The Community House being built by Wadena-Deer Creek High School students received a Local Government Innovation Award. The award comes as one of 17 awarded to cities, counties, schools, townships and Native nations from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, according to a LGIA press release.

The WDC school, the Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Wadena Development Authority entered the competition for their first year. Ryan Damlo, WHRA committee member, said the partnering of the organizations and the risk involved in selling the house showed innovation.

“I just think it’s showing how the community partners are coming together and that’s what makes me so excited for the fact that the school was willing to take that chance of saying, ‘Yes, we’ll sell it over here, and let the development and housing authority work together,’” Damlo said.

As Damlo has been one of the facilitators on the project, he has learned about the importance of having younger, local contractors to maintain the trade. He shared about being at the Community House with the contractors—all of them local businesses—and how Mark Stone saw that Damlo was the youngest one there.

“(Stone) goes, ‘This sort of trade has to stay going,’” Damlo said. “He knew how important it was to get a house being built year after year in Wadena because if we start losing the young tradesman then all of a sudden what happens, we can’t even sustain our own construction trade here in Wadena. So that really pointed to me that we have to keep this process going.”

The process continues as WDC students learn to build homes that will benefit the community. Damlo shared some of the goals of the project, including the WHRA committee’s desire to fill tornado lots from 2010 and bring families back to Wadena to see the growth. Since the tornado, WDC schools enrollment has dipped, affecting the community, the tax base and local retailers, according to Damlo.

“To us it’s so important that we continue the enrollment growth, right, and then to have a family hopefully move into (the Community House) … we know that all those things will benefit. The fact that we have more jobs hopefully here in the community, we have more kids maybe coming back to the district, those are our goals is that we keep growing enrollment, we keep growing our community, keep getting more people added to our taxbase and really just out to shop at all the retailers and everything else that we have, we’re so fortunate,” Damlo said.

The Community House is at 723 SW Irving Ave. The project is set to be completed in the spring and go for sale then. If you are interested in buying the house, contact WHRA Executive Director Maria Marthaler at 218-631-7723 or