Our most impactful stories of 2023 – Park Rapids Enterprise

As 2023 comes to an end, it’s a time to reflect.

Enterprise reporters have been affected by the people whose stories we are privileged to tell in the newspaper each week.

Stories that deserve to be told

By Shannon Geisen, editor

There are local politicians, officials, advocates and organizers who regularly appear in the newspaper.

But it’s equally important to tell the stories of those who might never see the limelight.

All of us – with our assorted beliefs, experiences and values – form the patchwork quilt that is the Heartland Lakes Area.

In October, I met

Cindy Tschudi and her fur baby, Sox

. Sox, 8, is one-quarter German shepherd, one-quarter boxer and half Siberian husky.

A friend of mine told me about the pair. Twice daily, they venture out from Park Avenue Apartments for a stroll around town.

They’ve made some friends along the way – at a fast-food joint, a grocery store, the park. The pair is a familiar sight.

Why write about an amiable dog?

Because Sox is a stitch in our multicolored quilt. She’s a member of our community. She’s part of the thread and fabric that makes us “us” in this little section of northern Minnesota.


Sox passed away unexpectedly

earlier this month. All of her friends mourn her death.

Just as many of us grieve the passing of Glenn Anderson, 87, this month.

I first met Glenn in 2016 when I stumbled upon the fact that he carves kubbestol (pronounced coo-bes-toll). Carved from a large, hollowed out tree trunk, these “high seats” were found throughout Scandinavia, but were more widely used in Norway.

Copy of 092822.N.PRE.ArtLeapGlennAnderson.jpg

Glenn Anderson displays one of his handcarved kubbestols at Art Leap 2022.

Enterprise file photo

At his home on Stocking Lake, Glenn chiseled several of these unique, ornate chairs. His designs were distinctly Minnesotan, bearing flying geese, trumpeter swans, loons, cattails and lady slippers.

A retired pastor, Glenn founded Calvary Lutheran’s Hard Hat Ministry in 2019. He was frequently featured in news articles about their good work.

Our quilt is a tad frayed from the losses our community bore this year.

I’m grateful to have known Sox and Glenn. It was an honor to tell our readers about them, too.

If you know of someone like them who has a story to be shared, please email me at sgeisen@parkrapidsenterprise.com.

Multiple stories grabbed my feelings

By Robin Fish, staff reporter

Of the local stories I’ve followed in 2023, too many have touched my feelings – but not all in the same way – to narrow them down to just one. So, here’s a quick digest.


The former home of the late Dacle Sr. and Charlene Schmid, more recently occupied by their granddaughter, Belinda Williams, and her family, is an ice-crusted ruin on Dec. 30, 2022, after a fire that started in a chimney resulted in a total loss on Christmas Eve.

Enterprise file photo

In the Jan. 4 story “

Family home near Dorset is a total loss

,” my heart hurt for the Schmid family. Dacle Schmid told me how he rushed to the scene where his parents’ home burned, then owned by his brother and occupied by a niece and her family. He described how it felt to watch his memories burn, and I felt it with him.

In the Jan. 11 issue, I was proud to report on Park Rapids graduate

Paige Leesberg’s opportunity

to see her dream of working for NASA come true. I was also deeply fascinated by the research she is involved in – studying the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

A reader’s tip led me to write the March 4 story about an online treasure hunt for unclaimed property. I personally checked the treasury departments of states where I have lived and, indeed, discovered some money waiting for me to claim. Yes!

In the March 29 and April 1 issues, Essentia healthcare professionals told me what they are doing to fight the

opioid epidemic

. I even had an opportunity to talk with one of their patients, who told me how suboxone therapy “totally turned my life around.” One of the docs said, “I hear from patients all the time, ‘I wouldn’t be alive if I was still doing that.’”

Meanwhile, on April 1, I also reported on a donkey basketball event at Park Rapids High. It was definitely a unique experience, and it still makes me laugh.

A photo that I shot appeared in the April 29 issue, following a resident’s complaint about a roadside sign saying, “Thanks Democrats for destroying the USA.” Out of that grew a bumper crop of impassioned letters to the editor, with concerns ranging from free speech to putting the community’s best foot forward for incoming visitors.


Sharing memories and taking questions about Val Chatel on May 22, 2023, at Northwoods Bank are Helen Peterson and three of her sons – from left, Scott, Thom and Jim.

Park Rapids Enterprise file photo

A May 27 story featured a gathering to share memories of Val Chatel, led by Helen Peterson and three of her sons, who ran the ski resort from 1953 to 1984. Attendees recalled many stories, doing nostalgic hearts as much good as a warming-house fire.

The Frank White Education Center’s 65-year era ended in a tangle of metal and concrete in pictures across June 3’s front page, beginning a big change in the facilities at Park Rapids Area High School. Construction watchers may be interested in the ongoing photo gallery marking the progress of PRoject 309, pinned to the front page of parkrapidsenterprise.com.

I could also mention a “

history tea

” discussion of early life on the Hubbard Prairie, reported in the Sept. 13 issue – complete with a heartbreaking story about fever decimating a young family.

Dr. Terry Barclay’s presentation on promising new treatments for dementia raised a spark of hope in the Oct. 11 edition. I was able to share only a small part of what I learned during his talk, but it’s given me a lot to think about.

In the same issue, I reported on an interview with first-time novelist Naomi Phillips, who shared not only her writing process but also the story of a fascinating, real-life woman and fellow novelist, who inspired her book.

And finally, I am so deeply grateful to John Warren and

Dewane Morgan

for talking to me about the Vietnam War’s “Walking Dead” battalion – and the cost they personally paid while serving in the 1st Battalion 9th Marines. Maybe more than any other story I worked on this year, Morgan’s account of his near-death experience during a fateful ambush hit me right in the feels.

Minnesotans making an impact in Kenya

By Lorie Skarpness, staff reporter

Looking back on the stories I wrote in 2023, the ones that made the biggest impression on me were the ones about residents from the Park Rapids area who traveled to Kenya to help make a difference in the lives of people there.


Peter was treated for a severe case of malaria by Troy Mayer and the medical team visiting the Kenyan school, since the nearest hospital was over two hours away.

Contributed / Troy Mayer

This summer, Pastor Justin Domogalla of Eastside Christian Church went on a

medical mission to Kenya

with church members Dwayne Mattson and Troy Mayer.

They were part of a Missions of Hope International (MOHI) team working in the Turkana County desert to screen children in schools in the remote villages of Napasumoro and Locheredome.

When they arrived at a remote school in Locheredome to do health screenings of the children, they saved a little boy’s life.

A group from the Pine Haven Christian Assembly Church Camp, located on Long Lake south of Park Rapids,

also journeyed to Kenya



The relationship between Kenya’s Angaza Discovery Camp and the Pine Haven Christian Assembly Church Camp in Park Rapids is one that both groups hope will continue long into the future.

Contributed / Tay Odor

MOHI has a camp for youth in Kenya called the Angaza Discovery Camp. The Pine Haven group started connecting with leaders in Kenya through video chats.

MOHI is a Christian ministry that started working with kids coming out of the slums of Nairobi and now has schools throughout Kenya.

Some parts of Nairobi have 600,000 to 800,000 people living in a four-square mile area. It’s one of the poorest slums in the world.

Partners of the MOHI ministry provided funds to purchase land near the Indian Ocean for the camp. There are army-style tent cabins with coconut-thatched roofing over them for shade.

Similar to Pine Haven, the camp has chapel and activity times, games and songs.

For most students, the trip to camp is the first time they have been out of the slums.

During their five-hour train ride to camp and the hour-long bus ride that follows, they saw the countryside of Kenya and wildlife, such as giraffes, elephants and zebras for the first time.

It is also the first time many have seen the ocean and stars shining in the night sky due to the light pollution in Nairobi.

Pine Haven’s camp manager Tay Odor said that during their summer camp sessions in Park Rapids, campers learned some Kenyan chants, songs and games from their Angaza Camp friends.

“It was so much fun to share about Angaza after being there and getting to know some of their camp mentors and staff,” she said. “Since our visit, Angaza was able to complete the amphitheater they were dreaming of while we were there. We heard they are loving the Gaga Ball game we taught and helped refurbish while we were there as well. Over the course of the summer, several of our weeks of camp chose to raise support for children to attend camp at Angaza. The Pine Haven campers gave over $13,800 to sponsor 46 campers to attend two-week sessions at Angaza. While Pine Haven is closed for the winter months, Angaza continues to welcome over 120 campers every 14 days. Please keep this vital mission in your prayers – a week of camp can be life-changing!”

Both groups from Park Rapids plan to return to Kenya in the future to continue building relationships with their new friends. They also have found many sponsors to give Kenyan children a brighter future by paying for their education.


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