Light in the Dark

January 1, 2021

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

Update from the Friends of Finland Board: Welcome New Board Members!

January 1, 2021

The Friends of Finland board just welcomed a number of new members whose terms will begin in January 2021. Continuing board members Lori Walewski (Chair), Lise Abazs (Treasurer), Danielle Hefferan (Secretary), and Greg Hanson set out to recruit and attract a good array of new folks who will be representing the diverse aspects of our community.

Everyone in our area uses the Clair Nelson Community Center and benefits from Friends of Finland’s work and we want to hear more voices as we fulfill our mission to help make Finland and its surrounding area an inviting and vibrant place.

New board members are Kathy Chumley, Randy Duke, Dominic Lehtinen, Kathy Johnson, Kurt Mead, and Terry Miller. All are talented folks who have been active in activities and groups that happen at the Center and we are excited to welcome them to the Friends of Finland Board!

For more information about the role of the Friends of the Finland Board: 

For more information about Friends of Finland’s mission, history, structure, and current activities:

The Finland Community Nature Childcare is Very Close to Opening!

January 1, 2021

You may have heard already that the Finland Community Nature Childcare has been working with Lake County to
acquire a lease for the currently unused County Forestry House, located right in Finland, between the DNR  building and the Fire Hall, on the north side of Highway 1.

Friends of Finland has incubated this project from an idea proposed at meetings, to the hard work of the project champions Elli King and Randall Walz, as it has grown to become a committee of interested folks who will now become a Board of Directors for the childcare as it spins off into its own nonprofit organization.

One of the most beautiful things to watch with this project has been the support from the community as it has slowly become a reality. Funding from the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation, the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the support of Crystal Bay Township and Lake County, as well as private donations, are a huge part of making this thing happen, but the support and input from families and community members has been vital as well.

Working together is powerful! Way to go Finland Community Nature Childcare! We wish you success.

Opening date is yet to be determined, but the group is hoping for March of 2021.

Contact Childcare Director Elli King for more information and/or to be put on a list for an application for
childcare for your kids –


Keeping the Finland Community Connected

December 11, 2020

While the Clair Nelson Center remains closed to the general public due to the COVID-19 virus, we are still working on ways to serve community needs safely. One way is through internet and technology services, especially related to telehealth. 

Thanks to CARES Act Funding distributed by Lake County, the Community Center was recently able to expand internet access options. Wireless internet will soon be available throughout the entire parking lot, so people can park and connect if they need to attend a virtual medical appointment or connect to a job interview. If you would like to use a scanner, printer, or video conference-enabled room, you must make an appointment by calling 218-353-0300. There are also iPads available for checkout.

The Clair Nelson Center has been serving the community’s tech needs for years with WiFi internet, printing, scanning and public computers. Those services have become even more important because of the current COVID crisis. Thanks to Lake County and the CARES Act funding, community members will now have the ability to use new equipment and better WiFi.

The community center is located at 6866 Cramer Rd, Finland, MN 55603. Community members can contact the center at 218-353-0300 to set up an appointment to utilize indoor internet services or they can connect anytime to the outside network. The network info and password are posted in the entryway of the building, which is accessible 24 hours a day. 


Free Yuletide Feast – To Go!

December 4, 2020

Meal pick up will be Wednesday December 23rd, 2-4pm

Staff at the Clair Nelson Center are really missing all of you community folks and the regular potlucks and other meals we used to share. We’re counting down to the shortest, darkest days of the year right now. Traditionally, winter holidays like Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, and others are all about coming together with family and friends as a way to combat the darkness of the Winter Solstice and celebrating the return to the light with the new year.

Because this year is different, we are trying to be creative. Since we can’t be together in person, we have to find new ways to share happiness, love, hope, and gratitude. That is why we are offering a free Yuletide Feast – to go! With this meal, please know that we are all still here, our community is as strong as ever, and we will make it through these tough times.

This free Yuletide Feast will include Swedish meatballs, ham, macaroni and cheese, roasted root vegetables, green beans, and dessert items! All are welcome! Please click here or call 218-353-0300 to reserve free meals for your household.

Online ordering instructions: To order this free Yuletide Feast, click here, then “add” a meal for each person in your household. Then go to the “cart” (upper-right side of the screen) and click “checkout.” After that, you just follow the on-screen instructions to complete your order. 

Funding for this project was made possible by Federal Nutrition Funds through the CARES Act, obtained through a partnership with Friends of Finland, North Shore Area Partners, Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging and the United Protestant Church in Silver Bay. Thanks so much to North Shore Area Partners for writing the grant and facilitating this project!