The Friends of the Finland Community’s Mission is to help make Finland and its surrounding area an inviting and vibrant place by:
- Creating community spaces and connections,
- Supporting economic initiatives,
- Implementing social programs,
- Enhancing natural surroundings, and
- Demonstrating sustainable practices.
Friends of the Finland Community (FoF) value that:
- Bonds between people strengthen a community.
- Strong partnerships between people and organizations foster shared vision, action and collective impact
Who We Are
We are a non-profit entity in the Northern Lake County area providing space for youth, senior citizens, community groups, events, rentals, small business support and incubation, community education classes, social programs, community recreation, free wi-fi internet, public computers, trail maps and information, all in one location!
Honor Schauland, Director and Program Lead
Nancy Anselment-Olson, Operations Lead
Kaare Melby, Communications Lead
Lori Walewski – Board Chair
Danielle Hefferan – Secretary
Lise Abazs – Treasurer
Greg Hansen – At Large
A Bit of History
FoF was formed after the creation of the Crystal Bay Comprehensive Community Plan. A group of citizens realized that the formation of a nonprofit such as the FoF could help carry on the momentum started by the Comprehensive planning process and work towards making the community’s vision a reality.
A board was created and the first meeting was held in March of 2007 to incorporate. We then applied to become a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. We received our official nonprofit status in April of 2008.
During our first four years several grants from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation helped us get started and develop as an organization. Since then, the group helped to raise the funds to build the Clair Nelson Intermodal Transportation Center, and now manages the Center in partnership with Crystal Bay Township and also runs social and recreational programs out of the facility. In partnership with the community, FoF supports Finland's annual St Urho's Day Celebration in March and the Harvest Booya in September.
Where Friends of Finland is Going
Back in November of 2019, FoF hosted a gathering of over 30 people – folks who participate in many of the activities here at the Clair Nelson Center as either volunteers, staff, or board members, and sometimes in more than one of these roles! The group worked with facilitators from Co-Nexio of Duluth to talk about how FoF could restructure the organization to better hold all of the work we are trying to do that is absolutely necessary to our vital and well-functioning community. At the gathering we talked about what people value most about FoF and went together through a group “teach” about the living systems view of change. We talked about what will be coming into the new structure that won’t change, what works well in other organizations, and what are some characteristics of an ideal work culture. We went through the pros and cons of different organizing structures, listed resources and needs, and then broke into groups to design/brainstorm different possible structures for FoF. It was a long but inspiring day.
Since then, the Board and Staff have been busy reworking our internal structure including policies, principles, and practices that will help to solidify the organization and our work. We have come up with preliminary structures that will be tested, evaluated, and refined over the coming years. Our near term goal is to create a structure that best suits the FoF staff and community members to carry out the organization's mission.
The Story of Finland's Community Center
By far the biggest project FoF has undertaken has been assisting Crystal Bay Township with the planning, fundraising, and construction of the Finland Community Center/Clair Nelson Intermodal Transportation Center. The Township's goal was to build a new community center that would be the model rural, affordable, sustainable community center to serve area residents of Northern Lake County and visitors to the region.
The planning for the new center began during the community’s comprehensive planning process in 2003-2005. In addition to the question “What would you like the community of Finland to be like in 20 years?” focus groups were also asked what they would like to see in a new community center. This information was incorporated into the Comp Plan, but also used to obtain $9,000 of support from the Northeast Minnesota Sustainable Development Partnership. With these funds, the Township was able to work with Paul Anderson of Partners and Sirny Architecture Firm and the University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Building Research to obtain schematic designs for the building and to develop methods for incorporating sustainable elements into the new facility.
In turn, the schematic design created allowed the Town to apply for funding in multiple places. In June of 2006, the Township voted to bond itself up to $750,000 to build the new building. A Community Center Committee met from 2004-2006. In June 2006 the Township moved to officially create two Committees, a fund-raising and a building committee, which met bi-weekly to plan for and coordinate the next steps for the building. In August of 2006, Congressman Jim Oberstar visited Finland and spent an hour at the Finland Rec. Hall learning about the hopes and plans for the new Community Center.
On March 16th, 2007, Finland’s St Urho’s Day Celebration was organized around the History of the old Finland Recreation Hall, which we knew we would be saying goodbye to in preparation for construction of the new Center. The highlight of the day was a visit from Congressman Oberstar, who rode in the parade, visited the Rec Hall, and then announced that the Township would be getting $800,000 from the federal government towards the new Community Center, in recognition and memorial of the efforts of Clair Nelson, a recently deceased community leader.
Fast on the heels of that news came the word that the Township would also be receiving a grant for $97,300 from Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program for the building of the new community center as a facility that could provide information and access to individuals about the natural world in inner Lake County along the Baptism River, a protected trout stream.
After that, the project received funding from such diverse sources as Iron Range Resources, The Wilder Foundation, NE MN Sustainable Development Partnership, the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, Clean Energy Resource Teams, the Katherine B Andersen Fund of the St Paul Foundation, and many various donations from individuals and businesses.
FoF was instrumental in organizing the meetings and building the partnerships that led to these grants for the new facility. We are very pleased to have been able to assist Crystal Bay Township in this manner with the Community Center Project. The new facility was opened for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon January 30 - February 2, 2011. The Grand Opening event occurred during the 2011 St Urho's Celebration on March 12th, 2011. After the Center was finished, a construction debt of $250,000 remained. Thanks to the efforts of Town Clerk Deb Johansen, and County Commissioner Pete Walsh, State Representative Dave Dill was able to secure Taconite Production Tax funds to pay off this debt.
Current Projects and Partnerships
The Community Center is now available for use and rental. It is used every day, activities are flourishing, and the possibilities are endless! The community center is a gathering space for various groups and community gatherings for community members. Some activities include: recreational pick up sports (basketball and volleyball), Tuesday Talents, Bone Builders, Snowmobile Club, monthly community potlucks, Community Education, weddings, and many more.
FoF is committed to serving as a partner with community members on various initiatives that support the community. We serve as a fiscal agent to some projects getting off the ground, we have a certified kitchen to rent for folks looking to develop their food business, and we run some programming directly to support youth in our community. Some of our current projects are:
- Finland Community Youth Program
- Camp Finland
- Finland Food Chain
- Finland Farmer’s Market
- Clair Nelson Scholarships
- St. Urho’s Day
- Finland Community Nature Childcare
- Finland Fall Fest and Car Show