Lakes & Pines Connects with Elected Officials


To begin the month of August, Minnesota elected officials and their representatives descended upon Lakes & Pines Community Action Council in Mora.

"I'm impressed they took the time to come," Lakes & Pines Executive Director Denise Stewart said as she watched officials talk to her staff about programs the agency provides. "They're busy folks. It's impressive."

Lakes & Pines tries to hold an Open House for officials annually to share information about the necessity of its programs and their impact on their community. Besides elected officials, the agency's board members were also in attendance.

"They care," Robert Folkstad, a long-time board member, said of agency staff. "Everyone who works here, cares about the people. When they tell you about the programs, you can see it in their eyes."

For two hours, the Community Action Agency's program directors talked to state officials about housing, emergency services, weatherization, Head Start and a newly launched program called THRIVE.

State Representative Brian Johnson is a regular at the Lakes & Pines Open House. He stayed almost two hours talking with Stewart, staff members and other elected-officials.

"I always liked to see what's changed," Johnson said. "What issues they're having and try to find out how I can help."

Senator Mark Koran, Representative Jeff Dotseth and Carlton County Commissioner Susan Zmyslony and Kanabac County Commissioner Peter Ripka also attended the event. Gov. Tim Walz and Senator Tina Smith sent staff members in the place because of prior commitments.

"I think the more we know, the more we can work with them," said Zmyslony, who hadn't been to Lakes & Pines Mora office previously. Zmyslony, who is also a board member of the United Way, said understanding what Lakes & Pines does makes it easier for the United Way to partner with the agency on projects.

"I got very good information, " she said. "They're knowledgeable, work collaboratively and focused on helping people."

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