Next phase for EDA subcommittee, Chamber calls for finding volunteer  brand ambassadors

by Jim Boyle


Together Elk River’s Spirit Week has been deemed a success and something worth building upon.

And that’s exactly what the subcommittee of the Elk River Economic Development Authority with the help of the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce plan to do. Organizers believe Spirit Week provides a nice jumping off point for the grassroots effort.

“We have had such positive feedback,” Elk River City Council Member Jennifer Wagner told the Star News. “What really impressed me was the amount of business-to-business support that we saw during Spirit Week.”

The group has decided the next step will be to seek Together Elk River brand ambassadors.

“Our committee is going to reach out to the business and nonprofit community, as well as residents to become brand ambassadors,” Wagner said. “We are actively seeking input from the community in how they want to see the campaign work for them, as well as understand how we can best create and disseminate marketing information and events going forward.”

Wagner shared an update at the Sept. 8 Elk River City Council meeting.

“The whole point is not to make more work for businesses, but make it easy for them to engage,” she said.

If anyone is interested, they can email Wagner at or call City Hall at 763-635-1000.

Together Elk River Spirit Week kicked off with Make a Difference Monday on Aug. 24. The other days of Spirit Week were Tourist Tuesday, Wear It Wednesday, Take Out Thursday and Find It Friday.

On the opening day of Spirit Week, community members were given a list of a nonprofits they could assist in some way that could make a long-term impact.

One example was Kemper Drug and Gifts, which  held a sidewalk sale and a weeklong donation drive for CAER.

The Kemper Care Crew raised $300 during the week by asking customers to “round-up” their purchase to the nearest dollar as well collecting monetary donations and nonperishable and toiletry items from customers and employees.

Here’s a sampling of the other activities that took place for the benefit of nonprofits and the community.

Sherburne County Area United Way

Sherburne County Area United Way participated in #togetherelkriver on Make A Difference Monday in order to promote a school supplies drive for CAER.

It also promoted a community engagement group it has termed Power of Kindness. It’s made up of a few area leaders who do one act of kindness a month. The mission is to make people smile during this chaotic time.

For August, the group’s act of kindness was the school supplies drive for CAER, in which it established  online registries to make it more convenient for people to shop online and send it in so they could still help out the community while being completely safe. They were able to donate more than 800 items to CAER.

The group’s Act of Kindness for September is called #SmileShare2020. They have placed smiley faces on sticks that they will be placing in yards of friends and family and distributing to groups that would like to give or surprise their friends and family with them.

They also plan to have a smiley face on their website at for kids to print out and color to put in their window or yard.

They are also placing smiley faces rocks throughout the community. The hope is to get people to smile when they see the smiley faces and know they are loved!

This act of kindness is loosely connected to the Thumbs Up 5K, promoting Mental Health Awareness, and the local branch of the United Way’s website is linked to its webpage to bring more awareness to their virtual run.

Sherburne County Area United Way also has a Virtual True Colors Fashion Show coming up on Sept. 25. The group will have speakers talking about the iEmpower Youth Program and local business/organization leaders submitting model videos. The Top Model will be decided by votes ($5 per vote) by the viewers.

As of last week they were still looking for more models. For more information, go to

With COVID-19, Sherburne County Area United Way has also altered its Community Connect event to give resources and information to people in need through a curbside event this year. It will still be Thursday of MEA weekend, Oct. 15, at Elk River High School. The group will be supplying bags of food, a few other essentials, and a ton of important local information.

“I believe this event is even more needed than ever given the unprecedented times,” said Kat Sarff, who helps promote Sherburne County Area United Way.

Thumbs Up Virtual 5K

Spirit Week went really well for the Thumbs Up 5K. Organizers saw a huge jump in registrations, according to Katie Shatusky. “I would assume #togetherelkriver helped a lot with that!” she said. “We had 113 people register last week, and we are sitting at 156 registrations total as last week.”

The Thumbs Up Virtual 5K: Thumbs Up is looking for runners and donations for its annual Thumbs Up 5K, which will be held virtually this year on Sept. 5-19 at Orono Park in Elk River.

Community               Aid Elk River

Heather Kliewer, the executive director of Community Aid Elk River, said their organization felt “embraced” by many in the community during Together Elk River’s Spirit Week, particularly the Elk River Chamber of Commerce and several small businesses that did school supply drives, food drives, and/or donated part of their sales to CAER that week.

“With the COVID-related economic impacts we’ve seen and heard of throughout our community, we are so grateful to have such a generous community that continues to lend its support to CAER,” Kliewer said.

Guardian Angels     Senior Services

Guardian Angels Senior Services was excited to participate in Make a Difference Monday. The organization asked people to share kindness and cheer by sending a letter or note card or dropping off a drawing.   

“Guardian Angels is grateful to the community offering sunshine, sharing their light and spreading joy to our wonderful residents,” Guardian Angels director of marketing Kari McHenry said.

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