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Public gathering for community conversation Saturday

WILLMAR -- The Community Integration Center in downtown Willmar will host a Coffee with the Community gathering at 10 a.m. Saturday at the center at 201 Fifth St. S.W.

WILLMAR - The Community Integration Center in downtown Willmar will host a Coffee with the Community gathering at 10 a.m. Saturday at the center at 201 Fifth St. S.W.

The gathering is open to the public and is intended to be a way for people from the city's different cultures to get to know each other a little better.

The center opened earlier this fall to provide a place to welcome newcomers to the town and to try to break down cultural barriers in Willmar.

Abdirahman Ahmed, one of the center's founders, said, "We just want to show that all of us, when we come together, are always stronger; we wanted to bring a lot of people together that have not met."

While the group does not plan to directly respond to a recent controversy regarding a City Council member's activities on Facebook, he said, "We want to show in action that when we come together as a community, we can move forward without any prejudice."

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The hope is that the Saturday gathering will allow all kinds of people to come together to talk about the challenges facing the community and how to respond to them.

Ahmed said the center hopes to show to the rest of the community that immigrants "just want the same things that everyone wants, have the same goals."

Immigrants of several cultures make Willmar their home and work at businesses throughout the community.

Members of the Willmar Somali community were touched by the overall community response after the tragic drowning of two boys in June 2016, he said.

The African community in Willmar believe that "the Willmar community is one of the best communities in the entire country." Ahmed said.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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