Alexandria, MN

"Easy to get to, hard to leave."

Kids take a tour of a fire truck during Operation Appreciation, an event that recognizes the contributions of those who protect and serve in the community. (Credit: Tammie Lanners)

Alexandria’s downtown is the envy of small towns across the state. Visitors and motorists don’t just see a dull stretch of asphalt when they drive through town. They see beautiful hanging flower baskets that are nicely maintained, renewed storefronts, touches of green from trees and shrubbery, inviting benches, brightly lit and decorative street lamps, and trees and bollards. But once you meet the people, you see the internal beauty of this amazing community that is generous and supportive of its residents and visitors alike. “Easy to get to. Hard to leave,” describes the town’s essence perfectly.

In 2014, two local organizations, Douglas County Pheasants Forever and Viking Sportsmen, started and hosted Youth Outdoor Activity Day. The free family friendly event provides youth a fun environment in which to learn about outdoor recreation and get kids off the couch. Activities include trap shooting, archery, and many other hunting and angling related skills. The Youth Day event offers more than 30 hands-on activities and demonstrations. This public event is made possible through a consortium of volunteer organizations, businesses, individuals and donors. It takes place every year on the last Sunday of August and has become the largest free outdoor youth day event in Minnesota, while also drawing kids in from North Dakota, South Dakota, New Jersey, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Alberta, Canada. In 2014, 542 kids participated. In 2016, the number of kids who participated in the event grew to 1,811!

In 2016, Tom Schabel, CEO of Alexandria Industries, awoke one morning and was saddened to hear of another police officer killed in the line of duty in our country. At that very moment, he decided it was time to thank the public service people in our community for all they do to care for us, help us, support us, and protect us. Schabel shared the idea with the company’s marketing team and asked the employees to create something that would honor our public service men and women. In partnership with two other local businesses, Alexandria Industries, Elden’s Fresh Foods and Anderson Funeral Home and Crematory, Operation Appreciation was born.

Law enforcement gobble down a hearty meal prepared by the community in an effort to thank them for their service. (Credit: Tammie Lanners)

The event was held on Monday, May 22nd in the parking lot of Alexandria Industries where the business owners and employees took the time to extend their gratitude and recognize those who sacrifice so much for our communities by serving them a meal and simply saying thank you for all that they do. Attendees could take a short break from their busy lives and spend a few moments relaxing and visiting with each other. Families also were invited to attend Operation Appreciation, because they too, sacrifice much by supporting their loved ones who care for us all. Operation Appreciation was a great way to show that a thank you and meal can go a long way.

Volunteers happily cooked up meals for their local police force as an act of gratitude for keeping their community safe. (Credit: Tammie Lanners)

Youth Outdoor Activity Day