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'Friendship Through the Ages' to bridge generation gap in Cloquet

It's all about "Friendship Through the Ages" - and it's coming soon to a community near you. Last Thursday, a group of some 25 area residents of all ages met at Cloquet High School for the last of three workshops facilitated by the Northland Foun...

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Jim Hagen (left), Margret Beaupre and Lindsey Wilgohs discuss a proposal during last Thursday's Age to Age session at Cloquet High School, hosted by the Northland Foundation. Wendy Johnson/wjohnson@pinejournal.com

It's all about "Friendship Through the Ages" - and it's coming soon to a community near you.

Last Thursday, a group of some 25 area residents of all ages met at Cloquet High School for the last of three workshops facilitated by the Northland Foundation under the auspices of a program called "Age to Age: Bringing Generations Together."

The offshoot of those sessions was a brand, new community initiative in Cloquet geared toward bringing young and old together for mutual and community support.

With the advent of the Baby Boomer generation, more folks than ever over the age of 55 are entering their retirement years and still actively seeking opportunities to take part in society.

To meeet this need, the Northland initiative seeks to change attitudes, beliefs and perceptions that help communities view both older adults and young people as valued members and contributors, but it seeks to incite them to action as well.

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In earlier meetings, the group of community members divided into small speak out sessions to come up with suggestions for intergenerational project ideas that could be implemented in Cloquet with the help of grant funding secured through the Northland Foundation. As young people, middle aged adults and seniors spoke up about what they felt were the community's most pressing needs and values, a set of four program areas evolved, along with suggested goals, objectives and methods of implementation.

At last Thursday night's final session, facilitated by staff members of the Northland Foundation, the group brain stormed those project ideas with an eye toward narrowing them down to one integrated, ongoing plan. Their goal was to come up with something that will engage residents of all ages, remain self sustaining and contribute in a significant way to the community.

"You have to start with the seed of an idea," said facilitator Lynn Haglin, "one that can grow and possibly merge with other ideas to create a generational circle."

The Northland Foundation is conducting similar Age to Age workshops in McGregor, Bois Forte and the Fond du Lac Reservation. The intention - to identify a project and a process that each community can take ownership in after the preliminary planning sessions are over with the help of a limited amount of grant funding. There are, however, certain stipulations that go along with the funding, primarily stating it must go toward programming and not to provide "bricks and mortar."

Cloquet's new "Friendship Though the Ages" initiative, as decided upon by group members, will incorporate such social activities as nursing home get togethers, game nights and storytelling sessions to bring the past and present together along with intergenerational service projects such as park beautification and related activities such as planting a community garden or reinstating the horseshoe pits.

"Basically, some of those involved can provide the brains and others can provide the brawn," suggested one planning participant.

The majority of those present at last Thursday's session agreed that the plan meets the qualifications of being ongoing in nature, includes an array of opportunities, engages all ages in meaningful ways, and won't take a great deal of money to sustain over time.

Haglin said approximately $4,000 in seed money will be available to the group in coming months for the sake of organizing, networking, getting the word out to community groups and organizations and staging some preliminary activities so members of different generations can get to know one another.

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At this time next year, another $10,000 in grant funding will help with actual programming implementation, with the possibility of up to $10,000 the following year as well.

The next step will be for local residents to meet with local facilitators Sara Liimatainen and Barb Ashmore for a preliminary session to be held sometime in January.

For more information, contact Liimatainen at 218-879-1261.

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