Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Cook’s new center

Community has reason to be proud of the fruits of its labors

Posted 2/10/16

Cook began pursing its dream of a new youth and community center more than a half dozen years ago.

This week that dream became a reality, thanks to a small army of volunteers who not only helped …

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Cook’s new center

Community has reason to be proud of the fruits of its labors

Posted

Cook began pursing its dream of a new youth and community center more than a half dozen years ago.

This week that dream became a reality, thanks to a small army of volunteers who not only helped raise the money to construct the center but also contributed their time and talents to build the center.

Chris Ismil, who served as director of Iron Range Youth In Action, and area students first brought the idea of the center to the Cook City Council. The plan then, he recalled, was to renovate the existing center.

But community members had a grander plan. They took it on themselves to instead tear down the old center and construct a new and larger multi-purpose building.

Iron Range Youth In Action helped secure some early funding for the center with grants from St. Louis County and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, but the bulk of funds came from the pockets of average citizens and area businesses who helped support a bevy of fundraisers.

“This a great example of what a community can do” when it unites behind a project, said Ismil. “I can’t think of another community that got behind their project like Cook did.”

Although the project resulted from the efforts of dozens of volunteers, a few leaders deserve special recognition. Tammy and Greg Palmer, Greg and Julie Burckhardt, and Jeannie Taylor put in countless hours organizing fundraisers and work bees, and helped keep the community’s eyes on the prize throughout the long journey. The Friends of the Parks, formed five years ago, took the lead in raising funds not just for the center, but for the playground and ball fields at the Doug Johnson Recreation Area, as well.

Credit must also go to the many professional tradespeople who volunteered their services to make the center a reality. Tammy Palmer estimated roughly $300,000 in labor was donated to the project.

Area businesses, which donated prizes for raffles and other fundraisers, also deserve mention for their part as do the surrounding townships, which made annual contributions to the center project.

The city of Cook also deserves recognition for its support of this project. The most recent example of the city’s commitment is the hiring of staff through the Parks and Recreation Commission to oversee operations at the center and coordinate programming there.

In addition to creating a place for area youth and families to gather and spend time, the center also makes available a comfortable, large space for birthday and graduation parties, wedding receptions and much more. The center already has been rented for at least three parties and the W.C. Heiam Foundation is contemplating using the site for its annual fundraiser in the summer.

The center also is an ideal location for community education classes and for Cook Public Library events that are too large to accommodate in the library’s cramped quarters.

Although the center has finally opened, there is still work ahead. Some minor work remains before the center is completed. Moreover, it will take additional funds to maintain the center and to oversee its operations. But we’ve no doubt that Cook and the surrounding communities will continue to show their support for this investment.

It took years to achieve, but supporters never gave up hope. That same spirit of can-do will continue to make the center a vital part of the community in the years ahead.

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