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Medford student'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.

Historical Society receives grant to support Alzheimer's awareness
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Just in time for National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, 11 Minnesota organizations will be able to work to increase awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, promote early diagnosis and connect caregivers to resources, thanks to grants from the Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA).

Among those recipients is the Steele County Historical Society.

The local nonprofit was awarded a grant totaling $15,081 to provide education, services and resources for persons living with dementia and their caregivers to increase awareness and connect family, friends and neighbors to supports and meaningful activities. Their History Partners Memory Cafe program will provide socialization in a safe environment through companionship while preventing isolation.

The MBA is granting a total of $729,172 across the state.

“Dementia is not a normal part of aging,” said Susan Mezzenga, chair of the Minnesota Board on Aging. “But the number of those with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is on the rise. Increasing awareness so people get diagnosed earlier is key.”

Nearly 100,000 Minnesotans over age 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. That number is projected to increase to 120,000 by 2025. Alzheimer’s poses an array of challenges — emotional, medical, financial and social — to family members of those with the disease. Seventy percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are cared for in their homes, with 75% of that care given by family, friends and neighbors.

The 10 other MBA Dementia Grant recipients are:

Walker West Music Academy, St. Paul, $108,600, to support an aging population and increase public awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the African American community.

SEWA-AIFW, Inc., Minneapolis, $74,562, to work in the South Asian community in the Twin Cities metro area to increase awareness, promote early identification and connect caregiving family, friends and neighbors.

Lao Advancement Organization of America, Inc., Minneapolis, $42,615, to increase the knowledge and ability of Lao community members to recognize dementia and access resources; and, for caregivers to maintain their own health and wellbeing while caring for a person living with dementia.

Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, St. Paul, $43,955, to increase cognitive testing and connect family and friend caregivers to meaningful education, resources, and additional services

Action for East African People, Bloomington, $97,408, to provide dementia services to immigrant communities, increasing awareness and promoting early identification.

Family Pathways, North Branch, $43,666, to increase community and individual awareness while connecting caregivers and families of persons living with a dementia to education and resources. They will offer in-person and virtual dementia-friends sessions, lunch and learn sessions and more.

Central Minnesota Dementia Community Action Network, Sauk Rapids, $150,000, to establish a community-based Dementia Resource Center (DRC), as stated in the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act of Congress that directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “establish Alzheimer’s and related dementias public health centers of excellence.”

Northwoods Caregivers, Bemidji, $115,436, for Northwoods Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program (NC) to leverage work from previous dementia grants to support outreach for Native Americans and LGBTQ+. It will build upon a growing relationship with Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake and Bois Forte nations, to offer dementia outreach, education and caregiver support to previously underserved and high-risk communities.

Winona Friendship Center, Winona, $22,922, to continue to work toward becoming a Dementia-Friendly Community. They will work to address known gaps, while increasing awareness within the Winona community.

North East Seniors for Better Living, St. Paul, $14,927, to distribute educational literature about dementia in their community, provide an education series as well as providing individual personal support to persons living with dementia and their caregivers.

Man connected to October arson charged with stealing pickup from hotel construction site
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An Owatonna man, who was charged last month with arson, is now facing an additional felony charge for allegedly stealing a truck from downtown Owatonna.

Beau Patrick Wanner, 34, was charged Wednesday in Steele County District Court with theft of a motor vehicle. The charge stems from and reported vehicle theft that occurred in Owatonna on Aug. 30.

According to the criminal complaint, a worker on the downtown hotel construction crew reported on Aug. 30 that his pickup truck has been stolen form the 100 block of Pearl Street. The victim said he had parked the truck at 1 p.m., leaving his keys in the center console, and when he went back to retrieve a tool it was reportedly gone. He estimated about $2,000 worth of tools were in his truck and the truck itself was worth about $2,000, according to the report.

Using video surveillance captured by Baker Tech Services, which is capturing real-time updates of the downtown construction projects, the Owatonna police were allegedly able to capture a male suspect approach the vehicle from the west and drive off with the truck, going south on Elm Avenue. Police later identified the suspect from the video as Wanner based on a previous encounter, according to the complaint.

On Sept. 2, the truck was allegedly located stalled on the side of the road in Becker County near Detroit Lakes and Wanner was taken into custody. His first court appearance in this case is scheduled for Jan. 13.

Wanner was recently in the news after he was charged in October with first- and third-degree arson. In that case, Owatonna police were alerted of a potential burglary at 1:23 a.m., but before arriving to the scene they were notified that the home and vehicle were on fire. According to the report, the homeowner saw a man later identified as Wanner light the car in the driveway on fire, which spread to the side of the house and fully engulfed a trash can.

A competency evaluation order was submitted to the court on Oct. 6 to determine if Wanner is able mentally fit to proceed with the judicial process. No further court hearings in the arson case has been scheduled at this time.