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Downtown business giving away 'I Love Willmar' buttons

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Briana Sanchez / Tribune Mayor Marv Calvin pours out a jar of "I Love Willmar" buttons Friday at The Goodness. Calvin wanted to see all the languages they came in. Coffeehouse owners Vicki and Chris Davis said people do not need to purchase anything to get a button. Buttons are free until they run out but they are accepting donations toward the purchase of more of the buttons.2 / 5
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Vicki and Chris Davis talk about how they came up with the idea for the "I Love Willmar" buttons Friday at The Goodness, the coffee shop they operate in downtown Willmar. Chris Davis said he wanted to come out with "I Love Willmar" buttons in four different languages during the election season to create a sense of unity.3 / 5
Briana Sanchez / Tribune The "I Love Willmar" buttons distributed at the Goodness are available in four languages – English, Spanish, Somali and Karen. 4 / 5
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Pam Rozendaal holds up a button for Mayor Marv Callvin to read Friday at The Goodness Coffee House. The buttons were created by owners Vicki and Chris Davis. They come in four different languages that read "I Love Willmar."5 / 5

WILLMAR — When he has a conversation with his east African patrons at The Goodness coffeehouse, Chris Davis said, at some point they will say, "I love Willmar."

He's heard similar things from other immigrant patrons at the downtown coffeehouse, which is a popular gathering spot in Willmar's busy, diverse downtown area.

In the midst of all the political tension this fall, he said Friday afternoon, "I thought, we need something positive."

So he ordered a couple thousand Cardinals-red buttons that say "I Love Willmar." He and his wife, Vicki, are giving them away at the coffee shop at the corner of Fourth Street Southwest and Litchfield Avenue.

The pins are available in four languages — English, Spanish, Somali and Karen. Chris Davis said he contacted friends and co-workers to make sure the wording and spelling were right.

"They're non-political," he said, and he hopes they can be a counterbalance in the final weeks of the election. He had just started handing them out Friday morning at a couple Chamber of Commerce events, and "we've just had a real positive response."

Anyone who wants a button is welcome to stop by and ask for one at The Goodness, Chris Davis said. No purchase is necessary. He will accept donations to buy more buttons, though.

His goal is to get as many as 10,000 more and hand them out Nov. 19 at the downtown Holidaze Parade.

"We want to bring unity and love for Willmar," Vicki Davis said. "I would love to see everyone in Willmar wearing them."

In his first order, Chris Davis said, he ordered 500 buttons in each language. He hadn't expected people to choose buttons in languages they didn't speak. He works at Life-Science Innovations, where many Karen people work in the hatchery. Many of his English-speaking colleagues wanted buttons in Karen.

"Fabulous idea," said Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin during a stop at The Goodness. "I think this is just an expression of how a small business person in downtown Willmar can have an impact on Willmar and this area."

Gestures like the buttons can make a lot of difference in the city, Calvin said. He also praised The Goodness for welcoming all cultures and being a good place to have a conversation.

Donations to help order more buttons may be sent to 333 Litchfield Ave. S.W., Willmar. Since The Goodness is a nonprofit organization, donations are tax-deductible.

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

(320) 214-4340