The news that Billy Graham had died this past week certainly deserved the wide attention that it has received. He was a compelling and charismatic speaker and certainly was passionate about his beliefs and his dedication to his Christian faith. Some have said that he was regarded as “America’s pastor”.

I’m not sure about that but his passing did bring back a couple of noteworthy memories. I think it’s safe to say that Billy Graham probably never preached at one of his “crusades’, nor ever came within a hundred miles of Granite Falls, Minnesota. However, he did touch this community in a kind and generous way in our not too distant past.

On the heels of the terrible tornado that mowed its way into the west end of Granite on July 25, 2000, the community was the recipient of much help and many generous donations of all kinds and all amounts, from far and wide. There were supplies, food, clothing and many, many offers of assistance of all types. That help was greatly appreciated and so were the donations. Among those donations were hundreds of letters and cards sent with monetary donations.

And among those, was a card with a brief personal note from Mr. Graham, sent from his hospital room in Rochester. Eighty-one years old at the time, he was struggling with a health issue and was at the Mayo Clinic for a few days when the F-4 tornado clobbered Granite Falls that summer evening.

The news of the tornado was on television across the country and caught his attention. The note in his card offered condolences and prayers for the community and included a personal check for $1,000. His concern and generosity provided a greatly appreciated lift of spirits during those tough days of cleaning up and recovery from that terrible event. Even using the mail, he knew how to be inspiring.

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The intersection where Highway 23 comes to a stop at Highway 212 east of Granite, at the ethanol plant, was the scene of a fatal accident last week. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the driver in the one-car crash, a young man from South Sioux City, Nebraska failed to stop and drove across Highway 212 and into the ditch.

His car rolled over eight or nine times into the plowed field. His two passengers, also young men from the Sioux City area, survived but were taken by ambulance to the Granite Falls hospital. The patrol reports that all of them were wearing seat belts and alcohol was not a factor.

Thankfully there was no other traffic within the intersection at the time, or this could have been even worse. One fatality is more than bad enough. That this driver failed to stop indicates that there may be a need for additional warning for southbound drivers approaching that intersection while on Highway 23. Maybe there should be a more active warning system to catch the eye of drivers as they approach the upcoming stop at Highway 212.

There are two street lights there but it’s obvious that those street lights, while a good idea, are not sufficient at this intersection. Maybe there should be a flashing red light installed on southbound Highway 23 approaching the intersection or a red flashing stop sign, similar to others that have been installed at several other intersections in the area and along each of these highways. It seems like a modest investment, especially if it can prevent another accident and fatality.

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The YME Hoops Club recently held their annual fundraiser raffle drawing last week and it reminded us of the good work that group does in raising funds for the various local basketball programs and the kids that play basketball. The word is that, unlike most area schools and communities, the girls and boys here don’t have to pay any fees to play in the basketball programs.

That ensures that every kid, no matter their situation at home, has the opportunity to be there, participate and learn the game. That seems like exactly the right thing for kids and for the basketball program. It certainly can be a difference maker for some kids and their families. It can also be a difference maker for future YME girls and boys basketball teams.

Besides allowing any youngster to participate at no charge, the YME Hoops Club also pays for the tournament entry fees and covers other expenses. And the group also donates equipment and supplies to local recreation facilities and programs. Their annual raffle is a worthy cause and supports their good work. Keep it in mind next year and consider donating to this very worthwhile local organization. _________