Jennie-O provides $120,000 toward soccer field development

WILLMAR -- The second phase in the development of new soccer fields in southwest Willmar received a significant financial boost this week from Jennie-O Turkey Store of Willmar.

WILLMAR -- The second phase in the development of new soccer fields in southwest Willmar received a significant financial boost this week from Jennie-O Turkey Store of Willmar.

During a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the Willmar Education and Arts Center, Jennie-O Turkey Store President Michael Tolbert handed a mockup of a $120,000 check to Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

"As we saw the good fortunes of our company develop this year, we found ourselves with the opportunity to share with the community of Willmar in accelerating the development of this project,'' said Tolbert in presenting the check.

"We think it'll be great not only for the city of Willmar but the surrounding communities. Bringing those that are interested in this activity together will also be good for the employees of Jennie-O Turkey Store and Jennie-O Turkey Store,'' he said.

The contribution will be used to help pay for installation of lights and bleachers estimated at $220,000. Contributions will also be sought from the city of Willmar, the Willmar School District and other sources, said Brisendine.


Earlier this year, Jennie-O Turkey Store and its employees contributed $24,000 toward the $94,000 Phase I cost of preparing the ground at the eight-acre site, installing an irrigation system and seeding the three acres of playing fields.

Other contributions came from the Willmar School District, the Willmar Public School Foundation, the city of Willmar, the West Central Integration Collaborative, and Community Education and Recreation.

Tolbert said many Jennie-O employees and their families are involved in soccer.

"I think that Jennie-O Turkey Store has 10 adult soccer teams. It's a cross-cultural activity that everybody can be involved in and brings everybody together,'' he said.

Mayor Les Heitke praised Jennie-O for the economic activity created by the company and its support and leadership to the community, noting the $3 million challenge grant for developing the YMCA, and the $1.2 million grant toward the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center from the family of Jennie-O founder Earl B. Olson.

Willmar School Board Chairman Dion Warne said he was impressed by Jennie-O's two financial gifts.

"Jennie-O Turkey Store is a great example of being a good corporate citizen to our area,'' said Warne. The project "builds social capital because it brings together so many different parts of our community that will use these soccer fields.''

Steve Leitch, Jennie-O group leader for research and development and president of the Willmar Soccer Association, said, "It's great to be with a company that would give a generous gift like this. From a kid's standpoint, I can't wait till I get to see games under the lights. It's going to be a lot of fun.''


The soccer fields are being developed on 13 acres of school district land located between Roosevelt Elementary School and the aquatic center.

"We're all about providing opportunities for young people and families,'' said Willmar Schools Superintendent Kathy Leedom. "What you're doing here really complements our mission as a school district to provide a wide array of opportunities.''

She and City Administrator Michael Schmit said the city and school district's joint Community Education and Recreation program is a great example of intergovernmental cooperation. He thanked Brisendine and Leitch for working behind the scenes to bring the project together.

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