Winter took a break for the afternoon as three families came together for the first time, celebrating new beginnings for two as a means to an end for the one.
For three generations, a plot of land just down the road from Morehouse Park has been owned and maintained by the Kottke family. Starting with Carl Kottke, the founder of the 100-plus-year-old Kottke Jewelers in downtown Owatonna, the land between Mosher and Lynn avenues has simply been laying around.
“There were some homes down there once upon a time, Mrs. Mosher used to live down there at the bottom of what was referred to as Cinder Hill that the kids would play on,” said Matt Kottke, grandson of Carl and current owner of the family store. “I remember my brothers and I used to mow the yards down there as little kids. A lot of kids used to play down there, it wasn’t that far of a hike from the park to go over to that corner and just hang out.”
The land was passed down from Kottke’s grandfather to his father, Bill Kottke, and eventually was left to the four Kottke children: Matt, Michelle, Mark, and Marty. Matt Kottke said following the death of his father, the siblings came together to discuss what they could do with the unused property sitting alone in town.
“It has always been an unwritten motto of our family to pay it forward,” Kottke said. “When we were discussing what to do with the property, the idea to donate the land to Habitat for Humanity came up and everyone just sort of nodded their head and said – wow, if you can make it work, let’s do it!”
After a series of back and forth communication with Two Rivers Habitat for Humanity, which serves Steele, Dodge, Olmsted, Wabasha and Waseca counties, the Kottke family agreed to donate the land to the nonprofit organization so that another family could benefit from it. Thanks to a partnership with the city, the property was able to be divided into two separate lots that will serve two different families.
“It was very heartwarming to hear we would be able to benefit two families,” Kottke said. “I wish I could see my father and grandfather smile – they would definitely be very touched by this. This is exactly the type of thing that they would have wanted for that property.”
Kottke said Owatonna was – and continues to be – very important to his family, adding that the late patriarchs of the family were especially proud of their community. Kottke said he also remembers his father discussing Habitat for Humanity before his death, stating he felt the organization did “really nice work” for people in need.
“When we have an opportunity to help others, everybody wins,” Kottke said. “The family wins, the community wins, and it just speaks so strongly to what a wonderful community we have.”
A formal lot dedication took place on Thursday afternoon, with the families selected to be recipients of the new homes present to do the ceremonial groundbreaking. A single father of three from Owatonna will be the home owner of soon-to-be 716 Lynn Avenue, sponsored largely by Daikin Applied and Climate by Design International. Daikin committed to a $75,000 donation, which will be added to the $25,000 donation from CDI to make the project possible. A second family from Oronoco will be the owners of 715 Mosher Avenue, which will be sponsored by Thrivent Financial, who recently committed to a $95,000 donation toward the project.