Category Archives: Community

Local antique shop sells treasures, shares memories

“When I first started, I was totally optimistic and thought everybody was going to love my stuff,” Hunt said. “After a few months… that wasn’t going to happen.”

by Allison Mueller

The red brick building on the corner of Main and Third Street is one of many old structures in Winona’s historical downtown. What makes this space unique is what waits to be discovered downstairs.

Along the Main Street side of the building, a steep staircase leads curious customers to a hefty door. A large red and white “A-Z COLLECTABLES” sign hangs above the entry to this hidden shop of treasures.

The creak of the door as it opens and reveals the shop’s unique contents is enough to give any antique collector goose bumps. Narrow pathways are carved throughout the basement space that holds a nine-person maximum occupancy.

To the right, past the collection of old lunchboxes suspended from ceiling pipes and an arrangement of still-packaged toy cars hanging on a wall, shop owner Neil Hunt sits surrounded by mountains of his treasures. He inspects the locks one of his regular customers, Michael, has brought in.

A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.
A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items, Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.

Hunt has owned A-Z Collectables for more than 23 years, and said he looks to buy things of personal interest to add to his ever-growing collection of antiques and collectables.

“I don’t buy what I don’t like,” Hunt said. “I’ve always liked books and kitchen items, antique lighting, definitely toy cars. The stuff I really don’t want to part with I take home. I have several hundred cars here, but at home I have another couple hundred.”

Originally from Eastern Michigan, work with a natural foods bakery brought Hunt to the co-op in La Crosse two or three times a week to deliver bread. He often stopped at donation stores and yard sales in the area to acquire unique items and then sold them.

Hunt said, “A friend of mine who I was selling my pickings to, she was one of my regular dealers I sold to, kept saying, ‘If I was as old as you are, I’d open my own shop.’ And finally, I did.”

A-Z Collectables opened in 1993 in half of the street-level space where the kate + bella clothing store is. After a few years, Hunt needed more space and moved his business downstairs.

Hunt has owned A-Z Collectables for more than 20 years in downtown Winona.
Hunt has owned A-Z Collectables for more than 20 years in downtown Winona.

“When I first started, I was totally optimistic and thought everybody was going to love my stuff,” Hunt said. “After a few months… that wasn’t going to happen.”

Hunt’s “stuff” encompasses a vast range of items including nonfiction and classic books, hand-painted pottery from the 1950s, old kitchen tools, antique lighting, games and more. There is also an entire corner of the shop dedicated to antique Winona items – bottles, toy mascots from schools, buttons and local calendar plates.

“I can probably make a collection out of just about anything you hand me,” Hunt said. “Whether it’s a collection that would be worth anything, or that anybody else would want, that’s totally up to debate.”

Hunt, who has been retired for a few years, acquired different jobs to support his buying and selling habit. The job he was at the longest was with RGIS Inventory Service, which required him to travel to western Wisconsin and southern Minnesota. He said he could only open his shop several days a week, but the days were not consistent.

Now A-Z Collectables is open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Hunt said business booms during the summer compared to winter where he “just squeaks by.”

Hunt said during summer he makes a profit. When it comes to antique shops, he said the more the merrier in terms of attracting customers.

Hunt shows Michael around the basement shop, talking about various pieces for sale.
Hunt shows Michael around the basement shop, talking about various pieces for sale.

“It’s not like antique shops compete,” Hunt explained. “We compete when it comes to buying the stuff, but when it comes to selling, you need several to attract collectors looking to buy and think this is a good town to go to and make it worth the visit.”

According to Hunt, his antique shop is one of around three left in town. He said when he started there were six or seven shops in Winona. Much of the collecting market lives online, Hunt said, with sites such as eBay and Etsy. But, in addition to tourists, there are always the regulars who stop by the store.

One of these regulars is Dale Hadler, who has been coming to Hunt’s antique shop for four years. Hadler said he occasionally brings in items to sell, but stops by a few times a week to buy items, specifically antique things made of die-cast and aluminum.

Dale Hadler holds an item of interest he found in Hunt’s antique shop and discusses with the shop owner what year the item might have been made.
Dale Hadler holds an item of interest he found in Hunt’s antique shop and discusses with the shop owner what year the item might have been made.

“Back in 2013 I moved to Winona and I was curious about this place so I came down and checked out this shop,” Hadler said. “He has a nice collection… it’s a little bit of everything.”

Hunt said he is surprised at some items that sell. He explained how years ago he had one of his largest single sales when a couple came to the shop and bought several boxes of Fire King dishes, totaling several hundred dollars. They packaged the vintage glassware and brought it back to the store they were opening in Japan.

He also recalls an instance where a buyer purchased a $10 bucket from him that ended up being an antique lard pail worth $1,000, which Hunt found out once the buyer called him back to share its worth. Hunt had mistaken the pail for an old kid’s sandbox bucket.

“What made mine unique and what threw me off, was that it didn’t say lard on it, but it had a cute little picture of a pig on it,” Hunt said. “That was one of my larger missteps, which will happen with antiques.”

Hunt said he now looks online to research the items he acquires. He will also tell people who bring in items to sell him if they are better off trying to sell their items online.

Hunt sits in the middle of his shop and updates the A-Z Collectables' Facebook page. He said he tries to stay away from online selling and uses the internet to mainly research the age and selling price of items in his shop.
Hunt sits in the middle of his shop and updates the A-Z Collectables’ Facebook page. He said he tries to stay away from online selling and uses the internet to mainly research the age and selling price of items in his shop.

“Some things will sit here for years, but on eBay, if it’s priced right, it’s gone in two weeks,” Hunt said. “I buy things on eBay, but I don’t sell. I need to, just to thin out some of my things.”

The abundance of antiques stacked and piled while strategically organized in A-Z Collectables offers a journey through history – something a buyer would not experience online.

Hunt said, “When you walk in the door here, it doesn’t take you too long and you understand the character, heart and passions of the guy that’s running it.”

Since Hunt’s retirement, he has been able to keep A-Z Collectables open with set hours during the week and on Sunday.
Since Hunt’s retirement, he has been able to keep A-Z Collectables open with set hours during the week and on Sunday.
The first room of A-Z Collectables contains used leather jackets, hand-painted glassware, board games, records, toy cars and more.
The first room of A-Z Collectables contains used leather jackets, hand-painted glassware, board games, records, toy cars and more.
Hunt’s shop holds countless books, ranging from labeled categories that include “western America,” “Minnesota writers,” “Midwest” and “other USA.” Hunt said he focuses on selling mainly nonfiction and classic books.
Hunt’s shop holds countless books, ranging from labeled categories that include “western America,” “Minnesota writers,” “Midwest” and “other USA.” Hunt said he focuses on selling mainly nonfiction and classic books.
A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.
A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.
Old lunchboxes hang from ceiling pipes in Hunt’s antique shop.
Old lunchboxes hang from ceiling pipes in Hunt’s antique shop.
Piles of old board games await potential players in Hunt’s antique shop.
Piles of old board games await potential players in Hunt’s antique shop.
Hunt holds a particular item for sale he’s “excited about.” He explained how the bottom of the china has printed on it MEMBER UNITED STATES CONGRESS, and he is trying to figure out how much it is worth and if this dishware was only sold to members of congress. He said this print makes the item more unique to him.
Hunt holds a particular item for sale he’s “excited about.” He explained how the bottom of the china has printed on it MEMBER UNITED STATES CONGRESS, and he is trying to figure out how much it is worth and if this dishware was only sold to members of congress. He said this print makes the item more unique to him.
Hunt explains what kind of books he has bought for his shop during its 20-plus years of business.
Hunt explains what kind of books he has bought for his shop during its 20-plus years of business.
Hunt looks through items in the corner of his shop that is made up of strictly Winona memorabilia.
Hunt looks through items in the corner of his shop that is made up of strictly Winona memorabilia.
A wall in Hunt’s shop displays numerous soda bottles. Hunt said, “I wasn’t interested in going the beer route, so I went with soft drinks. It used to be that small towns had their own bottling works, so I started collecting different soda pops.” He also explained how his collection of soda bottles is “more of a museum now,” after the housing collapse in 2008 when people stopped collecting them as much.
A wall in Hunt’s shop displays numerous soda bottles. Hunt said, “I wasn’t interested in going the beer route, so I went with soft drinks. It used to be that small towns had their own bottling works, so I started collecting different soda pops.” He also explained how his collection of soda bottles is “more of a museum now,” after the housing collapse in 2008 when people stopped collecting them as much.

Winona Friendship Center seeks new location, more space

Video of Tai Chi class:

by Sara Tiradossi

As they lifted their arms gently and steadily in different directions, the flowing movements of a group of 30 older adults were coordinated in grace and balance.

Tai Chi is one of the most popular classes offered at the Winona Friendship Center that gathers many on a weekly basis, Malia Fox, director of the Friendship Center said.

With more than a thousand members and a great number of programs, the Friendship Center is suffering from a lack of space. This has caused concern among members and administrators at the center.

To accommodate all of its programs, Fox said the center has expressed the desire to move to a different location.

“The process has been going at a slow pace but I see this happening soon,” Fox said.

Back in the 1960s, the Winona Friendship Center was located at the west and east ends of town, then it moved to the Valley View Tower in 1969 as people were starting to show more interest. In 1980, the center opened on the first floor of the Historic Masonic Theater on Main Street and has been there since.

“We needed a more permanent home,” Fox said.

The committee knew the demographic of the center would continue to grow and could have used the second floor of the building as well. That never occurred, Fox said.

During an Engage Winona event a couple years ago, many people said changes at the center were needed. The event revolved around a series of focus groups that asked participants questions regarding issues and problems the community was facing and ways to improve them.

“Out of all the ideas, one of them was to pull a community center together,” Fox said.

According to Fox, this idea would involve children to senior citizens. One of the main goals of the center, which goes along with a new location, would aim to dismiss ageist attitudes and get past culturally driven myths.

“We wanted to break down the myth that some classes or activities are meant for older adults only,” Fox said. “We need to engage with everyone. We can’t know about each other’s issues if we are not in relationship.”

Winona Friendship Center Program Coordinator Laura Hoberg said a new intergenerational development component would allow people of all ages to take part in programs together.

Sometimes, Hoberg said, people think older adults do not want to be connected with younger people. Members at the center see the new multi-generational center as a great opportunity to engage in meaningful and different kinds of interactions.

“There’s a really positive feeling from the community members,” Hoberg said. “Everybody brings different perspectives and ideas.”

A new location would meet some of the center’s needs in terms of changing the layout of the center that, Fox said, is not conducive for the members. In a recent evaluation, Fox said people felt uncomfortable walking through the main hall to access other rooms in the building. Because of the layout, sounds easily travel down the hallway, which might distract members who are taking a class.

Moreover, Fox is aware the center lacks a parking lot and does not provide an easy access to the main door.

According to Fox, the process of relocation may take years.

Some of the concerns include costs involved, and replacement of the center with another potential structure. The center is seeking to relocate either at the East Recreation Center or become part of a collaborative project between Winona Health and the Winona YMCA.

Despite its need for a bigger structure, the center has continued to grow through the years. Being the only structure in the state of Minnesota that is nationally accredited, Fox said, members in Winona have access to the best programs and facilities.

“People rely on us; they feel welcomed,” Fox said. “Their voices are heard.”

Diane Stevens was one of the members following the soft melody playing in the background as she was trying to maintain a straight posture.

For Stevens, Thai Chi was the answer to her physical health.

Stevens has been involved with the Tai Chi class at the Winona Friendship Center for more than 10 years and is taking an arthritis class as well. She said she had to take some time off when she started having serious health problems.

“I was in the back of the room in a wheel chair and worked my way up to the front,” Stevens said. “I wouldn’t be walking if it wasn’t for Thai Chi.”

Stevens said she believes the center could improve its space, because it is currently offering a big room only, where most of the activities take place, and smaller ones that do not fit large groups of people.

Through the years, member Dorothy Duellman has learned how the center operates and noticed how a bigger space would allow instructors to set up activities in separate rooms, without having to rush from one activity to another, she said. Ideally, she would like to see a swimming pool as well.

Duellman has been a member of the center since 2004 and said she visits the wellness center three times a week to keep herself active and plays cards from time to time.

“A lot of the programs help seniors stay more active and healthy,” Duellman said.

With her experience as a long-term member, Duellman said she appreciates how the center is always looking for new, innovative ways to help older adults and support them.

“It’s really a growing organization,” Duellman said.

One of the programs that has been consistent over time is the health and wellness center, which attracts many for exercise programs from yoga mat to zumba classes. Recently, the center has seen a push towards educational programming, encouraging older adults to be challenged not only physically, but also mentally.

About 100 people walk through the building’s main door every day for many different programs, Fox said. Many members today join the center after being in rehabilitation, and hope to continue their healing process there. Others attend the center for their own physical wellbeing.

Although the members bring to the center their own history and interests, for one to two hours of their day, they have the chance to be reunited in one place and take advantage of the center’s numerous programs.

“It’s a wonderful place,” Duellman said. “What I like about the center is that it focuses on keeping people healthy. It doesn’t separate people; it involves them in the community.”

Member of the Winona Friendship Center lifts her arms at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Members of the Winona Friendship Center participated at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Members of the Winona Friendship Center participated at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Member of the Winona Friendship Center lifts his arms at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Members of the Winona Friendship Center participated at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Winona State Goes To Washington

by Elizabeth Pulanco

After the 2016 presidential election, Washington D.C. returned to the spotlight in  January.  A group of 12 Winona State University students attended an academic seminar hosted by the Washington Center focused on elevating political discourse. Colleges and universities from all over the U.S. participated in the seminar, which was held from Jan. 8 to 21.

In addition to the seminar, students were able to meet alumni living the area, visit the various museums and landmarks and attend the presidential inauguration.

Photo Credit: Grace Johnson
While participating in the Washington Center’s Presidential Inauguration Seminar, Winona State University students got the chance to visit important landmarks and buildings, including the United State Supreme Court Building.
(back, left to right) Benjamin Reimler and Steven Scheevel
(bottom left to right) Christina Melecio, Jack Smyth, Nicole Zimmerman, Christopher Veeder, Grace Johnson, Bobbi Wrona and Max Gonzalez.

The inauguration took place near the end of their time in Washington. According to Winona State senior Grace Johnson and junior Christina Melecio, it was a memorable experience.

Johnson had a mixed response to the inauguration. She said she wanted to attend the Women’s March on following day, but was unable to because her flight was leaving early. She discussed how she wore her pink hat at the inauguration to show support for the movement.

“Pink was the main color for standing up for equality that weekend,” Johnson said. “I got called out and yelled at by other Trump supporters that were there. They yelled at the police to try and get me to leave and harassed me until my friend just told me to take off the hat, because it was not worth my security.”

Even though Johnson experienced conflicts at the inauguration, she said  was still able to observe the event and even made a friend.

Johnson mentioned a woman from Texas who was at the inauguration with her husband and grandchildren. According to Johnson, this woman was the only individual who was willing to have a positive conversation with her.

Johnson said. “Any time someone yelled at us or challenged us, she would be like ‘Stop messing with my liberal friends.’ She gave us big hugs at the end when everyone was leaving.”

Similar to Johnson’s experience, Melecio said she was conflicted with what she heard during the inauguration.

“I was surrounded by people who used horrible rhetoric,” Melecio said. “They were saying some very nasty things about Mexicans, which I am, so that was difficult to digest.”

Despite the behavior of some attendees, Melecio said she was still lucky to view a peaceful transition of power.

“Regardless of whether I liked the candidate or not, in the United States we get to vote for someone, and they get picked. And we don’t have a war in response,” Melecio said.

The situation the students faced with the individuals who had opinions that conflicted with their own was the main focus of the Washington Center’s seminar.

Johnson said she believes the information she learned was applicable to her studies as a political science major.

“In our political science program, conversations are pretty much one-sided. There is not a lot of discourse in our conversations,” Johnson said. “Whether in the political science program, or just having discussions about policy, having an idea of what the other side thinks and being willing to play devil’s advocate, will help us when we get into the field.”

Melecio said the seminar caused her to evaluate different perspectives.

“We had assignments every single day where we had to write a single page, single spaced essay about a different perspective that we learned about,” Melecio said.

Winona State junior Adam Thompson, a social studies education major, is planning on using the information he learned while he is teaching, and said finds it beneficial for discussions on campus.

“The ability to host discussions and teach people about your opinions and feelings will be extremely valuable to me as a social studies teacher while also teaching my students how to have these discussions,” Thompson said.

 Kara Lindaman, a political science professor who organized the trip, said she believes Winona State students could benefit greatly from the seminar.

“I think why we get into this business is for two core commitments to higher education: educating for personal and social responsibility, and taking note of the perspectives of others,” Lindaman said. “It’s really hard to emulate that in a classroom full of similar majors, minds and backgrounds.”

Sociology professor Jennifer Chernega was a chaperone for the trip and said how the trip to Washington was a useful out -of – classroom experience.

“These types of experiences help students connect their classroom work to the world outside and see that the folks that they read about and see on TV are real people,” Chernega said.

Thompson did not attend the inauguration, but did view the several museums in Washington like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

 “As an African American, seeing that history is extremely important. You immediately think of political discourse when you see things on the civil rights movement and the fight for abolition,” Thompson said. “At the Holocaust Museum, there were two survivors from Auschwitz and Dachau that we got the opportunity to speak to, which was an experience that will stick with me for a while.”

Along with the museums, walked through the Senate Office Buildings. While in these buildings, they met their local representatives and Minnesota State Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.

The students went to the Brazilian Embassy and discussed climate change and the status of Brazil in a new presidential administration with research ambassador Frank Neto.

Besides meeting different representatives and political figures, some of the students had the chance to make friends. According to the Washington Center, 60 universities and 320 students participated in the seminar.

“Meeting new people was one of my favorite parts of the trip,” Melecio said. “I have new friends from Connecticut, Florida, Arkansas and New York.”

Students said they felt that traveling to Washington not only gave them a different perspective on their nation’s capitol, but it also gave them a chance to think about their future.

“I think we kind of get stuck in this hopeless feeling of being in college forever, and going to D.C. showed us that there is more we can do,” Johnson said. “We had the opportunity to talk with people from different kinds of fields of work in D.C. The opportunities we got there are not usually found here in Winona.”

Many of the students who traveled to Washington are a part of the political science program or are members of Winona State’s Student Senate, and taking this trip reignited their passion for public service, especially for Melecio

“We went to learn, and I think we learned a lot about elevating political discourse, but we also learned a lot about ourselves,” Melecio said.” I think people started seeing different career paths or futures for themselves while being there. It was a once and a lifetime kind of opportunity.”

Creating discussions: Winona County promotes substance abuse prevention

by Samantha Stetzer

Jenna McMillan believes her life would have been different if someone would have just talked to her.

McMillan grew up in Winona, Minnesota, with what she called “a good family.” Her mother was a nurse, her father was involved in real estate and she had a stepfather who was an attorney.

She graduated from high school and eventually attended Winona State University where she made the dean’s list and graduated with a degree in marketing, playing to her business strengths.

When McMillan was 14 years old, she started drinking and doing drugs. When she was 15, she ran away and was arrested. She was sent to a halfway house where she spent the summer between junior high and high school.

The next year she said she found some better friends in school, but continued to abuse substances. When she graduated high school, she was introduced to methamphetamine, and throughout college became a casual dealer—an unfortunate use for that business-oriented mind, McMillan said.

Soon, she was more than a casual dealer. She became addicted to the lifestyle that fueled her drug addiction until her home was raided and she was arrested at 28 years old for selling meth.

If convicted, McMillan could have faced up to seven years in prison.

Instead, she was given the opportunity to face her addiction, work in the community and only had to go to jail for a year. She has been sober now for seven years and works with chemical dependency in the Minnesota Teen and Adult Challenge program, engaging with teens about substance abuse and the issues it can cause.

McMillan said if people had talked to her about drug use before she started becoming a heavy user or even took her first sip of alcohol, most of her life would be different. Discussing addiction when she was growing up was a hush-hush topic.

Now 42 years old, McMillan said she has seen the positives of initiatives that promote prevention in Winona County. Even though she said she would like to see more prevention efforts, she believes those standing up against addiction have been fighting for a worthwhile cause.

Responding to the need together 

Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman said she does not believe in reinventing the wheel. She believes in using the whole wheel.

Since being elected as the county’s first female county attorney, Sonneman has made it a mission to implement what she calls “smart justice.”

“I’m not a lock-em-up kind of prosecutor,” Sonneman said. “There’s no reason to lock somebody up that has a mental illness or who has a drug problem that is not committing crimes of such a serious nature that they can’t be helped.”

According to Sonneman, a big part of prevention is targeting children in the area who are the most susceptible to mental health and substance abuse based on the adverse childhood experiences (ACE), such as a parent using drugs or a history of abuse in their home. According to Sonneman, the more ACEs a child has, the more likely they are to use drugs and alcohol.

A 2016 Minnesota Student Health Survey of a fifth, eighth, ninth and 11th grade students in Winona County, found that as the number of ACEs a child experiences grows, so does their likelihood to use substances, with a slight dip between one ACE and two ACEs before continuing to rise again.

According to the survey, in Winona County 36 percent of children have experienced at least one ACE in their lifetime.

Furthermore, the study found alcohol was the drug of choice for approximately three out of 10 Winona County students within the 30 days before the survey. The average of alcohol use in Winona County was reported to be almost six percent higher than the state average. Usage numbers for tobacco and marijuana were both one to two percent higher in Winona than the state average.

Through the Winona County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a group of justice experts in the Winona area who review and advocate for justice reform and policy, and her office, Sonneman said she tries to partner with area coalitions and organizations to provide what she views as fair justice for both sides of the legal system. By working together, she said she believes a wider net of prevention and justice reform can be cast in Winona County.

“Because we can do it on a collaborative basis, why reinvent the wheel? Or duplicate efforts,” Sonneman said. “So we’re planting seeds with the prevention early on.”

For Sonneman, the work begins at the local schools.

Sonneman said her office and the county court system host Law Day for local sixth grade students in Winona County, making them active participants as judge, jury, attorney and prosecutor for a pretend case involving a certain theme, such as theft or prescription drug use. The students follow the criminal justice system from beginning to end, in what Sonneman called a “scared straight but better” system.

The County Attorney’s Office also works with Winona State University for its partners in prevention program, which aims to educate college students about substance abuse on college campuses, according to Sonneman.

A large part of prevention, Sonneman said, is working to help treat mental illness and to prevent or help those who might self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

The county was recently awarded a grant to help treat mental illness at the jails more efficiently, which can significantly help halt the “rotating door” of previously convicted criminals in the justice system, Sonneman said.

When an addict is receiving the help they need for their co-occuring addiction and mental illness, Sonneman said the county could prevent future issues and crimes from happening.

The idea has caught on at the local schools, according Mark Anderson, principal at Winona Senior High School. Sonneman and Anderson are both board members at Winona County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, a drug and alcohol prevention and treatment coalition under the Winona County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

According to Anderson, at the high school level, most of the prevention against drugs and alcohol is not an outright campaign against abusing the substances. Instead, it is done through screening for mental health issues.

Through the screenings, Anderson said school professionals can determine which students need help and how parents and those students can seek resources to help the student find constructive ways of monitoring and managing their mental illness for academic and personal success.

From Anderson’s perspective, he said he believes the school should help a student with their mental health diagnosis and proactive ways to manage it in order to help the student engage more in their educate and creating a more productive life for themselves.

Anderson said the school district requires students to take health classes in seventh, eighth and 11th grades that cover topics like alcohol and drug abuse, but mental health is discussed starting as early as fifth grade.

Grade school students in the district used to participate in Drug Abuse Resistance Education, hosted by the Winona County Sheriff’s Department, according to Winona County ASAP Program Coordinator Phillip Huerta. Since the program has proven to be less effective than hoped, most school districts in the area have dropped the program. Lewiston-Altura Public School District is the only district in Winona County to still host the program.

While the focus of prevention at the high school level in Winona lately has been on mental health and what Sonneman and Anderson agree can be the root of addiction, students are also exposed to the consequences of substance abuse through programs like a mock crash.

Partnering with Winona County ASAP, the mock crash uses student actors to play the part of you people who drink and drive and eventually kill a friend due to substance abuse.

Both Winona County ASAP and the high school are working to bring the programming back to the high school this spring, in time for prom, according to Anderson. They hope they can add a personal story of loss to the crash program to really impact students.

Forced to be an advocate

For the city of Lewiston, Minnesota, it took a young man to lose his life for prevention to become an important focus for its residents, according to Winona County ASAP Program Coordinator Phillip Huerta.

Jonathan Mraz was a high school student in Lewiston who had hopes of someday becoming a teacher or a nurse, according to his mom, Dede Mraz. He was friends with most people, realizing when his classmates needed a friend.

His life was cut short by a train when he was stumbling home drunk and high after a night of uncharacteristic partying, his mother said—a party where another parent encouraged and supplied the alcohol for the students.

The community of Lewiston rallied around the Mraz family and Jonathan’s story,

Huerta said. For three to five years after his death, Jonathan was a reminder of the problems that can stem from using drugs or alcohol, and his mother still makes sure people do not forget it by speaking about her experience, Huerta said.

Huerta and Anderson both said they hope Dede Mraz will help the coalition with their mock crash this spring, to help bring a face to the tragedy of teen drinking.

“They’ll see tears. They’ll see the pain that the mother still carries to this day about it,” Anderson said. “And they’ll hear how emotional it is and how devastating it is for somebody to lose somebody because of something like that.”

The Lewiston community felt satisified with their efforts, Huerta said, since there were no tragedies due to substance abuse happening since Jonathan’s death. According to Huerta, the community’s prevention efforts tapered off after a couple years following Jonathan’s death, but Dede Mraz is still active in reminding students and their families to not support drinking and the use of drugs through the “Parents who Host, Lose the Most” campaign.

According to Huerta, students helped the coalition with this campaign by bombarding liquor stores and their bottles with stickers for the parents who host campaign, in what Huerta calls “sticker shock.” The students “shocked” the community with about 1,400 stickers, Huerta said.

It was a small gesture, Huerta said, but it was one he said that could change minds and impact the community through support.

“There are so many good ideas that are brought to the table, but our teams right now, even with a handful to a dozen people, it’s hard to do so much,” Huerta said.

Fighting with little funding

Huerta has seen a little money go a long way.

As program coordinator of Winona County ASAP, Huerta said even with only roughly $100,000 for all the prevention efforts the coalition is hoping to fund, it cannot provide all the programs the coalition would hope to bring to the community.

Huerta said he has believed in the strength of the people in the community to get the job done since the coalition became the forefront of drug prevention efforts in Winona County.

For the last two years, the coalition has been funded by a federal grant. The first year the coalition was awarded $117,000, but as the years on their five-year grant pass, the money they receive every year decreases. The last year of funding will be just over $102,000.

In 2016, the coalition was given just over $104,000 for their prevention efforts. According to civic and volunteer chair on the Winona County ASAP board of directors Beth Moe, the coalition cannot spend that money on providing the programming, but rather it has to be used to pull everything together, such as fliers or food for the event.

“The things we do don’t cost a lot, but they do cost something,” Moe said.

Moe said she fears what will happen to their funding now that a new presidential administration has taken over at the federal level.

With the funding they have now, Huerta said prevention can still reach a high number of students to be beneficial.

“Something that I want to remember throughout this whole process is that we did a lot with little money before,” Huerta said. “It’s doesn’t take a lot to do a lot, especially when you have people in the community that really care and want to send a good positive message.”

The main focus for that positive message within the coalition was initially on targeting alcohol and prescription pill usage by students in middle and high school.

Since alcohol has been heavily studied, Huerta said, prevention efforts against its use are the most accessible and effective.

The coalition is now shifting its focus to marijuana, specifically focusing on the Garvin Heights location, which has been identified by students as a hotspot for the drug, Huerta said.

“For marijuana, we need to understand it a little better in Winona because it’s a new topic for a lot of communities,” Hureta said. “We need to learn what does marijuana look like more specifically in our area and how can we address it, because, again, there’s also not a lot of evidence-based strategies out there.”

The coalition also had support from local and county governments in terms of creating policies to keep synthetic drugs like “turbo” off the streets in a more effective manor, Huerta said, part of the work Sonneman did after being first elected.

Better, but still a ways to go

For addicts like McMillan and Max Ruff, sharing their story is part of giving back to the community they were arrested for taking so much from, according to Ruff.

For Ruff, his addiction story begins at 12 years old when he first began taking Adderall and drinking alcohol. It ended on Sept. 27, 2014, when he was found passed out in a puddle of water in the woods near Kellogg, Minnesota, borderline hypothermia setting in and some meth in his cheek after a high speed chase that began in Winona.

Through the Winona County Drug Court, a program that uses intensive methods of treatment for addicts to help them obtain educational and workforce goals, and Narcotics Anonymous, Ruff is now 29 months sober and shares his story whenever he can.

Ruff talks to the community through meetings, forums and at appearances at local schools, using a lesson he has learned while in Narcotics Anonymous.

“You can only keep what you have by giving it away,” Ruff said.

While at a recent speaking event at the Winona Area Learning Center, Ruff said he had a student in tears while they were discussing the impacts of racism on this student. Ruff said he reminded the student to not give the racism power, because when he gave power to his addiction, he lost.

McMillan said she opens up a dialogue with local teenagers she sees at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge and said she volunteers for Winona County ASAP’s board of directors.

McMillan said she would like to see more happen involving recovering addicts and connecting them to students who are on the boarder of isolation and substance abuse. She said she believes if someone had taken the time to talk about it with her, she might not have experienced what she did.

Both recovering addicts said they believe conversations about substance abuse should never stop, no matter what kinds of prevention efforts are used. With the stigma surrounding abuse starting to fade, McMillan said she believes more people feel comfortable opening up for help before large issues occur.

As long as prevention staves off the raid of a 28-year-old meth dealer’s house or prevents hypothermia for a 116-pound man over some meth in his cheek, both recovering addicts agree the solution is beneficial.

The Art of Relaxation

With life, there’s bound to be a multitude of stresses. Thankfully, there’s a new club at the Winona Public Library that residents can pencil into their schedule.

Starting this past Tuesday and continuing every month at the library’s Liberty Bell art room, there’s a coloring club to bring out an inner child.

“I had the idea for the coloring club, it’s kind of the fad in libraries right now,” said Samantha TerBeest, who founded the club. “It’s super popular to do them.”

Supplies and art are provided by TerBeest, and there are dozens of coloring options. Anybody is free to walk in and join − there’s no signup needed.

As an adult services librarian, TerBeest received suggestions for the club and decided to test the trend on the locals.

“The response has been surprisingly overwhelming,” TerBeest said. “I put it out as a Facebook event and I shared it through the library’s webpage as well as the parks and recs page. Within two hours I got 20 people interested in it.”

The club is designed to be a way for Winona County adults to meet people and relax. Winona State University psychology professor Liz Russell says activities like the coloring club can also relieve stress and anxiety.

“The attention to adult coloring books and things like that is actually really great, because it means that people are doing something to worry about theirmental health,” Russell said.

“Art therapy can be helpful,” she said. ”A big part of how coloring books are effective is the mindfulness − things to get you out of the cyclical thinking pattern,” It’s really hard to [color] when you’re not in the given moment.”

Trisha Karr, another psychology professor at Winona State, says that in addition to getting out of the cyclical pattern, certain parts of the brain are quieted and as a result de-stresses the brain.

“In coloring, what’s taking place is if somebody is stressed out, we can connect that to the amygdala,” Karr said. “The thought is that we can reduce the activation the amgydala. In that case, the emotion center is quieted.”

Karr said that as a culture, people are becoming more used to multitasking, which invokes more stress.

“Coloring is thought to be a task that gets us to focus on one stimulus,” Karr said. “In that case, it has a calming influence on the brain. What we want to do is color to quiet those thoughts and in turn, shut down the [stress] process that’s occurring in the brain and nervous system.”

For the adult population that is targeted for the library’s audience, Samantha TerBeest said the coloring club could especially calm, relax and de-stress those who come in.

“It also kind of helps the elderly population that may be experiencing symptoms in Alzheimer’s and dementia, ‘cause it helps them bring back memories of their childhood,” TerBeest said.

Once people find their relaxing niche, they can become less stressed and more comfortable.

“Finding the strategy that works best and using that is really important,” Professor Russell said. “Ongoing mindfulness tends to have ongoing effects. The more you relax and the more you practice that, the easier it is to bring that relaxation back.”

As the coloring trend continues to grow, TerBeest said she will continue welcoming Winona County residents to see if coloring is indeed their niche. She said the coloring club program is here to stay.

“It is going to be a monthly thing,” TerBeest said. “I like to do a monthly testing period of about six months to get a feel if this is a program that I should have for a while or not.”

The next color club meeting will be on May 9th, and is open to the public.

A visual look at the first color club meeting back in February.


Islamophobia on the WSU Campus

Nada Hussein with her sign that sparked controversy.

A Winona State University student sparked conversation last week when she posted a photo of herself wearing a sign with facts about Islam on Facebook.

Nada Hussein, a senior majoring in political science at WSU posted the picture on the “Overheard at WSU” Facebook page and received mixed reactions.

Hussein’s sign reads: Stop Islamophobia; There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world; 0.003% of the Muslim population is responsible for terrorist attacks; Less than 27% of all terrorist attacks are carried out in the name of Islam; You have more chances of being killed by a bee than a Muslim.

The post and the reactions that followed got the attention of the university and prompted the visit of Dr. Sheikh Odeh Muhawesh.

Muhawesh, author and well-known theologian, came to campus to present “Islamophobia in America: How Did We Get Here?”

Muhawesh, an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, discussed the misconceptions surrounding Islam and talked about the dangers of religious segregation during his visit to WSU.

Muhawesh said the greatest misconception about Muslims is that they are the “other.”

“Muslims in America are in every aspect of our society from armed forces to professors, to cab drivers, to doctors, to judges, to students. It’s a misconception to view them as somebody else. Muslims can be white Americans, African Americans, Scandinavian Americans, so that image that people have of Muslims being different is a big misconception,” Muhawesh said.

Hussein’s Facebook post started the conversation about Islamaphobia.

Hussein said some students responded positively by asking her if they could help support her cause.

One student wrote, “I’m a little late to see this post and the semester is almost over, but let me know if there’s anyway I can help out this semester or next.”

Other commenters’ linked articles to news reports from the San Bernardino shootings and the Paris attacks, pointing out the growing numbers of terrorist attacks coming from groups like ISIS.

Another student said, “Although I do not support the type of hate the likes of Trump seem to be espousing, It seems clear to me the world would be a better place without Islam. Further, the idea that ‘Islam is peace’ seems absurd to me. If you want a peaceful religion, you are going to have to look further east than the Middle East.”

Hussein said this type of response is not unusual and this was not the worst of the comments. She said she deals with the negativity by rarely answering people’s negative responses.

“It makes me feel really bad because I’m not trying to defend Islam, I’m trying to make a peace movement and tell people about what they don’t know.” Hussein said.

Muhawesh talked about Facebook in his presentation and said Facebook and most social media allow people to hide behind a wall and therefore it is natural Hussein would receive more hateful comments online than she would in person.

His suggestion to the people who posted negative comments on Hussein’s post is to have a conversation with a Muslim or visit a mosque.

“With interfaith dialogues, we encourage dialogue and face to face meetings. Go to people’s churches, mosques, coinages, temples and see people face-to-face because it’s a totally different feeling.” Muhawesh said.

According to Muhawesh, there are 45 mosques in Minnesota and as far he knows, there is an open door policy, no matter the faith of the visitor.

Muhawesh said the key to eliminating misconceptions of Muslims is to teach religion without evangelizing faith.

“I’m very much in favor of teaching about religions in public schools. Not as a matter of faith, but as a religion. Every segment of the population has a faith of some sort. We need to understand each other and without that education we will always, in each other’s eyes be the other, Muhawesh said.

Hussein came up with the idea to carry the sign with her shortly after the attacks on Paris. She’s vowed to carry it with her on campus every day until the end of the semester.

“Everyone said ‘pray for Paris’ but two days before, the same thing happened in Lebanon and no one said anything about it.” Hussein said.

Offline Hussein said people hardly ever come up to her in person and comment on her sign.

“I get more support from faculty members than I do students,” Hussein said. “Student’s don’t really care they just look at it and keep going. Its more likely for students to walk by and ignore me than say something hateful.”

Now other students are supporting Hussein by carrying signs around campus. According to Hussein, all of the students who asked to join her are all non-Muslim, American students.

“Its hard to be a Muslim around here,” Hussein said. “For me, people may not know by looking at me that I am Muslim because I’m not wearing a headscarf.”

The biggest misconception Americans have about Muslims, Hussein said, is that they are all terrorists or Islam is terrorism.

Hussein said the discrimination against Muslims has gotten worse in the four years she’s been in the United States. She said she thinks its due to the world events such as the Paris attacks back in November.

She said since ISIS has been on the upswing, things have gotten “out of control.”

Along with the recent terrorist attacks, Hussein said the upcoming election also makes her feel worried because of the policies Donald Trump is proposing.

“He wants to give us identification cards and that makes me feel really bad.” Hussein said. “I think I’ll be leaving the country if he’s elected. Why would I stay somewhere and be treated like how Hitler treated people years and years ago?”

According to Muhawesh, hate speech and microagressive moves can lead to violence.

“We should tolerate freedom of speech and criticism. We should tolerate investigations and disagreements. But when that turns into hate and aggressive behavior, that is when we should stop it.” Muhawesh said.

As for stopping Islamophobia on the WSU campus, Muhawesh said students must stop microagressions by standing up to hate speech.


Second Warrior Debate engages students, faculty

By Phillip Pronschinske & Shane Carlson

Winona State University hosted its second Warrior Debate of the academic year this past Tuesday, March 15, in the Phelps Hall TV Studio. This debate focused on whether Winona State University should establish a social media code of conduct.

Each debate is led by a moderator, with each side given a limited amount of time to present their arguments.

First, those for and against the motion receive seven minutes respectively for opening statements. Next, there’s another seven minute period for rebuttals and questions posed by the moderator. This is followed by a brief period of questions from the audience. Finally, each side receives three minutes to make their closing arguments. Audience votes are taken before and after the debate using placards scanned by a tablet. The winner is determined immediately via tally.

Four Winona State students participated in Tuesday’s debate. Arguing for the motion were Benedict Linsenmeyer, a senior studying law and society, and Danielle Weiler, a senior majoring in individualized legal studies. Arguing against the motion were Duc Nguyen, a junior and Michaela Curley, a freshman, both of whom are majoring in business administration. Ken Graetz, WSU’s director of Teaching, Learning and Technology served as moderator.

During the debate, Curley and Nguyen argued against the motion on the grounds that Winona State’s current code of conduct already contains guidelines for appropriate social media use, therefore, establishing a new code would be redundant.

Arguing for the motion, Weiler and Linsenmeyer argued standards for social media conduct would not, in fact, limit speech, but rather encourage it and promote appropriate use.

WSU’s director of Student Conduct and Citizenship, Alex Kromminga, said an interesting aspect of the debate is students are not necessarily allowed to choose the position they argue.

“It really does take you out of your comfort zone,” he said.

Kromminga said the inspiration for these events came from a series of YouTube debates by a group called “Intelligence Squared.”

Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Life Denise Lloyd-McDowell said once Kromminga brought the idea to a board meeting it grew bringing together different groups on campus.

“The Warrior Debates was a brainchild that came out of the Student Life and Development directors meeting,” McDowell said.

Afterward, the idea was brought to Student Senate, where Kromminga said the idea was so well-received, they felt they should contribute. He said senate had discussed the idea of a social media code of conduct before and was interested in getting student feedback. This led to their proposition of the debate’s theme.

Regardless of the importance of the issue, Kromminga said these events are more about the act of debating itself rather than the outcome of the vote.

“A big thing to glean from it is understanding how to develop an argument,” Kromminga said.

He also said decisions made by the voters in attendance may not necessarily result in any policy change.

“Even though there’s a voting aspect to the debate just to give a sense of accomplishment for either team, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the university is going to adopt a social media code of conduct,” Kromminga said. “It’s an idea to figure out, ‘Do we need to have more conversations, more education on how the campus views social media and our responsibilities in those realms?’”

Kromminga said the university hopes to continue having these debates each semester. If they garner more interest, there is the potential for more, and perhaps the formation of a new club on campus.

“Our hope is, is that this movement would be more student-driven,” he said. “We really do want students to kind of start taking a lead and thinking of different topics…we’re hoping students that come and observe will show more of an interest and want to take on the next go-around.”

McDowell said she is optimistic about the future.

“I’m excited that Winona State University can create this opportunity for students and find yet another way to help another group of students get engaged in the college experience,” she said.

Kromminga said he hopes that these events can pave the way for more debates in the future.

“I think it would definitely be something a lot of students could benefit from.”


Alex Kromminga on the advantages of these events:

Denise Lloyd-McDowell on her reactions to the event:

Duc Nguyen on his preparations for the debate:

Winona Knitting Mills: The History Behind the Building

Pete Woodworth, former owner of the Winona Knitting Mills, walked into Wanek Hall at the Winona County Historical Society on Wednesday sporting a green cable knit cardigan he made at the Winona Knitting Mills 58 years ago. This was the first sweater Woodworth ever made when he was 12 years old.

“I wore it to work one day and someone told me it was so beautifully made, that I should hang on to it.” Woodworth said, “I didn’t know they meant until I was 70.”

Woodworth began working for the Winona Knitting Mills at the age of 6-years-old where he started packing sweaters into plastic bags to prepare them for shipping. He worked there ever since, only taking a break to join the Navy for five years. Now, at 69-years-old, Woodworth said how grateful he is to be able to still have the Winona Knitting Mills in his family and work in the building.

Woodworth’s grandfather, Walker Woodworth, bought the building in 1943 with his partner, Harry J. Stone. They owned two other locations at the time and were looking for a third location. Jack Temple, the owner of a textile company in Winona, suggested they invest in a building in Winona. The empty building on East Second Street was originally built for a wool mill that never opened.

The mayor of Winona welcomed Walker Woodworth and told him he wouldn’t require Woodworth to pay property taxes for the first year and would only have to pay taxes in 10 percent increments for 10 years as long as they had 200 people working at the mills by the end of 10 years.

To everyone’s surprise, the Winona Knitting Mills had more than 200 employees by the first year.

Pete Woodworth said when the Winona Knitting Mills opened, there were lines of people waiting work at the mills. He said mostly women were employed to run the sewing machines, and noted they enjoyed working there together and most of them were friends.

Proof of the friendships made can still be seen in the break room of the Winona Knitting Mills building. Enlarged photos of women with their arms around each other, laughing and eating ice cream at company picnics can be found hanging on the walls of the original break room. Woodworth said the break room has been left untouched to remind current tenants of the bonds that were created in the building.

At the lecture, to Woodworth’s pleasure, were many employees of the Winona Knitting Mills. The whole audience laughed when Woodworth hauled a huge movie poster up on stage and told the tale of the time he and his wife Joyce were able to attend the New York movie premiere of “The Big Lebowski.” Woodworth said he was proud of the fact that Jeff Bridges chose the Winona-made sweater from a warehouse full of costumes and made the sweater famous.

Woodworth told the audience about how he and his wife went bowling with the cast of the movie and his wife was only able to enter the movie screening because she was wearing the infamous sweater.

In the audience, Howard Rockwell and his wife listened to the history of the old building he used to work in. Rockwell said he loved working at the Winona Knitting Mills and said he got along well with Woodworth and his family.

Rockwell worked at the Winona Knitting Mills in the laundry department from 1955 to 1995. He was in charge of washing all the material before it was sent to the machines.

Rockwell said after 40 years of working at the Winona Knitting Mills, his favorite memory was when they moved the laundry facility from the first floor to the third floor. Rockwell said he was happy to move up to the third floor because he was able to see the river and bluffs from the window’s view.

Rockwell talked with old friends and coworkers he hadn’t seen since he retired in 1995. Woodworth recognized some of his old employees and thanked them for coming to the lecture. After the lecture there were some questions about what went wrong for the Winona Knitting Mills. For some, the closing was unexpected, especially for the employees.

Even though Rockwell had retired in 1995, he was saddened to hear the news of the mills shutting down.

“I was surprised and thankful that I retired at the right time. I was really surprised; they hired a lot of people. I saw a lot of people come and go.” Rockwell said.

Some of the audience members wanted to know what happened to the Winona Knitting Mills and Woodworth explained that they merged with the Hampshire Group Limited, a women’s apparel company.

The Winona Knitting Mills closed a few years after The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was introduced. Woodworth explained said he was advised to sell the company after making visits to Washington D.C. and hearing about the trade agreement.

Woodworth said the hardest moment of his career was when he had to tell his employees the Winona Knitting Mills was closing its doors for good, leaving 180 employees unemployed.

He talked about how he was the type of employer who wanted the best for his employees.

“I’ll try to help you become who you want to be. That’s what kind of company we were. We had a big sign on the office door that said ‘always open’. Those values came from my father and it came from his father.” Woodworth said.

Woodworth’s children now own the building that once was the Winona Knitting Mills. The building is now WKM Properties, a commercial space with 225,000 square feet of leasable space and 10,000 square feet of available space.

This is a cuffing machine that was used to sew cuffs onto sleeves of sweaters such as the one behind the machine. This antique now sits on display on the second floor of WKM properties.