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Ridgewater students formulate plan to raise visibility of Community Center

Ridgewater College marketing student Mollie Bredeck presents a marketing plan for the Willmar Community Center. The former Willmar Senior Citizens Center changed its name a year ago and has been trying to expand its reach. The marketing plan developed by Bredeck and fellow student Cassandra Rix includes another name change -- Willmar Community & Activity Center -- and a new logo. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)1 / 3
Ridgewater College marketing student Cassie Rix presents a marketing plan Wednesday to the Willmar Community Center's board. She and Mollie Bredeck developed a plan that would change the center's name and give it a new logo.(Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 3
Marde DeJoy, president of the Senior Citizens Club, looks over the brochure put together by Ridgewater College marketing students. She said she was impressed with the presentation, and she thinks the new name that the students proposed -- Willmar Community & Activity Center -- is appropriate. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)3 / 3

WILLMAR -- Change could be coming to the Willmar Community Center.

Two Ridgewater College students presented a marketing plan to the center's board this week, part of the community service requirement in their Marketing Trends class. The college emphasizes service learning in numerous classes.

The former Willmar Senior Citizens Center changed its name a year ago and has been trying to expand its reach into the community.

Students Cassandra Rix and Mollie Bredeck developed a marketing plan for the center that includes another name change and a new logo.

Decisions on whether to adopt the students' ideas will be made later, said center director LeAnne Freeman. Board members at the meeting nodded their heads during the presentation and said afterward that they liked some of the ideas.

The logo is a tree, with people serving as the brown trunk and green leaves overhead. The proposed new name, Willmar Community & Activity Center, is printed in blue and frames the tree. A tagline, "Building for Generations," is printed below the tree.

A PowerPoint presentation was only part of the show developed by the two students. They played an example of a radio commercial, which they had recorded with the help of a local radio station. They wore white polo shirts bearing the blue, green and brown logo and distributed folders that included a new brochure and samples of stationery and business cards with the logo. They even put the logo on water bottle labels.

Bredeck and Rix explained the choices they made in developing their plan.

"We felt like adding the name 'activity' gives a better picture of what's available," Rix said.

"We chose the tree because it represents growth," Bredeck said. They chose blue lettering and the green leaves to represent the lakes in the community, she added.

The radio ad describes a facility open to the entire community, with a focus on adults 50 and older. It listed amenities like a coffee bar, woodworking shop and technology center.

Similar information could be used in newspaper advertisements, which could also list upcoming activities, they said.

The students proposed several promotional ideas, including discounts on classes for new members or for longtime members. Other ideas were an annual community barbecue and events like craft shows or bake sales at the center.

The center could increase its community involvement by participating in the Holidaze and Willmar Fests parades and other community celebrations, they said.

"We just feel community involvement is the key to success," said Bredeck.

Both women said they were impressed when they toured the center.

"A lot of towns and cities do not have a facility like this," Bredeck said.

The students ended their 25-minute presentation with a thank-you to their instructor, Vicki Melbye.

Melbye said she was proud of her students and gave them credit for doing all the work. "They did this," she said, and she gave advice only when she was asked.

Melbye said she had talked with her class about the business side of preparing presentations.

"If you choose to do it, that's fine," Melbye said to the board. "If not, it's business. ... It's not personal."

During a question-and-answer session, the students received positive comments from members of the board.

"I do appreciate having the 'activity' in there, because it advertises more than just the facility," said Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

Board member Arlen Sjerven said the students had convinced him about the name.

And Marde DeJoy, president of the Senior Citizens Club, said she was impressed with the presentation and with the idea for a new name. "I think this is very appropriate," she said. "I'm sure the seniors will accept it real fine. ... I can handle that little change; why not?"

After their presentation, Bredeck and Rix admitted how nervous they had been making their first presentation.

"We felt it went really well," said Bredeck, who is from Madison.

"We were most worried about them accepting the new name," said Rix, from Sauk City, Wis. "I hope they take some things from it."

Both said they felt their hours of work had been worth it.

Freeman said she was impressed with the students' ideas and "excited about looking at possible changes and having an identity of our own."

She also learned more about the resources available at the college, she said.

"There are so many talented young adults there," she said. "I will not hesitate to call them again and use them as a resource."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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