The Finland of the futureHonor Schauland, 31, probably can’t keep bears out of the dumpsters behind Sue Butler’s business, the Trestle Inn Restaurant and Saloon. She wouldn’t want to, anyway—dealing with wild critters is an integral part of living in a rural community.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
Honor Schauland, 31, probably can’t keep bears out of the dumpsters behind Sue Butler’s business, the Trestle Inn Restaurant and Saloon. She wouldn’t want to, anyway—dealing with wild critters is an integral part of living in a rural community.
With a fellowship Schauland just received from the Bush Foundation, however, she hopes to make starting and owning a business in Finland a little easier.
“Our economy tends to fluctuate. A lot of businesses are very dependent on tourism,” she said, a problem she wants to help address.
Schauland applied for the grant as an extension of work she’s been doing in Finland for years. She graduated from William Kelley High School in Silver Bay and attended Macalester College in St. Paul where she studied anthropology. She moved back to her hometown of Isabella after college.
“I was tired of living in the cities,” she said.
When she moved home, she saw the work her friends and neighbors were doing in the small community. They wanted to revitalize the community center, but ran into obstacles when applying for grants because they lacked a clear vision for the future of the Finland area. Schauland, who had eschewed grad school in hopes of gaining more life experience, dove into the project.
She started by attending the group’s meetings--taking notes and getting an idea of their goals. The meetings eventually led to the Crystal Bay Comprehensive Community Plan and the community members who developed it became the Friends of the Finland Community.
Schauland sees her role as just one of many in the small community where there has always been a strong can-do spirit.
“It’s really amazing that they put their own time and energy into (the community),” she said.
Working to improve a small community involves a great deal of time spent searching for sources of funding, she said. She and other Friends members applied for numerous grants to build the Clair Nelson Center. She found out about the Bush Fellowship through an e-mail list to which she subscribed, and later decided to apply for a grant.
“Grant-writing is like gambling,” she said with a laugh. The Bush Fellowship turned out to be a jackpot.
The application process was rigorous—including three references, a comprehensive proposal for the planned work and an interview during which applicants had to defend their plans—but Schauland said the procedure taught her a lot.
The fellowship has been awarded to 2,200 individuals in the Midwest since its first cycle in 1965. The recipients receive $25-75,000 to be used over a two-year period to improve their community and must attend leadership development seminars during the course of their fellowship.
The fellows with whom Schauland shares her honor have an impressive range of projects planned. Zahra Aljabri of Minneapolis plans to find more effective ways for Muslims in Minnesota to have a voice in their local government. Joel Donna of St. Paul wants to improve K-12 science instruction. Raymond Grey Bear of Fort Yates, N.D. wants to use a Dakota cultural practice to help indigenous people grieve the loss of loved ones, especially those who die as a result of suicide.
Schauland’s project is a bit unique because of its location. A majority of the fellows are based out of the Twin Cities metro area. Schauland said she thinks her rural location will be to her advantage.
“I think it’s easier to involve the community…in a rural area. Communities are more cohesive by nature. That’s a really strong thing we have going for us up here,” she said.
Schauland was notified of her award in August and the project technically began on Oct. 1. She spent those months transitioning out of the job she had, solidifying her plans for the project and, of course, talking to people in the community. One of her first undertakings will be a survey of residents, asking if they would consider starting a small business and what new businesses they’d like to see in the area.
In conversations with Schauland, Butler has already weighed-in on the challenges their small community faces.
“What’s needed to keep people here (is) affordable housing and good-paying jobs,” she said—which isn’t as simple as it sounds. Moving forward is vital, but so is maintaining the essence of Finland.
When Schauland came back from college, she saw development bringing dollars to the community but “it was also changing the character of the area and that was alarming.” Finding that happy medium—economic stability with a rural, small-town feeling—is the big challenge Schauland and the community face.
In addition to conversations with residents, Schauland plans to visit other communities in North and South Dakota where similar projects have been initiated. She said she wants to learn from them and bring the best idea back to Finland.
Kathleen Tweeten, director at North Dakota State University Extension Center for Community Vitality, was on the judging committee for the Bush Fellowships. In her work at NDSU, she offers technical support to help small businesses thrive. Her services may include assistance with marketing, feasibility studies and licensing. She said the process of starting a small business can seem overwhelming, and even more so in a small community like Finland.
“Many times you feel like you’re all alone out there,” she said. “They just don’t have the same kind of resources to pull on. There’s a real need in rural communities for technical assistance.”
She didn’t review Schauland’s project during the judging process but she heard about it and gave the plan an enthusiastic green light.
“It sounds like she’s got a great idea,” Tweeten said.
And Butler, someone who has successfully operated a small business in the area, is excited to see what Schauland does, even if it won’t keep the bears out of her backyard..
“She has an abundance of energy. She gets motivated and starts something and she carries it all the way through. She’s very determined and a very smart young lady,” Butler said.
Anyone with input for Schauland can reach her at the Clair Nelson Center at 218-353-0300.