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Hawaiian clad crowds abound for library fundraiser

Under the shade of a grass umbrella, library fundraiser attendees indulged on meats, cheese, and confectionery delights Saturday at the former First National Bank building in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 2
The vault at the First National Bank in Wadena would be the location of audio/visual resources. Some droids offered an explanation. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 2

With severe winter weather Saturday night, a large group arrived at the former First National Bank building in Wadena hoping to get away from it all.

Many, wearing their Hawaiian shirts and leis, walked past tiki torches, pineapples and grass thatching, as the former bank building was temporarily converted into a Hawaiian escape.

At every corner of the building stood beer, wine and liquor vendors ready to serve, while the middle of the room boasted all sorts of treats for event goers.

Most people walked around with maps, not to find their way around the building, but to imagine what this place could become if converted into Wadena's next new city library. The building filled up as the night went on, with about 105 tickets turned in at the door, according to library branch manager Renee Frethem. Ticket sales and auction sales brought in just under $5,000 towards the goal.

This was the first official fundraiser for the new library. A start towards the $2.4 million goal to remodel the bank into a library with nearly double the space of the current building, just on the main floor. It was the first time many people have been able to look into the bank building to see how it could be remodeled since it closed.

For others, like Jonell Asfeld, the bank was a familiar place, as she worked there for 33 years before it closed and she moved to Wadena State Bank. Asfeld last worked at the former bank as a compliance officer and said she supported the idea of the bank being converted into a library as it would be a shame to see it go unused.

"It's actually a really good use of the building," she said.

She also felt that the building's location, just a block north of the current library, kept the library in a convenient location surrounded by neighborhoods and the future grocery store.

Dave and Dori Robbins were in attendance and were avid readers of books from the current Wadena library. They even love to take in events held there regularly. They commented on their support of the new space.

"It's obviously cramped," Dori said of the current library. She noted that the speakers at the library are a phenomenal resource to the community.

The two were grateful of the online services through the library but felt that more space would be a positive for those using the library.

Others looked at the need for a technology space considering the Cyber Cafe closed a year ago, a place heavily utilized by area youth for computer access, gaming and, in general, a safe place to hang out.

"So many people use the library for technology and this will enable them to really provide that service," Jolene Johannes, another attendee said.

She felt that a larger library would be able to provide that to the full potential.

Tracy Fosse, enjoying refreshments with Johannes, added that this new space would provide a needed space for youth in the community.

"It's really vital to the kids and teenagers that aren't fortunate enough to have that technology, and I think it makes a big difference that they are able to come here," Fosse said.

He noted that most students are using a smart device in schools but if they don't have the WiFi connection at home, the library is the place to go.

Monica Katzenberger was excited to see the amount of people coming out in support of the library and hoped the excitement would continue in what would likely need to be many more fundraisers to help attain the goal.

Future fundraisers are in the works, including a third annual Friends of the Library Golf Tournament at Whitetail Run on June 15. A handout provided at the event noted that donations can also be made at the current library, online by visiting Friends of the Wadena City Library on Amazon.com, or by searching Friends of the Wadena City Library on Facebook under the fundraisers tab.

The current fundraising plan does not involve taxpayer dollars to pay for the remodel.