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New nonprofit aims to connect Esko community

The Esko Community Partnership was an idea Michele Carlson had five years ago that has finally come to life. Carlson said she hopes the group will bring businesses, the school and the community together.

Esko Community Partnership
From left, Esko Community Partnership board members Michele Carlson, Sarah Rautell and Amy Feely pose for a photo during the organization's first meeting on Tuesday Dec. 13.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal
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ESKO — An intimate meeting at the Thomson Township Hall marked the Esko Community Partnership's first public meeting on Dec. 13.

Michele Carlson, president of the partnership and community education director for the Esko School District, said this was an idea she has had for five years that has finally come to fruition.

"The ultimate goal is we want to promote Esko," she said. "We hope to be able to build up Esko as a community."

When Carlson started in her role at the school, she said it became evident that the community did not have a chamber of commerce or other type of community organization to help with community events.

"That was five years ago, and finally we got the nonprofit status OK'd and we are ready to rock and roll," she said.

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The goal of the nonprofit is to link businesses, organizations, the school and more in the Esko area.

It will also be a permanent home for the planning of Esko Fun Days, which Carlson said will be a way to secure its longevity, as well as make it easier to run.

Carlson currently runs the event through her position as community education director, but securing funding and working with insurance through the district can make the process difficult.

As the organization is just starting out, Carlson said she hopes it can grow and evolve in the future. She would like to see it put on more regular events and have services it can offer community members or businesses.

With Esko being a tight-knit and loyal community, Carlson said the partnership could be a way to promote local businesses to those interested.

While the group plans on growing, the partnership will host its first event, Winterfest, on Feb. 18. Carlson said the event will have carnival games, crafts and a business expo.

Winterfest will be free to any business looking to participate, however in the following years it would require a membership, Carlson said.

The first meeting of the board included three of the five members, including Carlson, Amy Feely and Sarah Rautell. Courtney Greiner and Kory Deadrick are also on the board but were not present for the meeting.

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The meeting consisted of brainstorming how the organization will get its name out to businesses, create a list of businesses in the area and how to structure its membership fees.

The latter was voted on and decided, with annual fees costing $40 for home businesses, $50 for individuals and $100 for larger businesses.

Wen coming up with the fees, Rautell said she didn't want to have a figure that would make people shy away from joining.

Depending on how much revenue the nonprofit brings in, Rautell said she would like to see any overage go into some kind of community service fund for Esko.

"Something that we can donate or help put towards that just stays right in the area," she said. "We want to be able to put money back as well."

While specific benefits for membership have yet to be announced, board members discussed holding events and networking as the key benefit of joining.

The board said they do not want membership to be limited to just businesses geographically located in Esko, or Esko residents, but to anyone who has a love for Esko.

One way the group intends to get its name out there is by starting a business spotlight on its Facebook page, which Feely said she is going to work on.

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"There are lots of businesses ... that we don't even know about," she said.

As the group moves forward, Feely said it needs to have a website to capture businesses as well as being a benefit to them. While the group intends on sending out some form of questionnaire to businesses to start forming a list, they also discussed the need for a website as well. Currently there is only a Facebook page for the partnership.

Those interested in learning more about the partnership can visit its Facebook page or attend its next meeting on Feb. 14 at the Thomson Township Hall.

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
The city of Carlton held a meeting to start the discussion on changes to the Carlton Ambulance Service and possibly increasing funding from the municipalities it serves.

Related Topics: ESKOCARLTON COUNTYBUSINESS
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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