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Donors explain why they like DLCCC plans

The public fund-raising campaign for the $2.5 million Backyard addition at the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center officially got underway this week.

But before the Backyard project was even announced to the public, a committee of 15 local residents had already been hard at work contacting potential donors for several months, in a "silent" campaign that raised $1.25 million -- roughly half of the total project cost.

"As of today we have received both direct donations and pledges from 59 individuals, businesses and foundations," said Stu Omberg, CEO of the DLCCC. "The range of giving has been from $100 to $100,000."

Though many of the donors who contributed to this "silent" campaign did not want the exact amount of their donations known, several of those contacted were happy to speak of their reasons for wanting to be a part of it.

"We certainly know how important the DLCCC has been to the community up to now," said Michael Norby, president of Norby's Department Store in Detroit Lakes.

Though he declined to name the amount of the donation, Norby said he and his siblings were "very happy to be supporting the project," both individually and as local business owners.

Norby said that while he and his wife, Betsy, have a family membership, their daughters are grown and no longer living in the community full-time, so they don't use the facilities there unless they are home visiting.

Nevertheless, his family is more than supportive of the project's focus on "underserved" areas of the DLCCC's membership -- specifically, youth and families.

"I think back to when my kids were that age and the community center was not in existence -- it would certainly have been another fun venue for us to be able to do things as a family," he said. "Summertime is great and we all enjoy that, but unfortunately there's October to April when we need to have something else to do too."

The Backyard's focus on providing year-round recreational facilities will help alleviate that need, he added.

"It almost makes me want to have young kids again -- almost," he joked.

Matt Hedstrom, who made a $2,500 contribution to the Backyard on behalf of his business, American Family Insurance, said that he was attracted to the project because of his own family's involvement at the DLCCC.

"Our family has been really active in going to the community center, especially on the physical side, with working out," he said.

Though his kids are getting older, Hedstrom said, "as a community member I thought it was important for families with young kids to have a place to go where they can exercise and their kids can play."

Rather than playing on X Box or Playstation, the kids will be able to take part in more active playtime activities, he added.

Besides the Playland, there will also be a new youth gym with a painted-on court for kids to enjoy kickball and other ball games.

"All three of my kids use the facilities, but probably most in the winter months," he said. "They're always going there and playing basketball or just using the (workout) facilities... just to have that extra space available for them is going to be very helpful."

Shawn Nygaard of David-Donehower Funeral Home said his business also made a significant contribution toward the Backyard project -- though he, like Norby, declined to name an amount.

"My wife and I are expecting our first child," he said, adding that he is "so excited" about being able to bring his kids to the Backyard and watch them play there.

"They're going to have a five-story Playland -- it's going to be amazing, like nothing else in this area," he said, adding that the expanded cardio and free weight areas will also make workout equipment more accessible for adult users of the community center.

"There are a lot of people trying to use the cardio area and free weights during peak hours," said Hedstrom. "To have more room and hopefully more machines available can only be a positive."

And with the additional space for hosting birthday parties and other special gatherings, the DLCCC is only going to cement its status as "the gathering place of the community," Nygaard added.

"It's the most used community facility in Detroit Lakes, and whenever you talk about expanding, you're just talking about providing more room for the community to enjoy it," he said.

Nygaard, who was part of the committee that "helped get this thing off the ground," said that one of the most important things to remember about the public fund-raiser is that "no donation is too small."

When the Backyard is finished, "it's going to be so neat," he added. "I hope to see everyone at the new addition."

"I'm very excited to see them break ground and get moving with it," Hedstrom said.

"What has been so impressive about the Backyard is the commitment and belief in the project by both committee members and donors alike," said Omberg. "Their generosity, in both time and financial support, speaks volumes about the fabric of the entire area, their concern for young people, their confidence in the DLCCC and the importance of investing in your community and the future."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454