hobos frequented the sandbars and eventually moved on, never doing any real damage. Hop a train from the swing bridge and they were gone. It was their way of life in early Hudson.

Saturday’s chance conversation got the unnamed walker thinking, maybe too much thinking. Thinking first about rivers, and then about Bruce Springsteen . . . and later, about the local treasures – the St. Croix, Apple, Willow, Rush, Eau Galle, and Kinni.

Springsteen’s chorus for his 1980 song The River goes something like, “We’d go down to the river, and into the river we’d dive, Oh, down to the river we’d ride.” Wiki says throughout the song the river is viewed as a symbol for the dreams of the future. The song’s narrator keeps his hopes alive even as they begin to fail. Later the narrator asks, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true or is it something worse?”

As St. Croix County continues to grow, pristine water resources could be threatened more than ever. Residential growth is comprised of urban dwellers and rural dwellers. City dwellers have access to closed loop municipal water and sewer services. Water comes from deep wells and is treated before a distribution network of buried pipes brings it to homes. Waste water is piped to a facility for processing before it’s discharged as a cleaner, more neutral product. Country dwellers drill private wells for their water source. Waste ends up in a POWTS – private onsite wastewater treatment system.

Too many private wells and POWTS, along with runoff from farm fertilizers, over-manicured suburban lawns, and waste from a thousand head of dairy cattle all named Bessie are bound to present risks or threats. Fortunately, land uses are regulated at the town (township), village, city, or county level. Some local staff may possess credentials as water resource or environmental specialists. Wisconsin has its Department of Natural Resources, too. St. Croix County uses the mantra, Innovation Through Cooperation. It will take a whole lot of both to protect the surface and groundwater resources.

Solutions to ag and dairy waste are emerging. Rolling them out takes innovation and cooperation. The big winners are local residents who deserve clean water. Clean water contributes to greater livability for the region.

If Springsteen’s river is a symbol of dreams for the future, then the St. Croix, Apple, Willow, Rush, Eau Galle, and Kinni are St. Croix’s future. Protecting them and ensuring a better region starts with Innovation Through Cooperation. Just like the changes witnessed by the retired walker, more changes are on the horizon to ensure the vitality of water resources.

Cruel, Cruel COVID Summer


Cruel, Cruel COVID Summer


In 1983, the all-female musical group Bananarama proved to be prophetic when “Cruel Summer” was released. The group did not envision a global pandemic decades later, but 2020 has indeed proven to be a Cruel, Cruel (COVID-19) Summer. The same can be said for last Spring. And likely the upcoming Autumn. And beyond.

The impacts of COVID have been felt in all corners of the Earth. But the impacts start locally and add up, just like a snowball rolling down a hill. Think about a popular bar and grill, main street shop, salon, or micro-brewery. All were shuttered for numerous weeks starting in March. It boiled down to an essential versus nonessential designation for business and industry. Safety first. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

Each community in the St. Croix Valley has one or more celebrations during the year. All or most are cancelled. There goes the parade, royalty coronation, 5K and 10K runs, and street dance, etc. Many of the festivals are governed by a board which puts money back into their communities through donations supporting local nonprofits or special projects. The loss of donations may sting the most. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

In case you think a concession stand’s loss of revenue is no big deal, just consider the really, really big community celebration called the Minnesota State Fair. Sweet Martha’s Cookies is widely regarded as the top vender at the fair with revenue of $4.7 million in 2018. If Martha’s 2019 revenues were up five percent, the sales would be around $5 million. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

In Wisconsin, UW-Madison’s athletic department recently forecast a $60 million revenue loss for 2020-21 and it could grow to $100 million if football is cancelled. Jump Around! That’s a lot of money. Think about the concessionaires, the ticket-takers, the innkeepers, the pre- and post-game gatherings, and the brats ’n beer. All of those lost revenues are outside UW’s forecasts. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

Is there hope? First, play it safe and stay healthy. Then, shop local. Chambers of Commerce are famous for their Chamber Bucks programs. Those bucks can be purchased using cash or checks at the local chamber office. They can be used just like cash at almost any store, assuming it’s a chamber member. They never expire and there are no fees. Local businesses treat the bucks like regular currency. Main Street’s vibrancy may depend on a system like this going forward.

Back to Bananarama. Their Cruel Summer song ended up on the song track to the 1984 movie, Karate Kid, allowing it to reach the Top 10 in Billboard’s Hot 100. Karate Kid is along the lines of “Rocky” for kids. Remember what happened to Ralph Macchio’s character, Daniel? Thanks to the guidance of his mentor Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), Daniel used the crane stance to win the tournament over his bullies. Of course there was a love interest involved, too.

Cruel, Cruel COVID Summer? Not with a crane stance and your support of local businesses, who could really use it. Here’s to a Cool, Cool Summer the rest of the way and beyond.

On This Fourth: Reflection


On This Fourth: Reflection


At a residence in St. Croix County a couple weeks ago, the owner decided it was time to replace a tired old American flag that flies from a pole attached to the garage. The old flag had truly seen better days, and a few more rain showers will work the fold lines out of the new one.

The home owner’s reference to his ratty old flag turned into ragged old flag. He recalled hearing a song with the same title, but from where?

Sure enough, “Ragged Old Flag” was used in a video tribute leading up to Super Bowl LIV’s kickoff this past February. During its airing, Medal of Honor recipient Corporal Kyle Carpenter raised Old Glory to the top of a pole. Corp. Carpenter medically retired from the U.S. Marines in 2013 as a result of significant injuries received in service to his country. He is the youngest living recipient of the Medal of Honor

“Ragged Old Flag” is the title song on an album with the same name released by country singer Johnny Cash in 1974. Watch the Super Bowl LIV tribute at www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPbDZljUsrY. It ends with Corp. Carpenter saying a phrase typically used by presidents at the end of speeches.

On this Fourth of July, carve out some time for reflection – where this country has been, where it is today, and the continued challenges on the road going forward. And reflect upon this, e pluribus unum, Latin for out of many, one.

The United States is a country composed of many beliefs and backgrounds; it’s still a melting pot after all these years, and unified by 50 stars and 13 stripes. “And I believe she can take a whole lot more” as the line in “Ragged Old Flag” points out.

Here’s from 1776 to 2020 and counting.

Got Milk? It’s Wisconsin’s Brand


Got Milk? It’s Wisconsin’s Brand


At 70+ miles per hour, Wisconsin’s welcome signs are but a blur to motorists. The signs are as iconic to Wisconsin as beer, cheese, and the Green Bay Packers. But did you know? They measure 10 feet tall by 11 feet wide and contain three massive logs depicting the pillars of Wisconsin’s economy, Recreation, on the left; Industry, across the top; and Agriculture, on the right. The design is unchanged over the last 50-60+ years, even with the advent of modern branding.

Almost 25 of the signs exist across Wisconsin and most are located at shared borders with Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan or near travel centers for visitors to enjoy, photograph, and post on social media. St. Croix County has three welcome signs – along eastbound I-94 in Hudson, eastbound State Highway 64/35 just across the St. Croix Crossing bridge in the Town of St. Joseph, and at the bottom of the Houlton Hill near the historic Lift Bridge, also in St. Joe. The Houlton sign affords walkers, runners, and bicyclists the opportunity for photo opp’s at a more leisurely pace since the Lift Bridge opened as a recreational amenity.

Wisconsin’s ag agency says agriculture is a big economic driver, contributing almost $105 billion (with a “b”) to the state’s economy. And, there’s more to Wisconsin than milk and cheese. Snap beans, cranberries, ginseng, mink pelts, dry whey, milk goats, and corn silage all rank Number One in the U.S.

June is dairy month. For dairy farmers, so are the other 11 months. It’s an around-the-clock operation, filled with science, technology, and innovation. Wisconsin is home to over 7,000 dairy farms, more than any other state, and 1.28 million cows. That’s over 14 cows for every resident of St. Croix County. Before 600+ varieties and 3.36 billion pounds of cheese can be produced, there’s a four-legged, brown-eyed beauty involved. She’d be a top draft choice in professional sports, based on pedigree alone. This is important when deciding on Asiago, Gorgonzola, aged cheddar, or Gouda at a grocery store.

Despite several tough years, there’s a place for the dairy industry in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Grandpa and grandma and their parents may look back romantically when they talk about a big, 40-head farm. Dairies have gone the way of bigger just like manufacturers or software development businesses.

Challenges are ahead for dairy operators and among them is land and environmental stewardship. Livelihoods depend on it. A Google source says a mature dairy cow weighing 1,400 pounds may generate around 14 gallons of waste per day. Spreading and on-site storage create long-term troubles. A nice size dairy may have 1,200 or 1,400 cows, so a guesstimation on waste can easily be calculated. Enough said. It’s time to address the problem.

Gaining traction around the globe are technologies like anaerobic digesters and biogas digesters and spin-off products like renewable natural gas (RNG). Large systems process dairy waste and convert it to a couple of byproducts, a dry fertilizer and pipeline quality RNG. Dairies, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills are all good sources for capturing RNG. Best of all, greenhouse gas reductions are possible – all from dairies and those brown-eyed beauties.

Going back to the welcome signs, let’s keep agriculture top of mind. St. Croix County’s branding tagline is Innovation Through Cooperation. There’s a role for county government and dairies to find solutions. It will involve innovation and cooperation. Meanwhile, here’s to milk and cheese and ice cream. Make it a double scoop of innovation and cooperation.

Skyward and Forward


Skyward and Forward


For those looking skyward on May 6th, a military transport plane with a fighter jet on either wing flew over several hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area in a salute to the brave healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID pandemic. The mission was called Operation American Resolve and coincided with National Nurses Day. Numerous Air National Guard units across the U.S. also conducted similar tributes at varying times.

Our St. Croix Valley’s contribution to the flyby involved an agreed-upon rendezvous point along County Road UU in the Town of Hudson, referred to as the soccer complex. The flying trio met high above the sprawling patch of green grass and headed west into the Twin Cities. Zoom and gone.

It doesn’t take much to cause eyes to water or throats to suddenly tighten, given the recent state of the world. The flyby was one of those occasions. Memorial Day 2020 may be another.

The modern Memorial Day was previously called Decoration Day. Between backyard barbeques and spring’s unofficial weekend kick-off, it’s a time to remember and honor members of the military who died in the service of their country, the U.S. of A. Mark the calendar for Monday, May 25th. Hopefully there won’t be virtual color guards or 21-gun salutes. Safe distancing practices may allow local ceremonies to go forward. Solemnly, however.

President Ronald Reagan paid tribute to America’s fallen military comrades in his first inaugural address back in 1981. He mentioned “the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers, and . . . their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.”

Fast forward to more modern times. Add Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and Afghanistan to the list.

Most news is still not encouraging. One in five working adults may have lost jobs since mid-March. All units of government are coming to grips with lost revenue, budget cuts, and layoffs. For private business, supply chains are still pressed. Healthcare is stretched.

A prediction: Business, industry, and government will rise to the occasion and the U.S. will lead the global recovery. Better days are ahead.

Here’s to the men and women who died serving the United States. On May 25th, residents of the St. Croix Valley are encouraged to look skyward and forward. Inspiration is there.

Messages in Chalk


Messages in Chalk


April 20, 2020  Walking may be the rediscovered pastime during the COVID pandemic. Some appear tentative at best, as if they’re on a slippery surface. Others cut a brisk pace with expressions of determination. Chances are the new faces seen in subdivisions are unmet neighbors from around the corner and up the street. Along with walkers, COVID messages are popping up on sidewalks, paths, and streets, including:

“April Distance Brings May Existence”

“Life Happens, Coffee Helps”

“Alone Together”

“In This Together”

“Please Help Each Other”

“Happiness is an Inside Job”

“Be Positive, Be Kind”

“Hope Is Not Cancelled”

A Kid’s Version of the U.S. Flag with the message, “USA!” (Old Glory never looked so good)

A Hopscotch Pattern with the message, “Give it a Try!”

A Smiling Sun with the message, “Shine!”

“Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do”

“In This Together – Six Feet Apart”

“Kindness is Contagious”

“The Internet is for Social Distancing”

“Health Care Workers: You Are A-mazing”

Near a Hospital: “Hail to the Front Line”

“Cover Your Face Like You’re Robbing a Bank”

A Smiling Fried Egg: “Keep Your Sunny Side Up”

Regardless of the pace, new faces, or the messages, here’s to a brighter and healthier tomorrow in the St. Croix Valley and beyond.

Good Shines Through


Good Shines Through


March 30, 2020  The coronavirus and COVID-19 were mostly unknown terms as the world ushered in a new decade just a few weeks ago. They are now at the forefront, impacting the world’s health, way of life, and economy.

Throughout the mostly bad news, there are shining examples of good deeds, done by average people, perhaps following the subtle command of the mega-company possessing the distinctive swoosh, “Just Do It.” Some random examples:

New Richmond, Wisconsin’s own 45th Parallel Distillery is producing hand sanitizer for residents and businesses willing to drive to the distillery for the product. Sanitizer was distributed free of charge, but many donated money to offset production costs. Batch #2 is underway. #3 will likely follow. Bring your own container and some loose change or George Washington’s. An Abe Lincoln wouldn’t mind getting tossed in either.

A local restaurateur, hurt by the downturn too, provides gift cards from other local restaurants and bars, as part of take-out orders.

Clinic and hospital staffers are at the forefront of illness and chronic health problems They rush toward their own version of hot zones the same way firefighters attack a burning structure.

A faithful son visits his elderly father every day from the outside of a closed nursing home window, both using cell phones when in-person visits were prohibited.

Nursing homes created their own version of B-I-N-G-O by wheeling residents to door openings in the hallway to play along at safe distances.

St. Paul, Minnesota’s Mac-Groveland neighbors deploy 10-foot chalk circles for personal space during evening exercises. The exercises are known as radio calisthenics, or rajio taiso, and go back to 1928 with the introduction of community- or employer-led exercises in Japan. Some stay in their chalk circles after the workouts just to visit. Neighbors getting to know neighbors! The number of participants now extends beyond a small neighborhood. Keep it going!

In Drayton, North Dakota, the community held a drive-by celebration past a 7-year old’s front yard when his birthday party was cancelled. The drive-by was led by a couple of wailing fire trucks, then classmates, then neighbors. Drayton’s population holds steady at around 850 very neighborly residents.

Kyle Rudolph, a tight end with the Minnesota Vikings, who sports jersey #82, pledged a donation of 82,000 meals to those in need. Ha! A marauding Viking with a heart. Other pro athletes representing other sports set-up funds for laid-off arena workers.

Retail associates, full- and part-time, restock shelves as fast as truckloads come in, and others operate cash registers with lines that seem too long for a typical Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday morning, afternoon, or evening. One part-time grocery store associate said, “Today I unloaded two pallets of yogurt taller than me. And many shoppers thanked us for doing our part.”

Modern day Rube Goldberg’s employ high-tech 3D printers to create N95 safety masks for healthcare workers; others converted their production lines to manufacture face shields and other high demand products. Meanwhile, as the call went out for donated N95 masks, many, many painting contractors, general contractors, and manufacturers jumped in.

As taprooms closed, micro-brewery owners worked together on new distribution channels and creative ways for pick-up orders in their parking lots.

Examples go on and continue to grow. Next time you see someone on the frontline, offer them encouragement and a big thank-you. They’ve earned it. Mightily.

The Week That Was


The Week That Was


A year’s worth of news was packed into the week of March 8-14. Microscopic virus. Bull Market. Bear Market. Market correction. Circuit breaker stock trading stoppages. Federal Reserve rate cuts. Big Oil. Falling Oil. Peacetime state of emergency declaration. National state of emergency. Panic buying. Empty store shelves. School closings. Epidemic. Pandemic. No March Madness (March Sadness). Limitations on social gatherings. No St. Paddy’s Day revelry ahead of the real festivities on March 17th.

Even with the gloom and doom, signs do not point to a cataclysmic event. A New Normal perhaps, but not The End as most know it. There are rays of hope. Robins, Wisconsin’s state bird, were observed on March 2nd, well ahead of their usual sighting date. While they looked bewildered, they’re here. They must know something. The sun is gaining strength and soon the concrete snowbanks in boulevards will disappear. Snow melt leads to ‘ice out’ on rivers and lakes, which leads to ‘the opener’ for fishing. Kids are out on bikes. Baseballs and even a few out-of-season footballs are being tossed around. One metro golf course is open (Fore!).

New phrases are part of the New Normal. Case in point, social distancing. It’s another way of defining personal space. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defined social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately six feet) from others when possible.” Try that at a commercial airport or with mass transit. One wise guy suggested using hula-hoops. Midwesterners have observed social distancing for centuries. They not only enjoy their space, they protect it.

Will distance learning delivery for education become part of the New Normal? Let’s hope not. As schools, colleges, and universities transition to interim on-line instruction, pitfalls remain. Online instruction has not lived up to expectations. The quality of instruction is a concern, along with connectivity access to high speed internet and lack of instructor-student interactions.

A traditional handshake will likely be replaced under the New Normal. Wisconsin’s Department of Health offered some alternatives, starting with a friendly wave, and as needed, the elbow bump. Another wise guy suggested stomp, stomp, clap as a cryptic shout-out to Queen and ‘We Will Rock You’.

For those old enough to remember, the music group R.E.M. released a hit entitled, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” back in 1987. It covered a stream of conscious collapse of the world, starting with earthquakes, the environment, and Cold War. Thirty-three years later, the song is getting more listens, thanks mostly to a microscopic virus.

Someday, a couple of supercomputers will calculate the economic impact of today’s global affairs. It will be a big number, a really big number. Until then, common sense prevails. As residents are out and resuming whatever is normal again, keep the stomp, stomp, clap in mind. It may catch on.

Size Matters


2020 Census – Size Matters


With little fanfare, the 2020 census got underway on January 21st in a tiny community along the Bering Sea called Toksook Bay, Alaska. It is so remote that the census bureau director from Washington, D.C. was late to his own ceremonial kick-off event. Lizzie Chimiugak Nenguryarr, a 90-year old elder in Toksook Bay, was the first person counted, leading up to the estimated 334 million people across America participating in the census.

The decennial census is coming to a town, village, city, urban, or rural area near you, too. Mark a calendar – April 1st is National Census Day. No word on school and government closings, however.

The data collected from the census helps the federal government determine financial resources distributed to communities for roads, highways, schools, and hospitals. Can you say $675 billion in federal dollars annually? Developers can use the census information to make investment decisions. Local governments will use the data for planning and public safety. An average citizen will use it for quality of life initiatives or research leading to new or amended ordinances.

The origin of a national census is found in the U.S. Constitution. Our nation’s founders devised a creative plan to empower people over their new government (Wait. What?). The plan was to count every person in the U.S. and use the information to determine representation in the fledgling Congress. The goal was first accomplished in 1790 and has continued every 10 years.

Today, there are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. From the 2020 census, some states will gain representation and others will lose. Take California for example (it’s yours, take it). Even with its large population base, a congressional seat may be lost in California. Minnesota is in jeopardy of losing a seat, too. West Virginia may lose two seats and Texas could gain two. As many as seventeen state dominoes could fall – some tipping forward; some falling behind.

The Census Bureau has a December 31st deadline to deliver findings to the sitting president. This marks the beginning of congressional reapportionment, which goes into effect for the 2022 mid-term elections. The data used for state and local redistricting will be available on March 31, 2021.

An undercount of people is always a reality. The Census Bureau will spend $500 million on a public education and outreach campaign with more than 1,000 ads to reach 99 percent of U.S. households. A tagline, “Shape your Future. Start here” was created to bolster awareness and participation. Videos in 59 non-English languages are available to explain how to fill out the forms. Languages range from Thai to Tamil and from Italian to Hindi. In short, the Census Bureau wants everyone counted.

Back to Toksook Bay and Lizzie the elder. The census from ten years ago estimated Toksook Bay’s population at 590 people. By 2017 the estimate was 661. Toksook Bay is not only holding its own, it is growing. To encourage participation from Alaska’s indigenous groups, the 2020 questionnaires were translated into the Yup’ik language. Elder Lizzie appreciated that. The 2030 census is just around the corner for Lizzie.

Here’s to being counted in the weeks ahead. Shape your Future. Start here.

Name on the Front of the Jersey



Name on the Front of the Jersey


Memories fade, but calendars do not lie. It’s been 40-years since the U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the Russian team to claim the gold medals during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The victory is forever known as the Miracle on Ice.

Correction. The U.S. team did beat the Soviets, but didn’t claim gold until a victory over Finland two days later. That’s the faded memory part. A lesser known fact is this – a loss to the Finns meant the U.S. would not earn any medals – gold, silver, or bronze. And worse, the Russians would claim the gold.

The chief architect and strategist of the U.S. team was its coach, Herb Brooks. He was the last player cut from the 1960 U.S. team, which won the gold that year. Then along came a run from the Russians, winning gold in 1964, ‘68, ‘72, and ‘76. They were heavy favorites in ’80. It was Brooks’ job to stop the run. Or at least put up a good showing. Case in point – the Russians trounced the U.S. team in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden 10-3 just before the Lake Placid games.

The young men playing for Brooks in 1980 were a collection of college all stars from across the U.S. They came from places like Rochester, Minnesota (Eric Strobel), Davison, Michigan (Ken Morrow), Easton, Massachusetts (Jim Craig), and Madison, Wisconsin (Mark Johnson). How do you get All Americans and team captains hailing from several time zones to play as a team? Coach Brooks had some ideas.

Brooks worked his players hard in the months leading up to Lake Placid. After one uninspired exhibition game, Brooks reportedly saw enough lackluster play. The players thought they were headed to the locker room, but Brooks kept them on the ice and were lined up at the goal line. It was time for wind sprints on ice, meaning a coach reverts to extra conditioning to make a point. At the whistle, the players skated to the first blue line, stopped with ice showers, and returned to the goal line. Then they skated to the red line at center ice, stopped, and retreated to the goal line. Next up was the far blue line, and back to the starting point. And finally, they skated from one goal line to the other and back to complete the drill. Brooks had his assistant coach blow a whistle to mark the start of another wind sprint on ice. And another. And another. And another.

Sometime later, Hollywood lore shows a darkened arena, but the sprints continued. Brooks may have said something along the lines, “If you want to make this team you’re going to have to start playing at a level that will force me to keep you. This cannot be a team of common men because common men don’t know work. You have to be uncommon men. When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourself and your teammates, and the name on the front is a lot more important than the one on the back (expletives deleted throughout).”

At the start of yet another sprint, Mike Eruzione, the eventual team caption, blurted out his name and hometown of Winthrop, Massachusetts. Brooks asked, “Who do you play for?” Eruzione replied, “I play for the United States of America.” And Brooks announced, “That’s all gentlemen.” The wind sprints were done.

Perhaps a turning point for the ’80 team? Brooks’ message about the front of the jersey was clear. It’s a good reminder in everyday life, whether it’s business, industry, public or private.

It never gets old watching the seconds count down from 40-years ago. Play as a team and big things can happen. Watch the last minute of the game here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gfD134ED54. You’ll see Coach Brooks exiting the bench for the bowels of the arena to reflect on this mega-accomplishment in private. Do you still believe in miracles? YES!

Life Lesson: I Got This


Life Lesson: “I Got This”


About a year ago, most of the world was introduced to Amy Bockerstette. Some were lucky enough to know her before a magical moment on a golf course. As part of a pre-tournament practice round, she played the so-called loudest hole in golf, the par-3 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale course with Gary Woodland, the previous year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open champion. The golf world and people with disabilities may never be the same.

The 16th hole is famous for many reasons. It’s the PGA Tour’s only fully-enclosed hole, meaning grandstand seats and skyboxes surround the entire hole, earning it the nickname, The Coliseum. Players-gladiators enter from a curtained walkway under the grandstands from the 15th green. As the Phoenix Open gets into full swing on the weekend, the 20,000 spectators in The Coliseum judge each tee shot with lusty boos or wild cheers.

Back to Amy. She’s a Special Olympics golfer with Down syndrome. Last January, the PGA surprised her with an invitation to play the 16th with Woodland. With no warm-up, Amy’s tee shot found a sand trap hazard. Woodland offered to hit her next shot, but Amy replied, “I got this.” Her bunker shot found the green and rolled toward the hole before stopping. The crowd, now engaged in what was unfolding, cheered their approval. Amy faced a 10-foot putt to save par. “I got this,” she told Woodland and others in the group. She drained the putt and the crowd roared. The video from tee to putt went viral and has been viewed over 40 million times. Amy and Gary became friends and stayed connected through social media.

Fast forward to the U.S. Open in June at Pebble Beach. Woodland was the 54-hole leader and likely faced a night of restlessness before Sunday’s final round. Amy tweeted him a reassuring message, “You got this.” At a critical time on the back nine, Woodland converted a birdie putt and went on to claim the championship. It was his first major golf championship. Addressing the media, he said “Amy told me a million times when we were on that hole… ‘I’ve got this,’ and I told myself that a million times today, ‘I’ve got this.’” He added, “She’s meant everything for me from a mental standpoint. The world needs more of her in it.”

More on Amy. Before her swings with Woodland, she participated in two Arizona girls state high school golf championships and earned a scholarship to play golf at a community college. There was a graduation speech, too. She balances college with a part-time job. The ‘I Got This’ Foundation was launched and provides golf instruction and playing opportunities to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Special order golf balls bear the message, I Got This. She’s in demand for celebrity appearances. Go Amy Go.

What’s learned. In an interview with Golf World magazine, sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella said, “I have worked with children with Down syndrome for several years, and I would say in general they are the happiest, most positive, upbeat human beings on this planet.” Amy’s father Joe added, “She’s not burdened with self-doubt.” Her golf instructor said, “She continues to teach me not to sweat the small stuff.”

Another take-away concerns employment opportunities for individuals with barriers and disabilities. They bring something new to employers, including productivity, staff morale, work ethic, and dedication. Locally, there’s Rise (www.rise.org), a private organization supporting individuals who have disabilities and other barriers obtain vocational achievement, self-sufficiency, and belonging in their communities. Rise has a training and in-house production facility as close as New Richmond, Wisconsin. Work can be brought to New Richmond or Rise can bring associates to on-site locations.

BRIDGE For Community Life (www.bridgecl.org) is another option. BRIDGE provides opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities as they transition into adulthood. They bring a holistic approach to life – – that a balance of life skills development, continued learning, recreation, and leisure leads to healthy minds and bodies. Among their offerings are community employment services, including job placement assistance, job coaching, and follow-up services.

St. Croix Valley employers may be well served to consider these valuable resources.

Going forward, repeat: I got this. You got this. Go Amy Go. The world needs more of you in it, including business and industry.