All posts by Michaela Gaffke

Local poet visits campus

An award winning poet returned to his native roots to give a poetry reading last week, bringing in a full audience to the Darrell W. Krueger Library on campus.

Poet Mark Wunderlich read from his book, The Earth Avails and new material. He is originally from Winona and grew up in Fountain City. He is visiting from Hudson Valley, where he teaches literature at Bennington College in Vermont.

The poetry reading was on the second floor, in front of the tall glass windows. Eight rows of mismatched chairs filled the space. A majority of the chairs were occupied by people of a variety of ages, college students to older people. Wunderlich stood in front of a podium, book opened in front of him. His shoulder length, gray hair was pushed behind his ears by his orange and black glasses. Contrasting the orange was his blue polka dot shirt covered by a black button up.

Freshman Shanya Julius was in the audience, and came to the event for her English class. She had read some of his poems in class.

Another freshman, Sydney Anderson was also in the audience, and likes poetry so she decided to come.

Wunderlich read a few of his poems for close to half an hour, and saved time for audience questions after. One poem he read was White Fur, about an experience in Fountain City as a child.

Some of the audience members might recognize where this poem takes place, Wunderlich said, and the rest of the country he has read this poem thinks of it as an exotic place.

Wunderlich read from the manuscript he is currently working on. He said they will be longer poems, and more meditative, different from his shorter poems he has written before.

“I didn’t set out to write a sad book, but I think this book will be kind of sad,” Wunderlich said. “Accumulation of loss but still trying to live your life.”

He read a poem about his experience with Jeffery Dahmer, and swears that everything in the poem is true. It is called My Night with Jeffery Dahmer. It is about a time out at the bar when Jeffery Dahmer knocked over his beer, and started a conversation with him. Wunderlich wasn’t interested in talking to him, but found himself speaking to him. He didn’t think anything of it until sometime later, when he saw his face on the news.

It was a chilling moment when he recognized him, Wunderlich said, after an audience member inquired about it during question time.

Julius and Anderson, the attending freshman, both enjoyed the poem.

“The way he read the poem made it stand out,” Anderson said.

Wunderlich signs audience member’s books after the poetry reading.

After the poetry reading, Wunderlich went over to Blue Heron with advanced creative writing students to read two poems to open their poetry reading session. He also spent time with their classes that day and the day before.

Wunderlich’s visit was part of the Great River Reading Series, where two poets and two fiction or nonfiction writers are invited to campus to visit classes and read from their works, according to Professor Jim Armstrong.

Wunderlich visited Armstrong’s writing classes and also professors Deb Cumberland’s and Elizabeth Oness’ creative writing classes.

“They loved him…they wanted selfies with him…they couldn’t believe he wasn’t an old, crabby man they said,” Armstrong said about his students meeting Wunderlich.

Wunderlich started writing in college, when he accidently ended up in a creative writing class but decided to stay.

“On the first day we read a poem by Wallace Stevens and thought this is all I ever want to do,” he said. “I was having a conversation that I had waited my whole life to have…I remember this palpable excitement. I just thought I want to keep doing this.”

He said he writes in his 300 hundred year old house in his office, which has a 14 foot ceiling. One wall is entirely bookshelves. He has a ladder to access them all. A long, skinny desk sits near the bookshelves, and Wunderlich sits with the books behind him.

“This feels to me like the best arrangement, I am facing toward nothingness, the empty page, while behind me are all the books of poems, and all the writers I love,” he said. “There they are. They got my back.”

He loves many authors, but mentioned Emily Dickinson and Walt Wittman. He also loves his peer writers.

In addition to poetry, Wunderlich also writes nonfiction, essays, book reviews and criticism. He currently has three books out, available for purchase through Amazon. He currently is working on a fourth.


Verizon HopeLine comes to WSU

Verizon HopeLine logo, credit: Verizon Wireless

The Winona State University RE Initiative, a group which supports survivors of gender-based violence, encourages members to dig through their junk drawers and forgotten spots in their house to find old, broken or functioning cell phones and accessories such as chargers, headsets and extra batteries. Even if someone has a pager laying around, Verizon HopeLine will accept it.

The Verizon HopeLine is a phone drive which collects those cell phones and accessories and are then used to help victims of domestic violence. Verizon provides the phones with 3,000 minutes to domestic violence organizations.

Donation boxes are available around campus in the main offices of Lourdes, East Lake Apartments, the Well in the Integrated Wellness Center, and the Student Activities Center in Kryzsko Commons from March 1 to March 31.

Once the RE Initiative finishes the phone drive, the phones are sent to Verizon. Verizon sends the phones to a recycling company who recycles the phones. Verizon uses that money to buy new phones to send to domestic violence organizations, according to Meagan Dorsch, public and external relations lead for Verizon and the HopeLine program in Minnesota.

The extra money from the recycled phones is used for grant money to nonprofit organizations, Dorsch said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report,” (2013).
Information from Verizon Wireless website:

Brittney Leland, peer advocate from the RE Initiative worked to bring Verizon HopeLine to campus, along with PACT Graduate Assistant Mike Krug.

“I think it is needed because with my work in the RE Initiative as a peer advocate and educator,” Leland said. “I got called one time and one client was left with literally nothing and one thing she said would be helpful is a phone.”

To call a shelter to see if there is room, a phone is needed, it is an important tool to get people back on their feet, Leland said.

“[Phones] are the norm, those of us who have phones take it for granted and don’t realize how much of a privilege it is to have a phone,” Krug said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every four women and one in every seven men have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner.

“Communication is the first thing victims lose,” Dorsch said.

Verizon began HopeLine in 2001, and since then have collected 12 million phones, with 700,000 in 2015.

HopeLine provided more than a dozen organizations across Minnesota with phones and grants in 2015. This number is looking to be very similar for 2016, according to Dorsch.

In 2015, $7,000,000 was given to domestic violence organizations. This money is the extra money from the recycled phone profits that Verizon receives. One of these organizations is Cornerstone, an organization that was established in 1983 to help victims of domestic violence in South Hennepin County and since has expanded to Northern Hennepin County and Minneapolis in Minnesota. They strive for reducing domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking.

Cornerstone has had a relationship with Verizon for a long time, and the two are partnered together, according to Courtney Poja, Director of Advancement for Cornerstone.

Poja said clients need safety, which is access to 911, help and shelters, a service support network, and stability once safe to rebuild their life. She also said the phones are used to achieve this.

Each client works with a Cornerstone staff member, and they decide who is in most need of a donated phone. 15 phones are given out every year, and Cornerstone serves 4,000 clients a year, Poja said.

In addition to giving out phones to victims, Cornerstone offers transitional housing options, help with rebuilding, therapy, help through the legal process, and operates a state wide crisis line to call to safety, according to Poja. Cornerstone also works with kids and has clinical services.

It’s awesome that Verizon does HopeLine, Poja said, she thinks it is really great that helping domestic violence victims is important to Verizon.

As of Friday, March 17, three phones and a charger have been donated on campus, according to Leland, which is slower than she expected.

Julie Chiasson, licensed practical nurse for WSU Health and Wellness Services donated a Tracfone that has been sitting in a drawer.

She saw the program in an email, and was appalled by the increasing amount of domestic violence. Chiasson is a member of the Women’s Resource Center, and wants to help out victims.

To donate an unused phone, erase all personal information and remove the sim card if possible. Bring it to any of the donation boxes around campus. They will be collected and picked up by RE Initiative members and locked away until they are sent to Verizon at the end of March.

Phones can also be donated at the Verizon store on Frontenac Drive before or after the March 31 campus HopeLine deadline. The phone and accessories can be from any provider, not only Verizon.

Caribou Coffee caffeinates Winona

by Michaela Gaffke

A college student grips their backpack tightly as they approach the doors of the local Caribou Coffee. Meanwhile, a man makes a morning stop at the drive thru on his way to work. A mom in yoga pants holds her kid’s hand as they walk through the door. At Caribou, there’s something for everyone, from the hurried student to the kid who isn’t quite kindergarten age.

“Hello, welcome to Caribou Coffee, are you a perks member today?” a team member wearing a brown Caribou apron greets customers as they come inside.

Koch points out menu items to a customer.


Someone who is in a rush to get their morning caffeine fix may not think about the behind-the-scenes aspect of their coffee stop, and it begins early. The general store manager, Deanna Kaiser, arrives at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. Another employee comes in to help her, and together they make the morning espresso and open the register.

Kaiser’s black and neon, handwritten nametag stands out from her brown apron that reads “Caribou Coffee.” Her blonde hair is pulled up into a half pony tail under her drive thru headset, and she is wearing jeans and slip resistant shoes.

Getting up in the morning can be difficult, but you get used to it, one of the team members, Lo Koch, said. She wears a matching apron, nametag, drive thru headset and jeans.

“I’ll go to bed within 7 to 10 p.m. every night,” Kaiser said.

The team members have some time to wake themselves up before the store gets busier.

5:30 a.m. is usually a pretty quiet time, according to Kaiser, the store starts to get busy at 6 a.m. Caribou will have some of its regulars stop in weekday mornings before work.

We have at least 20-25 regulars, maybe more, Kaiser said.

On a snowy Wednesday morning, it is quiet, with a few customers sitting with laptops at tables, sipping their drinks; as the drive thru is more popular. The usual busy time is 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Kaiser said.

On the weekends, Caribou is usually bustling. The drive thru can wrap around the building, and the in-house line can be almost to the door. There are usually three or four employees working at a time on busy days. There are four positions the team members can be assigned to; barista, drive thru, greeter, and floater. Normally there are two people working, one person is the barista, whose job is to make drinks, and the other is doing drive thru and the in-house guests. There can be two greeters and two baristas, but normally there are one of each. The floater is the superglue person, helping out when needed, Kaiser said.

“10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is our busiest time on Sunday. It is a busy day for students, a lot come for an hour, do their homework and leave. Also Friday there are a lot of students, since the [Winona State] library closes at 5 p.m.,” Koch said.

There’s room for about 50 people in-house, Kaiser said, there are about 42 chairs. Customers have a choice in seating, from comfy upholstered seating by the front windows around a fireplace, or the six seats at a bar area, or standard tables on the other side of the fireplace.

Left to right: Kaiser heats up food in the oven while Koch serves a drive thru customer.

In between creating coffees, teas, and smoothies, the team members keep up with stocking the floor and cleaning.

“It can be hard to restock when it’s busy,” Koch said. “Crap, got to run to the back to get chocolate!”

There are three screens that list the current orders, and once the order has been completed, the person who made it taps the touch screen and it disappears. One of the screens is by the drive thru window, one by the cold drink station and the other by the hot drink station.

Kaiser spreads caramel on the Zebra Mocha Cooler with a smile, in her opinion, it is the hardest drink to make.

A problem the team can face is two team members making the same drink on accident, so communicating on who is making what is essential. Double made drinks get tossed out, according to Kaiser.

The supply to make their drinks and the food they serve comes twice a week, Monday and Thursday. Anyone can unpack the shipment, but the team tries to stick to management doing the job. The unpacker must check to make sure everything was received, so the store doesn’t get charged for an item they didn’t receive.

“There’s a warehouse order for cups, syrups, smoothie mix, tea drinks and similar items. There is a dairy order, a gourmet order for sandwich and bakery, and ready to eat bakery case foods, and we get to order how much we think we need,” Kaiser said.

The most common product they run out of are syrups and beans. If this happens, one of the employees has to head to La Crosse or Rochester to another Caribou location to pick up more product.

“We can’t order too much product, because we don’t want it to expire,” Kaiser said.

The backroom at Caribou, where extra stock is stored.

Caribou’s Winona building is fairly new. It opened in January of 2015, the team has the luxury of many storage places. The backroom is filled to the ceiling with stock. Freezers house frozen sandwiches, while the next day’s sandwiches are thawing in the fridge next to it. Silver bags of espresso are stacked to the left, with a tub of chocolate covered espresso beans, juice, cups, toppings and more to the left of the espresso bags.

“We go through at least 14 bags of espresso a week,” Kaiser said, “we are one of the leading stores for espresso sales.”

Each bag is five pounds, and one pound serves 10 small cups, roughly 50 people if everyone orders smalls, according to Kaiser.

After a full day of caffeinating the citizens of Winona, Caribou Coffee closes for the night. On Monday through Thursday, the store closes at 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday is 10 p.m., and 8 p.m. on Sunday.

The closers stock everything, put loose things away, sweep the floors, mop, vacuum, and close the register. They will stay 30-45 minutes after close to do so, Kaiser said, then they lock up and leave.

At the end of the day, Koch and Kaiser they enjoy their jobs.

“I’m a coffee snob,” she laughed. “My favorite part is making drinks. It’s like working at a bar, but coffee.”