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Year in Review: Extra extra! 2016 saw plenty of good news

WORTHINGTON -- The year 2016 was filled with good news. Here, in no particular order, are a sampling of headlines relaying positive stories across the region:...

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"Grandma E" poses with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award she recieved last week. (File photo)

WORTHINGTON -- The year 2016 was filled with good news. Here, in no particular order, are a sampling of headlines relaying positive stories across the region:

OLG Free Clinic continues to grow It was a year of growth and new additions for Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic. The medical outreach started in 2012 when the Rev. James Callahan of St. Mary’s in Worthington - along with other church members - wanted to provide medical care to those without insurance.

The initiative started with dental care only and 20 patients. Today, with the help of volunteers from Avera Health, the Mayo Clinic and Sanford Health, among others, the OLGFC serves more than 800 patients and provides additional health care.

The clinic now has an office located on Fourth Avenue in downtown Worthington to handle appointment scheduling; a group of nurses and other practitioners provide follow-up care there every Tuesday. In addition, the clinic received a $10,000 grant from the Works of Justice Fund to start a domestic violence education program.

Minnesota’s Glen Taylor, others buying PM Beef facility The former PM Beef processing plant in Windom was purchased by a group of business partners that included Minnesota billionaire Glen Taylor. The facility, which employed more than 700 full-time employees in its best years, had closed in December 2015.  

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The facility was forced to close after cattle prices increased and industry conditions declined. Windom’s economy was affected, since the facility was one of the city’s biggest companies and users of municipal services.

As a result of the purchase, PM Beef was replaced by Prime Pork, which suggests a bright future for Windom’s economy.  According to Windom City Administrator Steven Nasby, Prime Pork will be opening in the first quarter of next year, since the building has been undergoing construction.

“We will have around 300 jobs coming back to the community, so that’s always great,” Nasby said. “Prime Pork is doing a tremendous investment in that plant, and so that also provides an optimistic outlook if they are going to be here long-term, which again helps the community.”

KTD to move back downtown Worthington’s King Turkey Day celebration came back to downtown after several years of hosting many events at the Nobles County Fairgrounds.

During the King Turkey Day Inc. annual meeting, several residents expressed the wish to bring back the festivities to the heart of the city. The KTD board subsequently decided to relocate the event.

Despite the absence of a concert during year’s festivities, a carnival along with great food and the victory of Paycheck over Ruby Begonia of Cuero, Texas, made KTD 2016 unforgettable.

S-O grandma receives Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award A volunteer at Sibley-Ocheyedan received an award and a letter signed by president Barack Obama for her work with children and the elderly. Esther Ernst, 81, widely known as “Grandma E,” received the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award from the Foster Grandparent Program during a ceremony in Sioux City, Iowa.

Ernst, a volunteer for more than 10 years, was recognized for her 4,000 hours that she has spent working with children in Sibley-Ocheyedan school district. Ernst usually volunteers Monday through Friday - approximately 7 1/2 hours per day - giving extra support to children during their classes.

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“I just love kids; I would do anything that would make a child’s life better,” she said.

Ernst also volunteers at the local nursing home by helping out with Bingo games and sing-a-longs, as well as at her church.

V&M Locker; best hot dogs in Minnesota The smokehouse inside V&M Grocery and Locker in Leota saw a significant boost in its hot dog sales after winning a statewide contest hosted by WCCO-TV. The segment aired a week before July 4.

“We used to sell 6,000 hot dogs per a year; now we are selling 6,000 every four months,” said Julie Ruiter, one of the owners of the business. “It has been really fun to see people from all over the state and the country placing orders.”

The two-generation, family-owned business saw a significant improvement on its products after a new smokehouse was installed in 2010. The business is owned by long-time residents Verlyn and Barb Ruiter and Chad and Julie Ruiter.

Julie nominated the locker after learning that WCCO was on a quest to find the best hot dogs. After a few weeks, the station notified the business of its victory, and WCCO aired its segment.

Worthington resident saves man from drowning Worthington resident Chad Nixon saved the life of a young man on a September afternoon when he rescued him from almost drowning on Lake Okabena.
Nixon was hosting an end-of the summer picnic with his Burger King employees when he and Ricky Reum saw a man struggling in the water. “Then we noticed that his head went under,” Nixon said. “Randy looked me and said, ‘Is he all right?’ Nixon said. Nixon jumped into the water, grabbed the man and brought him to the swimming platform on the edge of his boat, and soon brought him back to the dock.
Nixon never found out the name of the man, since he noted that he didn’t seem to know much English. “(He) never said one word to me, but just kept patting me on the shoulder,” Nixon said.

Bedford Industries marks 50th anniversary Bedford Industries, the largest twist-tie manufacturer in the world, celebrated its 50th year of innovation on July 30 with a gala event at the Worthington Event Center.

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Robert Ludlow changed the packing world in 1966, when he re-invented and improved the known twist-tie. A small garage and an investment of $13,000 was enough for Ludlow to become a pioneer in the industry. Today, Bedford Industries is one of the most largest employers in Worthington with 300 employees.
Bedford has continued to create brand-new packaging innovations such as the ElastiTag, which is widely used by health and beauty products to produce, beverages, automotive supplies, hunting and outdoor merchandise, hardware and even housewares.

“Every department at Bedford works together in the making of a new product to see if it’s sustainable,” said Mike Schultz, head of production manager. “It takes a concerted effort to take what starts as an idea and a prototype, to a finished product that can be profitably manufactured by the millions.”

AGCO buys former Farley’s & Sathers facility Ferrara Candy Co.’s facility in Round Lake acquired a new owner this year, as AGCO Jackson Operations bought the facility after leasing it for several years.

AGCO, a manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, has been using the building for storage and distribution. After the lease agreement was completed, the company decided to buy it.

“The facility fits our business needs, so we decided to purchase it,” said Eric Fischer, director of operations for AGCO Jackson.

Abraham Algadi, Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Executive Director, credited county leaders for pushing through a tax abatement in December 2013. That allowed AGCO Jackson to lease the previously unused warehouse.

Brewster native receives national science honor A Brewster native was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Lisa Berreau was recognized for her research in the field of inorganic chemistry. She is a professor at Utah State University (USU).

She attended Brewster High School and spent her senior year at Sioux Valley-Round Lake-Brewster, graduating in 1986. Her love for chemistry began during her college career at Minnesota State University, Mankato. In addition she completed a doctorate from Iowa State University, and joined USU in 1998. She now serves as a full professor and executive associate dean of USU’s College of Science.

Berreau was awarded for the work she has been doing long with a team of students who investigate the role that metal ions play in human health, the environment and as a catalyst.

She hopes to encourage young women and rural students to pursue a career in science.

In February, she will be travel to Boston for the AAAS Fellows formal award ceremony, where she will be honored for her research.

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