New Welcome Guide Published

Advance Thief River Director, Michelle Landsverk, interviewed Mark Schmitke, to learn about the new “Welcome Packet” that has recently been published.

Another section is called lifelong learning and you can find information there about (or links to information about) day cares, information about the public school system in Thief River Falls, some of the private schools in Thief River Falls, community education, even our community college.

Another area is community involvement, and there we have a list of a number of organizations where people can serve or be involved with other folks. That might include things like the Rotary or the Lions, Chamber of commerce or different groups like that, a little information, definitions, and also contact information.

Another one of the key categories is recreation and arts. So, a lot of our youth recreation activities are listed there and again, how to get a hold of them as well as some of our adult activities or recreation, such as if you want to be in the curling club, how do you get involved with that? Or archery, how do you get involved with that? It also includes the Thief River Falls Area Community Theater, the bands, or choirs, or what not, so again, just a lot of information.

The last couple of categories, one is safety and service. So it just talks a little bit about some of our safety in the area such as our police officers, our sheriff and deputies, the fire department, the ambulance, and then some of the services. Who offers internet or how do you get connected to internet if you’re moving to town? Who do I contact to find out about those things?

And then finally, one of the last sections that we had is dining and business and in that section, we have a lot of links that we found as to restaurants, like the Chamber of Commerce will have some links or Visit Thief River Falls will have some links to different businesses and dining. So, people can check on those links and find some directories of different kinds of businesses, different kinds of restaurants that we have and in that section, too, we also Advance Thief River–if people are interested in developing or investing in Thief River Falls.

We also have a section of help wanted, per se, if people are looking for jobs. “Where do I go to find some of that information” and so that’s all included within the welcome guide or the welcome packet. It’s as comprehensive as we could make it. I’m sure we’ve missed some things along the way, but we tried to make it as comprehensive about the community as possible.

Michelle: Wow, Mark, that really does sound pretty comprehensive and what a fantastic resource you have pulled together. I have been just so impressed as I’ve looked through the pages of it and just how you’ve kind of grouped things it makes it so easy to find the type of information that you’re looking for.

I thought it was so interesting how you mentioned when you were part of the Thief River Falls Making It Home effort, how your small group was sitting around talking and someone mentioned something they were involved in and others in the group had no awareness of it. It’s just amazing how in a community the size of Thief River Falls…you think that if you’ve been in the community for a while you’d know about all the stuff going on, but even for residents that have lived here for a while, it’s just hard to be aware of everything that’s going on.

Who Was Involved

Michelle: So, what has your role been in this project, and maybe you could talk a little bit about who else was involved with you?

Mark: Sure, sure. My role in the project is really working alongside that team of people, like you mentioned the others that have been involved with that. I would maybe help coordinate some meetings and set up some meeting times on our calendars, but, really, it was this group of people that really worked hard to pull information together. Once we headed together and worked on our design, then we would review that and do all the checking for spelling errors and grammar and whatnot and reviewed too, “is this the information that should be in this or are we missing something?” And even as we went along, we would hear about additional things as well. Somebody would share with us, it’s like, “oh, hey, you forgot about this organization or this activity or something,” and it was like “oh my goodness.” So, we didn’t want to leave that out, and so we would add those things in and gather more information. Like I said earlier, I really had the privilege of working alongside a really great team. Everybody really worked together and again reviewed together and encouraged each other as we were doing this.

I worked with John Syvertson, Meg Kolden, Ashley Nerhus, Sean Ranum, Steve Lillestol, Kelsey Brateng, Sarah Klossner, and our new Chamber Director, Vanessa Ellefson. Just a really good group of people, and as we work through the process and with COVID, and everything like that, we got delayed a bit so it really was probably about a year and a half project by the time we are wrapping it up here, or even longer by the time we’re getting it wrapped up.

Michelle: I know you played a pretty significant role keeping this moving because you and I have talked about it over the last year and a half several times and I know one of the things that you did was you worked on a grant application to the Blandin Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about that what the result was?

Mark: I’d definitely be glad to do that. So, as a part of being in the Blandin leadership group, one of the things that they left us with was the opportunity to apply for grants to the Blandin Foundation to work on community projects such as this. And, I did work along the side with you, Michelle. I know we reviewed that grant, asking, are we communicating the right information and things of that nature and we were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Blandin Foundation which really funded the initial design and printing of the project. That was fantastic.

I should say the group of people that helped put it together and pull it together was really a volunteer effort. They gave of their own time and resources or efforts to meet and come together to pull this together but again, the grant through the Blandin Foundation is really what helped us be able to take that step to move ahead with the funding that we received there.

One of the the other pieces with funding, as we move on, we don’t want to make this just a one-time, “hey, we did the welcome packet, we did the welcome guide, you know it’s printed, and so now we’re good.” We want to be able to sustain that. So, one of the next things we’ll be doing is looking for ways to sustain that project and really provide annual updates to it and additional printing that will need to be done. So that’s one of the next things I know we’ll be talking about and working on, figuring out how we sustain this and keep it up to date as we move ahead.

Michelle: Well, a big shout out to the Blandin Foundation for their contribution to this effort. You know, that’s awesome, and of course, the community leadership program that that so many of you had the opportunity to participate in. I know that there are more impacts that have been felt in the community as a result of that, but I think this is a pretty significant one.

Speaking from the standpoint of Advance Thief River, one of the things that we hear from our employers who are really needing employees to fill open positions, but the labor market is so terribly tight, one of the things is retention of employees. If they recruit somebody to live in the area, getting them to stay, retaining them in the community, and this is one of the things we learned from the Thief River Ralls Making It Home effort, sometimes someone will move into a community, but if they’re not able to really fully plug in and get engaged, get involved in the community, put down roots, they probably won’t stick around. So, we might undertake a lot of effort trying to recruit someone to live in the community but if we don’t hang on to them, it’s a net zero. So, this idea of a welcome packet and getting people plugged into what’s going on in the community is just such a great strategy for helping with that.

Mark: I agree with that, Michelle, and I think some of the information in there are some of the amenities that are available in the community as well and I know there’s one page and it’s also in the Visit Thief River Falls guide as well, but it talks about our parks and all the different things that are available in each of the parks, the different activities, playground equipment, or frisbee golf, or whatever it might be. I agree; it’s just sharing those amenities and also helping people get connected with others. They might have to make an email or a phone call to meet someone but there might be some common interest in some of the organizations or recreational activities or they might have students in Prowler baseball or soccer or something like that as well where they can make those connections.

Download a Copy of the Guide

Michelle: Very, very cool. Where can people find the welcome packet?

Mark: Right now, we just have the digital version out. The paper copy is actually at the printer. I checked with them this week and that should be completed hopefully by the end of next week and then it’ll take a little time to assemble the pages of information in there. I feel like it’ll be presented really well, very, very nicely, very professional, too. So, different pictures and the different categories we talked about will have tabs so you can easily find the information that you’re looking for. Right now, we have the digital version available. I know it’s on the Advanced Thief River website and the Chamber website. I believe Visit Thief River Falls will also be adding a link to their website, too, so there’ll be a number of places where you’ll be able to pick up the digital version. Once we have the the paper copies printed and put together, I don’t have all the locations yet, but I’m guessing the Visit Thief River Falls, the Chamber of Commerce (they’re in the same building) will have printed copies available, and I’m hoping some of the businesses around town will have them available to pick up.

Michelle: So, if somebody wants to view and download the welcome guide today, all they need to do is go to That’s actually a really great website that was developed as a result of the Making It Home effort, a landing page for people that want to find information about the community. So, if people want to see that guide, they should go to Is there anything else that you think people need to know about the welcome guide before we wrap up today?

Mark: One of the things that we wanted to share–we really worked hard to make it as comprehensive as possible and with the different networks that people have, the different relationships that people have had, we hope we didn’t miss anything. If we did, there is an email address in the welcome packet. They can certainly email that and we’ll check that and when we do our annual review we’ll look at all of those things.

Michelle: Mark, thank you so much for talking to us about the guide and I know this is going to be an excellent resource for the community and excellent resource for people that are new to the community as well as those that have lived here for a long time. Congratulations to you and the whole group that worked on it for bringing this project to fruition. It’s awesome.

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