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Luverne's Generations nears purchase of Grand Prairie Events

Community non-profit to honor existing bookings while it works to reimagine the space.

061221 N DG Grand Prairie Events sale George Bonnema S1.jpg
Grand Prairie Events sale (George Bonnema)

LUVERNE — By the end of June, the Grand Prairie Events center in Luverne will be under new ownership.

Generations, the nonprofit group formerly known as the Luverne Senior Citizens center, is in the midst of purchasing the property from owner Mike Jarchow for $975,000. George Bonnema, president of Generations, said the facility will serve the community’s residents well into the future.

The 12-member board of directors for Generations initially considered renovating its existing building, but that was ultimately scratched in favor of constructing a new facility. Then Jarchow approached the group with an offer.

“Mike had approached us three times about buying the building,” Bonnema shared.

Initially, Generations had the option to purchase the building and its contents for $1.5 million. Then, with the global pandemic causing cancellations of numerous events at the center and no income, Jarchow lowered the price.

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“Our new building was going to cost $3 million, but with COVID and (construction materials increasing in cost) it would have been closer to $4.5 million to $5 million,” Bonnema shared this week. “We were still going to have to buy the contents.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he added. “We’re getting an elegant building that was totally remodeled six years ago, and it has top energy-efficient appliances. Those were huge factors that played into our considering the building.”

Prior to voting to purchase Grand Prairie Events (members voted 124-2 to purchase the property), Generations had purchased a house adjacent to its current building for a new facility. Since planning for the new center came to a standstill during the pandemic, volunteers fixed and cleaned up the house and rented it out as a source of income for Generations.

Bonnema said while the organization has nearly $540,000 in cash and pledges with the Luverne Area Community Foundation, plans are to begin a capital campaign soon to raise the $975,000 needed to pay off the loans Generations is getting to finance the purchase. The money already set aside will then be used to pay for necessary renovations to the event center.

“Grand Prairie Events has a prep kitchen, not a commercial kitchen,” Bonnema said. Generations needs a commercial kitchen, as its cooks prepare the meals for senior nutrition programs in Luverne, Pipestone and Worthington, as well as smaller communities in the area.

“We had 2,893 meals prepared in our kitchen in May,” Bonnema said. “They’re working out of 10 refrigerators and freezers in the old building.”

With the move, Generations will have both a walk-in cooler and a walk-in freezer. The group will need to install cooking appliances as well as a storeroom for foods and supplies, but that work likely won’t begin until next January. In the meantime, the meals will continue to be prepared at the existing site.

“We have guaranteed Mike that we will honor all of his commitments through Dec. 31,” said Bonnema, noting wedding receptions and other bookings already on the calendar. The center is also booked for the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen’s annual banquet next February — a full capacity event for the center.

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“Mike is going to train our people and we’re going to live in the space for a while and continue with events for the time being — until we figure out how best to utilize the space,” Bonnema said. “Maybe we’re not going to do the big events down the road.”

Bonnema has already reached out to some of Generations’ younger members — people in their 60s and early 70s — who are eager to help with events.

The decision to purchase Grand Prairie Events has been a whirlwind, especially with the plan to close on the sale before the end of this month. The reason for the push is to get the paperwork filed by July 1 for the building to be considered under Generations’ nonprofit status for tax purposes. Current real estate taxes on the building are $23,124.

Planning for the future

When Bonnema was elected president of Luverne Senior Citizens, there were just 26 members remaining and its future looked bleak. Beyond the condition of the senior center — he said it looked like "the worst Grandma’s house" with puzzles stacked high upon filing cabinets and mismatched chairs coming from various donors over the years — Bonnema saw the potential.

“My preaching all along is we’re not going to run out of old people,” he said, making it clear that members had to start welcoming in the younger generation to participate.

That began with a name change to Generations.

“The first thing that was going to go was the name Luverne Senior Citizens — that refers to my parents, not to me,” Bonnema said. “Our generation doesn’t want to have anything to do with the word 'seniors.'”

In less than three years, Generations has grown to the 260 members it has today. They are people who see value in the group and what it provides for the community, he said. They are also people who are more likely to deliver meals to homebound residents than take part in a meal at the dining site.

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“We want to get them plugged into something they can participate in,” he said. “We’re bringing in a whole new generation. They’re not going to stay 70 — they’re going to need the support.”

Bonnema said he’s appreciative to both the city of Luverne and Rock County for the support they have offered throughout the process over the past few years. He also believes the community will support the project once the fundraising campaign begins in earnest.

On a personal level, Bonnema would like to see the loan for the purchase paid off in five years or less.

“The community knows the quality of the building we’re moving into,” he said. “I don’t see a problem raising that money in this community.”

Generations has inquired about Rock County A.C.E. possibly moving into the building to increase collaboration between the two organizations.

Related Topics: GENERATIONS
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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