Light in the Dark

2020 has been a lot of hard work to adapt to ever changing circumstances. I have struggled personally. I have watched all of the staff struggle individually. We have struggled together. We have watched our community struggle while we all feel cut off from each other in so many ways.

It feels like it took a lot of struggle and floundering and trying and stopping and starting, but we are adapting. Sometimes it’s easy to adapt and sometimes it’s slow and painful. But we’re doing it. You are doing it. We’re doing it together, even if we are apart.

All the way, I have been inspired by the creativity and sisu and humor of the people who I work with and who make up our community. I love you all and I don’t feel like I would have gotten through the last year without the fine folks I get to work with or without knowing that you community folks are all out there trying hard to make sense of 2020 alongside of us.

It was creativity and adaptability and sisu that allowed us to pull off the biggest Finland Farmers Market season ever this past summer, or a safe Camp Finland for the kids, or our partnership with AEOA and Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank for food distributions that have given away over 40,000 pounds of food since July. More adaptability and sisu show in the work of the Finland Community Nature Childcare, a project Friends of Finland has been fiscally sponsoring and which is about to take off on their own and open a nonprofit childcare center. Adaptability and creativity have driven our work with Lake County Health and Human Services, who have helped us get funding through the CARES Act for better internet and audiovisual equipment to meet community needs for telehealth and other important connections. It was adaptability that sparked our partnership with North Shore Area Partners, the United Protestant Church in Silver Bay, and the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging to put out three free curbside meals this fall: Sisu Stew (100 meals), Thanksgiving Dinner (150 meals), and the Yuletide Feast (170 meals), and community creativity and sisu added artwork and, for the Yuletide Feast, pies by the Baptism River Community Church. Community creativity and adaptability showed through again with our partnership with the Finland Historical Society (FMHS) to do an online video version of their Pikka Joulu (Finnish Christmas) event that used to always take place at the Clair Nelson Center. FMHS used to always partner with the Youth Program so that the kids could meet Joulupukki (Finnish Santa), learn about Finnish traditions, and sing songs with the elders, so this year, instead, they made up bags of treats and we mailed them to youth program kids to try to keep that community connection.

Community connections, that’s what we are going for. Through all of our work this year, we have really appreciated hearing from many of you community members telling us what you need, and letting us know that our work is helping, even just in some small way. We want to help, and we all need to stay connected through this dark time. It helps us, the staff at the Clair Nelson Center, to stay connected with all of you, and we hope that our work is helping you feel a little more connected and less isolated too. We’re going to get through this, together.

We’re going to need even more creativity, adaptability and sisu in 2021. Obviously, we hope to be able to gather in person once again and restart many of the activities at the Center that we previously hosted there before COVID-19. Until we can do that, we plan to keep on adapting to meet needs as much as we can.

If you have the means, and you appreciate our work, donations help. Any size gift is appreciated. Donate here:

We know a lot of folks are stretched for funds right now, so if that’s the case, please take care of yourselves and your families first. We will hang in there. Sisu, dammit!

With gratitude and hope,

Honor and the staff at the Clair Nelson Center

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