This story is one of a collection called Hometown Wadena. As you read about people in the community, I hope you find more reason to call Wadena home. Whether you’ve known the people for years or never even seen them walking down main street, may you enjoy getting to know people.
With a kind smile and quiet eyes you’ll likely have met Crystal Riddle at the Wadena Chamber of Commerce or the Veterans Foreign Wars Post 3922, or maybe you’re one of the people who have called her to take on a task like finding homes for foreign exchange students.
“Somebody asked me to take one, golee back in 2005, and I took one. And the next year she talked me into helping them find homes for them,” Riddle said.
Students can come for five or 10 months, and Riddle has herself hosted 34 students. One of the biggest changes for the students is often the cold weather, as Riddle said, which she likes seeing if they’ll enjoy or not. After all she herself, after moving from Dallas, Texas 23 years ago, wonders every winter why she moved here.
In between her hours at the Chamber and the VFW, Riddle cooks and stores a meal for her foreign exchange students. And she has a list of activities and places to take the students: Valley Fair, the Mall of America, sunflowers, Sunnybrook Park, helping with the Christmas Festival and of course tasting lots of food.
“It’s fun, and I learn all different cultures and I’ve got friends in other countries,” Riddle said.
"I’ve been lucky with who I’m working with."
— Crystal Riddle
At the Depot, she likes meeting people from the Cities and different states as well as train buffs who want to know when the next train is coming, a question that’s impossible to answer with no schedule. The events are another big part of why Riddle enjoys her job at the Chamber.
After getting a call asking her to come back, Riddle has worked for the Chamber for about five or six years, as well as five years at the VFW. One of the bartenders there asked her about starting and with a, “‘Well, I’ll try it” response she currently works two nights each week, the Thursday meat raffle and as of Sept. 17 bingo.
“I’ve been lucky with who I’m working with,” Riddle said.
With her four children grown, Riddle enjoys her dog Charlie, gardening, reading, watching TV and getting out of the house. She has 12 grandchildren from 4 years old to 22.
And as to what makes Wadena home, Riddle said, “The people. The friendliness of people. My neighbors, I have wonderful neighbors they’re always there if you need something and the people here are just so friendly.”
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