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Allen Erickson wore an enormous smile as the small plane landed Monday morning at the Willmar Municipal Airport. "We made it!" he exclaimed from the cockpit to family and friends waiting on the tarmac. "Flew like a bird!" Erickson, 84, exulted as paramedics with the Willmar Ambulance Service carefully helped him over the wing of the little red and white Piper Comanche and onto the ground. Erickson, who has an incurable brain tumor, has been a Rice Hospice patient for more than a year.
WILLMAR -- The dangling tawny-colored earrings in the jewelry case at Gilday's are handmade by women in Afghanistan. A matching necklace and bracelet of green malachite are crafted in cottage industries in the Himalayas. Then there are the tiny bottles of skin-softening marula oil from Africa and the handbags from Nepal. Sandy Evans plucks a sleek black handbag from the shelf and invites a visitor to guess what it's made from. Recycled leather? Recycled plastic? Wrong on both counts. It's recycled tires, Evans explains.
WILLMAR -- Good things seemed to be happening at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The hospital's mortality rate was steadily dropping. Its credit rating was improving and patient satisfaction scores kept getting better. Maureen Bisognano, president and chief executive of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, decided to see for herself how Mercy Medical Center was accomplishing this. "I spent a whole day there, touring through Mercy, just looking at the front lines of care and asking questions," she said. Among the things she found: Patient-centered care. Standardized rooms.
WILLMAR -- Organizers of a community-owned grocery store in downtown Willmar didn't get a $10,000 grant they sought from the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission to help move the project forward.
WILLMAR -- Under a new alignment plan, the boards of the Rice Health Foundation and Rice Memorial Hospital will work more closely together to identify, support and fund some of the key needs of the hospital. The plan was unanimously endorsed Wednesday by the board of directors of the city-owned hospital. It was the next step in a process that began last year with integrating the nonprofit foundation, which was previously a separate entity, with Rice Hospital.
WILLMAR -- Melvin's on the Lake, a popular dining and entertainment landmark in Spicer, has been sold to Zorbaz Inc. Owners Dave and Mary Baker will operate Melvin's for one final summer this year before turning it over to Zorbaz on Oct. 1. The Bakers made the ann-ouncement Monday. "This will be our ninth season when we finish this summer," Dave Baker said. "It's been a privilege and an honor to run such an important entity." Zorbaz owns and operates nine restaurants in northern Minnesota.
WILLMAR -- Rice Memorial Hospital fared slightly better than the financial break-even point last year, its best performance since 2007. The gains weren't large.
WILLMAR -- By mid-morning Wednesday, the word was spreading in Madison that a new county-by-county ranking lists Lac qui Parle County as the healthiest in Minnesota. "That's good news," enthused Maynard Meyer, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce and general manager of KLQP Radio. The rankings, for all 50 states in the U.S., were issued Wednesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They offer a snapshot of people's health based on where they live, work and go to school.
WILLMAR -- A Willmar man was fined more than $1,200 and placed on probation Wednesday after being convicted in two separate cases, one drug-related and the other involving terroristic threats against a former girlfriend and a high-speed car chase. Petrolino Molina, 27, could have faced jail or prison time. But Kandiyohi County District Court Judge Kathryn Smith agreed to stay execution of a one-year prison sentence on the terroristic threat charge for five years.
WILLMAR -- More nonprofit agencies are seeking funding this year from the United Way of West Central Minnesota, and the dollar amount of funding re-quests has grown significantly. A community review panel meets Thursday to begin considering the funding requests from 59 agencies. Area nonprofits continue to see an increase in the number of people they serve, said Renee Nolting, executive director of the United Way of West Central Minnesota. "More agencies are needing funding," she said.