Do-Gooders Help Community

Festivals, Hometown Heroes, People, Traditions
on July 22, 2001

Seven women, two men, and 150 pounds of flour might sound like an odd recipe. But with a dollop of caring and a pat of humor, this small group of volunteers is doing great deeds in Nimrod, Minn. (pop. 72).

Every year, the self-named Do-Gooders put on a pancake feed during the towns Labor Day celebration. Over the years, the money raised has gone to buy show ribbons for Nimrods saddle club, decorations for the beauty pageant, and new gloves for the baseball leagues. Local individuals also have been helped, including a carpenter who lost his equipment in a fire and a teacher paralyzed in a car accident.

The Do-Gooders are an informalyet close-knitgroup held together by social and family ties. Jolynn Weaver is the sister of Joyce Hepola, a bank clerk in nearby Sebeka, and Judy Metteer, who teaches mentally handicapped students in Wadena County. All three women are sisters-in-law of Rhoda Metteer, who works as a furniture store clerk in nearby Wadena. For the last few years, Hepolas husband, Ed, a retired Menahga postmaster, has helped with the pancake feed. Friendships like these have held the Do-Gooders together for nearly 20 years.

It all began on the ball field. The womens softball league began helping the town council maintain the ball grounds. Hours of their weekends were spent pushing a hand-mower and keeping the diamond clear.

Eventually, Do-Gooder Margaret Rathcke says, We all decided we were just too old to play softball. The injuries were catching up with them, but the women didnt want to give up their community involvement. So they retired from softball and built bleachers for the baseball field.

Charlie Tuorila, their coach, joined them. His knowledge of carpentry was useful for the bleachers and the groups next project, building picnic tables. The tables are stored in Tuorilas yard, available to anyone in the community for reunions and parties. They are scheduled for a fresh coat of paint this year, courtesy of the Do-Gooders.

Charlies been great to have in our group, Rathcke says. He taught us what to do, and he didnt kill us while we learned! We may not be carpenters, but well try anything.

That can-do attitude has led the group to glue thousands of flowers onto a beauty pageant float during the towns annual Labor Day parade; hide Easter eggs in snowbanks on the Nimrod Evangelical Lutheran Church grounds; and even erect a hitching post besides Hilligs Mercantile for Ray Pederson, husband of one of the volunteers, who uses the post when he offers summer hayrides or transportation for Christmas carolers.

This year the group is replacing the baby swing near the swimming hole on Crow Wing River east of town. The hole is a slow spot where the river bends under a bridge and is a central gathering place in summer. Previously, the group carpeted the dock to make it safer.

Sometimes the groups help is extended to individuals. Eight years ago they helped a young teacher pay for physical rehabilitation when she was paralyzed in a car accident. Earlier this year, a carpenter lost everything when a fire started in his tool shed. The Do-Gooders gave him a donation to help replace the tools.

The donations are only a few hundred dollars, distributed several times a year, but in such a small town the group contributions are as big as their hearts. Throughout it all, the group has maintained a strong core of cooperation.

Everybody in this group is friends, says Nancy Gilster, who organizes the towns beauty pageant. People from other towns ask how we can keep going without fighting. We just do our thing, keep it neighborly.

Do-Gooder Pat Pederson, a horse rancher, agrees. Other groups may have their spits and spats. We just take a vote, and thats that.

Pederson participated in the towns horse shows, held several times each year, until she began competing against her grandchildren. The whole group reflects her sensitivity.

We dont do it for recognition, Rathcke says. We do it because theres a need. We couldnt even think of a name. We finally decided that we do good things, so thats our name: the Do-Gooders.

True to their name, these folks are doing a lot of good in Nimrod.