From poultry to play, family connection continues within our walls

Don Helgeson and Sue Shepard have announced a leadership gift to Great River Children’s Museum for sponsorship of the Temporary Gallery. A space for traveling exhibits, expanded programming, and innumerable projects and works of art from around Central Minnesota to be shared! 

The Gallery is an important feature of the future children’s museum. It is especially important to Don and Sue because, like the building that Great River Children’s Museum resides in, it will always be changing and evolving into something different. Our building in downtown St. Cloud has been everything from a chicken hatchery to an athletic center. The one constant has been the Helgeson family’s connection to this space. 

The building began as Jack Frost Hatchery and Liberty Loan and Thrift founded in 1934 by Don’s father, Elmer “Mike” Helgeson. Mike wanted to help the farmers in the area by creating finance solutions. This would allow farmers to purchase chicks on installment payment plans. At the time it was a revolutionary way of doing business and proved to be very successful. By 1939, Liberty Loan and Thrift expanded to begin financing cars and farm machinery.

Circa 1941

Before his graduation in 1950 from what was then known as St. Cloud State Teachers College, Don decided that he would like to take over his father’s hatchery. He switched his focus and completed courses relating to farming and animals, specifically poultry. 

Don became a manager at the hatchery and was given opportunities to make important decisions. It was upon his suggestion that his father bought a farm near Mille Lacs Lake to start breeding chickens, feeding their own supply line. By the 1970’s, Don and his brother Jerry were partners and co-owners of the hatchery and loan business and their hard work saw the business evolve and the facility become a space used for a multitude of purposes.

In 1993 Don’s son, Michael (“Mike”) Helgeson, became CEO of the family business. In 2018 Liberty Bank moved to a new location and donated their downtown headquarters to the Great River Children’s Museum project for the benefit of the entire Central Minnesota community. Mike and his wife Karel Helgeson have served, and do serve, on the Board and Committees of Great River Children’s Museum and so it goes that the building remains a part of the wonderful Helgeson family legacy. 

“The Liberty building represents our family’s legacy and passions intersecting: the chicken business, banking business, appreciation and support for the arts, and giving back to the community.” -Don Helgeson in his book Gratitude.

We are incredibly grateful and excited that Don and Sue have chosen to play such an instrumental role in the transformation of our beautiful 111 7th Ave S. structure!

GRCM Executive Director featured on Minnesota Live!

In October, our Executive Director, Cassie Miles, was able to share Central Minnesota’s vision for the creation of the 2nd largest children’s museum in the state with the Twin Cities market on Minnesota Live with KSTP-TV. This has been our biggest audience yet!

As Great River Children’s Museum continues to design a space that will bring play filled learning opportunities to children and their families for generations to come, we’re seeking corporate and family gifts to help us reach the first $8 million in our $12 million capital campaign. We can’t wait to start knocking down walls and swinging sledgehammers!

Will your employer be the next Great River Children’s Museum supporter? Help Help us Open Doors and Open Worlds of exploration and delight for families in our region by spreading the word and talking to your employer today!

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Forecast: Cloudy with a chance of awesome

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Kids will soon have their head in the clouds (hands, feet and whole self, too!).

Higher and higher, kiddos will climb above cityscapes and rivers in Climber to the Clouds, an exhibit sponsored by Coborn Family Foundation.

On Oct. 9, 2021, Great River Children’s Museum board members and committee volunteers were wowed with the second round of design schematics for the museum’s core exhibits. 

Climber to the Clouds will be the heart of the museum, awing museum visitors as they enter the spectacular atrium. 

Once museum visitors pass through the ticketing area, the museum space opens up to reveal the towering, immersive exhibit.

Scattered throughout Climber are physical play features to scurry over, under and around. Cranks and buttons invite explorers to interact to learn about weather systems and even create their own rain, thunder, wind, and rainbows. 

Passersby also will be captivated by the illuminated, three-story, cloud-filled sky visible from outside.

Great River Children’s Museum would like to thank Coborn Family Foundation for sponsoring this exhibit.

To learn more about sponsorship or corporate partnerships, please contact Executive Director Cassie Miles at Cassie.Miles@greatrivercm.org

$1 million Anderson gift drives Great River Children’s Museum closer to Opening Doors and Opening Worlds

Sponsorship of river exhibit keeps museum plans flowing

St. CLOUD – Barbara and Rollie Anderson have announced a personal $1 million dollar pledge to Great River Children’s Museum for sponsorship of the “Great River” exhibit. 

“We’ve always said family is the most important thing,” Rollie explained. “Great River Children’s Museum will be a welcome addition to Central Minnesota as a space for families to explore, discover and learn together, and we’re proud to be a part of its development.”

The Andersons have a deep history of strengthening families in our region through their work with Early Childhood Family Education, service, community engagement, and history of generosity with Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota, CentraCare, and Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, to name a few.

Sponsorship of the “Great River” exhibit is particularly meaningful. Museum goers will learn about the importance of water as habitat, a means of transportation for commerce as well as a lifeline for communities. For Barbara and Rollie, their family-owned company, Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), played a key role helping the millions of Puerto Rico residents who were devastated following Hurricane Maria in 2017. ATS has been doing business in Puerto Rico since 1995 and helped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with generators and pumps to save a dam from breaking, the U.S. Coast Guard with providing potable water to residents, and relief agencies with delivery of other cargo, including shower trailers, laundry trailers, traffic lights, generators, fuel, 28,000 telephone and utility poles, 60,000 miles of cable, transformers, bucket trucks, portable cellular towers, and the list goes on.

“We’re honored to deepen the sense of community in our region by sharing our wonderful heritage and history of life along the river with families,” Barbara said. “Great River Children’s Museum will deliver on the importance of children having an opportunity for hands-on learning experiences.” 

GRCM currently is in the fund-raising phase of museum development. At the same time, the organization is working with three professional exhibit design firms to finalize core museum exhibits. 

The Andersons join the Coborn Family Foundation as the museum’s first two exhibit sponsors.

“We are at an exhilarating point in our fund raising and development,” said Cassie Miles, GRCM executive director. “Each gift brings us one step closer to opening our doors.”

About Great River Children’s Museum

Great River Children’s Museum is an emerging museum that will reside in downtown St. Cloud, thanks to Liberty Bank’s $1.4 million donation of its building. 

GRCM’s mission is to shine a bright light on the power of play to spark children’s learning, strengthen families, and build community connections. The museum currently is in a capital campaign to develop a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover and be inspired. The museum’s Board of Directors is working with experienced museum planners, exhibit designers, and architects to transform its 25,000 square foot space into one that celebrates the rich, natural elements, resources and cultures of Central Minnesota. 

GRCM is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization and member of the Association of Children’s Museums

Coborn Family Foundation gifts $1 million to Great River Children’s Museum

Donation will help open doors to the extraordinary power of play

St. CLOUD – On June 30, 2021, the Coborn Family Foundation announced a $1 million dollar pledge to Great River Children’s Museum for exhibit sponsorship to commemorate the company’s 100-year anniversary celebration. 

“We’re pleased to support Great River Children’s Museum, where families can come together and be strengthened as they experience the joy of play together,” said Emily Coborn, president of the Coborn Family Foundation and vice president of operations for Coborn’s, Inc’s eastern region.  “We are thankful to the Central Minnesota community for the 100 years of support it has provided to Coborn’s, Inc., and we are pleased to give back to Central Minnesota families through this gift,” she said. 

Great River Children’s Museum (GRCM) currently is in the fund-raising phase of museum development. At the same time, the organization is working with three exhibit companies to finalize core museum exhibits. Coborn’s will be the sponsor of one of these exhibits.

“We are grateful for the shared vision of our community partners, who know Great River Children’s Museum will serve as a life source to strengthen families, build community connections, and increase the value of our local economies,” said Cassie Miles, GRCM executive director. “This gift is incredibly energizing as we continue to work to open our doors in Central Minnesota,”

About Coborn’s, Inc.
St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s, Inc. is a 100-year-old employee-owned grocery retailer with nearly 9,300 employees and 59 grocery stores across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin under the Coborn’s, Cash Wise Foods, Marketplace Foods and Hornbacher’s banners. Coborn’s, Inc. also owns liquor and pharmacy locations. To support its 130 various retail business units, Coborn’s, Inc. operates its own central bakery, dry cleaning facility and grocery distribution center. In 2021, Coborn’s, Inc. was recognized by the Shelby Report Midwest as their Retailer of the Year.

About Great River Children’s Museum
Great River Children’s Museum is an emerging museum that will reside in downtown St. Cloud, thanks to Liberty Bank’s $1.4 million donation of its building. 

GRCM’s mission is to Open Worlds through the extraordinary power of play. The museum currently is in a capital campaign to develop a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover and be inspired. The museum’s Board of Directors is working with experienced museum planners, exhibit designers, and architects to transform its 25,000 square foot space into one that celebrates the rich, natural elements, resources and cultures of Central Minnesota. 

GRCM is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization and member of the Association of Children’s Museums

Give At Home MN

We may not be able to meet in person during this time, but development work continues with the help of grants and donations from individuals and organizations in our community. In these challenging economic times, GiveMN is running a #GiveAtHomeMN campaign complete with $68,000 in prize drawings. By making any size donation to Great River Children’s Museum between May 1-8th, you help qualify the museum for prizes. Go show your support for a children’s museum in downtown St. Cloud by visiting givemn.org and making a donation during the first week of May. Your participation in this event will demonstrate the abundance of generosity and hope for the future that still exists in this time of crisis. We continue to strive for a better future for the children of Central Minnesota! One where they have a place to come together to create, explore, discover and be inspired through the extraordinary power of play.

Fundraising and Costs

We will soon be kicking off our capital campaign! Through the museum planning process our financial goals are becoming more clearly defined. We continue to have operating expenses for the project that are similar to start-up costs for any new business. We are grateful to all the volunteers who have been donating time so generously. The project has been operating on volunteer passion for several years now with the recent addition of hired consultants who have assisted with marketing, museum planning, architecture and other specialties. The project has also undertaken some minor construction costs to make the building safe for people touring and for guests of our roundtable discussions and PEL Labs. Every dollar we raise now helps to propel this project forward. It is also our hope to ready ourselves for hiring our first employees, beginning with an executive director, in the coming months.

With the autumn season upon us, please consider the Great River Children’s Museum in your year end giving plans.

Donuts to the Capitol

Greg Reigstad and Sara McKeever took a box of Cold Spring Bakery goods down to the state Capitol where they met up with Rep. Dan Wolgamott. Their task was to convince the Legacy Finance Committee to advance a bill requesting $525,000 for museum development. The baked goods fulfilled a tradition that calls for treats to be served by a congressperson presenting their first bill in committee. As a father of young children, Rep. Wolgamott was able to add a personal touch as he spoke about why he put forth this bill. Sara talked about her experience as a kindergarten teacher, then gave a presentation explaining the history of this project and what we hope to accomplish in the future. Greg spoke from the perspective of a grandfather as he fielded questions and provided some comic relief. We enjoyed the opportunity to share our project and hope to see funds appropriated from the Arts and Culture Legacy Fund over the course of the next two biennium.

This funding would go a long way toward renovating the building to make it suitable for public events and creating exhibit spaces on the main floor. You can help by contacting your legislators and letting them know you would like them to support H.F. 396, authored by both Dan Wolgamott and Tama Theis. Please reach out to your senators as well. Thanks to the work of Senator Jerry Relph who introduced S.F. 645, we will have the chance to present our case to the Senate committee in early April. Follow the progress of these two bills at https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/

Our Friends at SCHEELS

A wonderful year-end surprise came to our PayPal account thanks to everyone at the St. Cloud SCHEELS store. The Great River Children’s Museum received a generous donation via the museum’s website. Chris Theisen, Assistant Store Leader, shared with us that, “SCHEELS is very happy to provide this donation. Being familiar with how Liberty donated the building really caught our eye, and we just wanted to be a part of what we agree will make a great addition to our community.” 

It is touching when people take the initiative to improve their community in whatever ways they are able. We all can be inspired by this company’s focus on community involvement.

Development Timeline

The museum project began in 2012 at the dining room table of Glen Palm and Jane Ellison. It has gone through many stages in its evolution. Now, as it begins to take on physical form at the downtown location, let us take a look back at the many milestones along the way.

2012

  • Established Great River Children’s Exploratorium as a 501c3
  • Met with community leaders/groups

2014

  • Joined the Association of Children’s Museums as an emerging museum
  • Studied children’s museums in similar sized midwest communities
  • Completed a needs assessment

2016

  • Collaborated with CentraCare Health System to bring the Healthyville exhibit to the Stearns History Museum

2017

  • Created a planning team
  • Discussed a second pop-up exhibit in collaboration with early childhood programs

2018

  • Met with Minnesota Children’s Museum staff and toured $30 million expansion
  • Attended webinar with SCSU faculty/staff about collaboration between children’s museums & universities
  • Explored building sites for a future location
  • Recruited and expanded board membership to 14 members
  • Ran a successful matching campaign for a $25,000 grant
  • Formed committees and refined the mission statement during a board retreat
  • Met with museum planners Jeanne Vergeront and Jim Roe
  • Changed name to Great River Children’s Museum
  • Finalized building donation by Liberty Bank in downtown St. Cloud

2019

  • Legislation introduced for Legacy funding

Contact your representatives and ask them to support HF396 which provides funding for the Great River Children’s Museum. This bill was authored by Dan Wolgamott and Tama Theis. The companion bill in the senate is SF645 and was introduced by Senator Jerry Relph.