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Johnston Hall cornerstone reveals time capsule with documents not seen in 133 years
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Huddled outside of District One Hospital, Ann Vohs stood among a small group who waited and watched as the backhoe bucket swung back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth, pulling pieces from Johnston Hall.

Section by section, it came down, part of the demolition of the historic building, once a part of the Episcopal Seabury Divinity School, until the machine was able to lift the massive cornerstone and deposit it onto a waiting tire to cushion it from damage.

At the bottom of the stone, in a carefully chiseled-out space and secured by wooden shims, was a six-inch by one-foot metal box. They’d found it, the rumored time capsule.

Vohs, a Faribault native, who along with her husband, Karl Vohs, has long advocated for the city’s history and historic preservation, described the moment Friday morning that they cut into the copper box and lifted out the enclosures as solemn, “almost sacred.”

“We were witnessing something you don’t witness every day,” she said. “I think we were quite awestruck.”

Inside the time capsule were handbooks from Shattuck School, St. Mary’s Hall and Seabury, some religious texts, a Pioneer Press newspaper and three documents commemorating the hall’s May 15, 1888 dedication. In addition to a printed prayer card and a page signed by each member of the class of 1889, was a handwritten note, attributed to the building committee.

Vohs has the privilege of reading it aloud:

“The corner-stone of Johnston Hall was laid with appropriate ceremonies on Tuesday, May 15th 1888 by the Rt. Rev. H.B. Whipple D.D. bishop of the diocese of Minnesota, assisted by Miss D.B. Shumway, daughter of Mrs. Augusta M. Huntington.

“This Hall is the gift of Mrs. Augusta M. Huntington and erected in memory of her father William Sayn Johnston.

“The building committee and members of the Board of Trustees of the Seabury Mission.

“The Rev. F. O. Hookins, the Rev. James Dobbin and J.C. W. Coltrett, esq.”

And while there was excitement, there was some sadness. Just feet from where Vohs; the hospital’s former head of nursing, Joan Miller; several hospital facilities employees and a handful of construction workers stood were the remnants of Johnston Hall. After 133 years, the building’s distinctive tower was declared a hazard, leaving the city’s council with no choice but to approve its demolition.

“It was quite emotional for me and the group, said Vohs, acknowledging that she was simultaneously in the moment and trying to imagine what those gathered for the dedication all those years ago might have been thinking.

Sue Garwood, director of the Rice County Historical Society, had a chance to look over the documents — each in pristine condition — which in some ways made sense and in some way gave her pause.

“Why did they choose those publications?” she asked. To her, the handbooks and some of the religious documents made sense. But why, she wondered, was there no Faribault newspaper tucked inside?

While Garwood, Vohs, Miller and City Councilor Sara Caron are working with Allina Health/District One Hospital leaders to determine how to physically commemorate the hall’s presence in Faribault and its historical significance, discussions with leaders from hospital, Shattuck-St Mary’s School and the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour will determine the future of the 13 newly discovered documents.

The Historical Society has no paper records from Seabury, said Garwood. Those were transferred to Illinois when in 1933 Seabury merged with Western Theological Seminary in Evanston.

“It’s neat to think about the events, and this old, historic building as being brand new and with all the hopes and opportunities,” she said.

“People put time capsules together because the future is unknown. They want a piece of their now to be known.”

Rotary jumps into pull tabs to benefit community's kids
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Eric Craig never could have predicted that stopping into Boxers for a bit of lunch could have a positive impact on the lives of local kids.

Long story short: Craig and Boxers owner Dawn Walker got to talking that day and the conversation turned to pull tabs and e-pull tabs, with Walker saying she was interested in inviting another local nonprofit to provide the forms of charitable gambling that benefit the state and local organizations. Host business also benefit from rent charged the sponsoring organization.

Craig, treasurer of the Rotary Club of Faribault, knew the club was looking for additional revenue sources to funds its scholarships and service projects that benefit local youth, and Walker’s suggestion felt like the perfect fit.

“We wanted to find ways that we can help the community event more,” said Rotary past president Brenda DeMars, who’s serving as Rotary’s charitable gambling manager.

“It all fell together,” she said, adding that Walker “had an idea and was running with it and we got lucky.”

Walker, who’s been offering pull tabs in her bar for about 26 years, was already building a new space specifically for pull tabs at her downtown bar, which she expects will draw more attention (and hopefully more revenue) to the pull tabs.

Setting a nonprofit up as a charitable gambling recipient is no easy task. In addition to ordering supplies, machines and other incidentals, the club needed to set up a separate organization — Faribault Area Youth Services — specifically for gambling income and expenses, and install another president and board just for it.

Once DeMars was selected as gambling manager and Chad Koepke was named president of Faribault Area Youth Services, the two needed to study state laws and guidelines and earn at least 85% on timed online tests to prove they understood the rules.

While how much the club will earn is unknown, any funds will likely help boost either the number of scholarships and/or the amount available to students, and benefit its Strive program at Bethlehem Academy, Faribault High School and South Central College.

Some of the money may also go to help restart the club’s efforts with the Rotary Exchange program for outgoing and incoming students.

Club members learned Wednesday that Rotary district leaders have cleared a path for the program to relaunch following a break due to COVID.

“We don’t know yet what it’s going to generate. We have high hopes,” said DeMars.

“I don’t know what else we could be doing,” she said of supporting the community’s youth. “But I know there’s more to be done.”

Faribault girl's handmade bracelets help fight hunger
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Over the last year and a half, Ella Bettner has been thinking about selling stackable homemade bracelets to help kids who can’t afford to buy lunch or have a negative lunch balance.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on those plans, her idea, “No Tummy Left Behind,” is finally coming to fruition. Ella, 10 of Faribault, has been hard at work selling bracelets for the last month, along with the help of her parents Nichole and Fred Bettner.

Nichole said Ella’s initial idea was to help a friend who’s exercise ball popped. Ella wanted to raise money to get her a new one, and opted for her current venture to be able to help more than one person.

Ella, a fifth grader at Medford Public Schools, said her mother first taught her how to make the slide knots for the bracelets, so they can be taken on/off and/or adjusted easily. Ella picks out the charms used in the bracelets, each unique in its own way. From initials, animals, objects and symbols, customers can choose the bracelet that means the most to them. An assortment of colored string is also selected, and Ella says she is able to offer custom bracelets to meet each person’s specific taste.

Aside from selling through her mother’s personal Facebook page and mailing them out for free, Ella also set up a table at Faribo West Mall’s vendor event on Oct. 23 and anticipates selling again at the mall Nov. 13. As of Monday, Ella has made $285, which adds up to 57 bracelets. With school lunches costing about $2.50, Ella says buying one bracelet at $5 helps two kids have one meal each.

Since the bracelet sales benefit the school, Nichole said they wanted to partner with them. They reached out for other opportunities Ella could have to sell bracelets at places like sporting events or even during recess. Nichole said they are waiting to hear back from the school about what arrangements can be made. Ideally, Ella would like to donate some proceeds to the school district where she lives, and anticipates their response.

Medford Elementary Principal Josh Carlson describes Ella as an extremely passionate individual, who shows genuine empathy for others. 

"This type of behavior is catchy at Medford Elementary and we are proud that is the case! Ella amazes me by going above and beyond with her willingness to help and support others when they are in need. She exhibits Tiger Pride characteristics on a daily basis, and she is a tremendous asset to Medford Elementary," said Carlson.

Ella not only enjoys the business side of it, but she also likes selling the bracelets and takes pride in knowing that she is helping other kids. Nichole echos Ella’s feeling of pride.

“I like having the business, because I’ve never had a businesses that I’m proud of doing, it” said Ella.

Also a member River Valleys Girl Scouts, Troop #27312, Ella hopes to use her project to earn the Bronze Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can achieve.

She has overcome several challenges to get to this point, both of which Nichole believes has helped with other parts of her life, like selling Girl Scout cookies.

Ella says two challenges have been mastering the sliding knots and being brave enough to talk to others and break out of her shell a bit more. She hopes to keep on making bracelets for the foreseeable future, setting a goal of making $1,000, $500 for each school. She’s already developing other ideas about how to expand her business, possibly even dipping into making other types of jewelry, like necklaces.

“There’s a lot of kids that might need help,” added Ella.

To purchase a bracelet or donate money to Ella's business, reach out to faribaultcookiedealer@gmail.com.