Belonging Begins With Us

Members of the Belonging Begins With Us planning committee recently met at Masonic/West River Park and unfurled flags of the countries of origin of some of the people who are expected to attend the Sept. 12 event. In front row, from left, are Zulma Villanueva, Jesus Borja and Yara Mireles. In the back row, from left, are Sandy Tracy of River of Hope Lutheran Church, Vicar Hans Peterson of River of Hope, Anna Harvala of Hutchinson Health, the Rev. Jill Warner of New Journey United Church of Christ, Katy Hiltner of Hutchinson Public Library, Kay Hultgren of Hutchinson Center for the Arts, and Evie Swanson of Maplewood Academy.

Supporters of an effort aimed at strengthening a sense of belonging in Hutchinson have added several new activities to complement the Belonging Begins With Us Celebration scheduled for Sept. 12.

A community-wide book discussion, an exhibit featuring immigrants’ personal stories, a story hour at the Hutchinson Public Library and other activities are also planned, according to the grass-roots group representing more than 10 local organizations.

The festivities are tied to a nationwide event, Welcoming Week, which was recognized by Hutchinson Mayor Gary Forcier in a formal proclamation at the Aug. 24 City Council meeting. In his proclamation, Forcier noted that “Hutchinson, since its founding, is a community that values the fresh perspectives and ideas contributed by people of diverse backgrounds and experiences, and is committed to providing a welcoming environment in which all residents have opportunities to strive, grow and succeed.”

Nationwide, Welcoming Week will be celebrated Sept. 10-19. Hutchinson’s centerpiece event, the Belonging Begins With Us Celebration, is set for noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, at Masonic/West River Park, 1003 Les Kouba Parkway, N.W. The schedule includes games, a concert by the musical group Sounds of Hope, a short program, food vendors and ice cream treats. Pinatas, face painting, rock painting and other children’s activities are planned. Attendees are requested to follow current Minnesota health and safety guidelines, including wearing a mask while in large groups and not attending if you are ill or were recently exposed to someone who is ill. In the event of rain, the celebration will take place at the Maplewood Academy gymnasium.

Several of the new events are already underway.

Through Thursday, Sept. 9, Ridgewater College is displaying Green Card Voices, an exhibit featuring 19 full-color banners with stories told by first-generation central Minnesota immigrants and refugees from 12 different countries of origin. Each banner includes a portrait, the individual’s 200-word biography, a quote and a QR code that visitors can scan to view a first-person story. The display, cosponsored by Ridgewater and Hutchinson Health, can be viewed 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through Friday.

Hutchinson Public Library, 50 Hassan St. S.E., is observing Welcoming Week throughout September. Activities include:

Recipe exchange: Patrons are encouraged to submit a recipe along with their recipe “story.” The goal is to connect community members of all ages through recipes and stories (celebrating heritage, family traditions and so on). A raffle prize drawing for participants will take place at the end of the month. The Friends of the Library are sponsoring the prizes, which will be credit card scripts good for use at the Hutchinson Farmers Market. The library will have a featured display as well with cookbooks and fiction books that relate to recipes/stories.

Book displays: Library staff will put together a book display of materials from across the collections. The books will celebrate diversity as well as the ideas of community and belonging.

Story hour: Youth services librarian Rachelle Golde will host a story hour on Thursday, Sept. 9, which will focus on the theme of belonging. If this story hour cannot be held in-person, she’ll record a story hour with HCVN, which will air online. As part of the story hour, Golde is going to put together a recipe card craft project for children and their families.

Bookmarks: Throughout September, the library will give away literary bookmarks to patrons. The bookmarks feature the quotes of four well-known authors and celebrate the idea of many voices. The featured authors include Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Helen Keller, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Jorge Luis Borges.

Starting in October, River of Hope Lutheran Church is hosting a discussion of the book “A Good Time for the Truth,” a collection of Minnesota essays. Published in 2016 and edited by Sun Yung Shin, the work features 16 of Minnesota’s best writers who provide a range of perspectives on what it is like to live as a person of color in Minnesota. According to the book’s publisher, the authors “give readers a splendid gift: the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They bring us generously into experiences that we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships.”

The monthly discussions will take place 6:30-8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Dec. 7, at Hutchinson Center for the Arts, 15 Franklin St. S.W. Copies of the book are available for checkout through Hutchinson Public Library. Books can also be purchased individually. The library is working to obtain funding for a book club kit that can be checked out by larger groups. Discussion signup information will be available at the Belonging Begins With Us event Sept. 12 and also through the library and through River of Hope at

Hutchinson is among hundreds of communities nationwide that are hosting Welcoming Week activities. Similar festivities are taking place in nine other southwest Minnesota communities.

In Glencoe, a Welcoming Week Party is planned 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, on the lawn near the McLeod County Courthouse, 830 11th St. E. The free party features music spun by area DJs, activities for kids and families as well as performances by local “Matachines” dancers. Food will be available to purchase at the event.

The national Welcoming Week is an annual campaign and celebration supported in this region by the Southwest Initiative Foundation with additional promotion from Pioneer PBS and Southwest Minnesota Arts Council. Led by the national nonprofit Welcoming America, the week showcases the growing movement of communities striving to emphasize a sense of belonging among all people. Thousands of events have been organized nationwide since 2012.

Members serving on Hutchinson’s planning committee represent schools, churches, businesses and nonprofits. They include Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Hutchinson Center for the Arts, Hutchinson Connects, Hutchinson Health, Hutchinson Public Library, Maplewood Academy, New Journey United Church of Christ, Ridgewater College, River of Hope Lutheran Church and Southwest Initiative Foundation.

For more information about the Belonging Begins With Us celebration, call Karen Grasmon at 320-587-4848.