When we got a call from Bush Foundation President Jennifer Ford Reedy last month, the first thing that went through my mind was to say thank you. That was an easy response to the organization that has so generously provided funding to various initiatives and needs in Archie Bush’s hometown over the years. The recent Bush Foundation legacy grant to the Granite Falls Area Community Foundation’s En-dowment Fund and a Special Project Fund will help with many more good activities and opportunities. And the Archie Bush Legacy Scholarships that the Bush Foundation has funded in the coming years will make a substantial difference for several Yellow Medicine East graduating seniors and will add to the good work that Scholarship YME is doing for our students. Saying thank you is something we are very glad to do.

But that wasn’t what Jen Reedy was calling about. She graciously accepted that thank you but was calling to extend an invitation to meet with the Bush Foundation Board of Directors at their quarterly meeting in St. Paul. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

This not only seemed like a good opportunity to meet the folks who serve on their board and more of their staff but also to tell them about our story out here in rural Minnesota. And that was what Jen was looking for when she called. The Foundation Board, each meeting, looks to hear a voice from among the communities they serve in all of Minnesota, and North and South Dakota as well as the 23 Native Nations located within the three states. She said they would set aside a half hour on their agenda to be used for anything I wanted to say but noted that they were eager to hear about small town challenges and opportunities.

Well, that certainly wasn’t going to be hard, except there’s a lot more to say than can be conveyed in a mere 30 minutes. Besides humbly thanking the Bush Foundation board and staff for their generosity to Granite Falls, I also wanted to briefly update them on the new Archie Bush Legacy grant and Scholarship programs. Before heading there last Thursday, I got in touch with YME High School Success Coach, Robin Henderson, for an update on the new scholarship program and also with Granite Falls Area Community Foundation (GFACF) Board President Peg Heglund about the local foundation’s work in preparation for having more resources and more responsibilities. Both were happy to provide good updates that were helpful for the Bush Foundation to hear.

The board and staff all seemed very pleased that the Bush legacy will be carried on with good planning and that the funds will be used for deserving community needs. They were particularly interested in hearing more about the need for two-year program scholarships as well as four-year scholarships and how that need played out in rural communities. We talked about the impact and attraction of two-year programs and also those students who start at a two-year college and then move on to a four-year university. They were also interested in the GFACF’s work with the Southwest Initiative Foundation to learn more about processes for handling the local foundation’s new and larger funding source.

When our discussion turned to the challenges and opportunities of rural communities and how meaningful impacts can be made and sustained, I mentioned that despite those challenges, small town or rural communities really do offer many very good opportunities. Our lifestyle, lack of traffic congestion, affordable housing and good jobs are among the many attractions of living in a rural community. That was not new information to at least a couple of folks in the room. Besides her business and numerous other commitments, Granite Falls native and local high school graduate, Jennifer Alstead, has served as a Bush Foundation board member for a number of years and Clarkfield native (and YME graduate) Anita Patel serves as the Bush Foundation’s Leadership Programs Director.

They, along with several other board and staff members, know plenty about rural communities and also know that there is more to understand. I mentioned the challenges we have with community involvement and engaging folks to serve on decision-making boards and committees as well as other community organizations. With a smaller pool of people to draw from and nearly as many decisions to be made, small towns offer many more opportunities to be involved in community decision-making than a larger community can offer.

Still, people and families seem to have less time for community life these days and that may remain the case. The challenge now is to show the need and to show the fun of being “at the table” and being involved with decisions that will help shape this and every other rural community in the coming years.

That’s a focus of many of the Bush Foundation’s efforts and it made for a fun and fast discussion. It was an honor to be invited to visit with the board and to share our community’s experiences as well as the have a chat about the larger issues tugging at rural communities.

We are very fortunate to have the Bush Foundation as a community partner.

Congratulations once again to the YME Silhouette dance team for their strong performances at the state dance team tournament last weekend. This year’s Silhouettes have continued a tradition of state tournament appearances that began back in 1997. Remarkably, this string of 22 consecutive state tournament appearances began four years before the oldest member of the dance team was born. That‘s an amazing tradition. The girls on that first state tournament team are now 40 years old, old enough to be the mothers of any of the members of this year’s state tournament dance team.

Making it to the state tournament is not easy and is not by any means an automatic thing. The girls work very hard, individually and as a team, and their hard work shows. They have earned our respect and thanks for their wonderful achievement and for continuing this amazing string of success.