New crew takes helm at Let's Go Fishing chapter

WILLMAR -- Fishermen always launch their boats with big expectations, but none matched those of Joe Holm and the volunteers who first carried the banner of Let's Go Fishing on to the waters of Kandiyohi County.

WILLMAR -- Fishermen always launch their boats with big expectations, but none matched those of Joe Holm and the volunteers who first carried the banner of Let's Go Fishing on to the waters of Kandiyohi County.

They took on their mission of giving back to senior citizens by treating them to fishing and boating excursions in the belief that public support could make it all happen.

From its start in 2002, volunteers and contributions from individuals, businesses and other organizations have made possible Let's Go Fishing's unique service.

Those expectations continue the same today, as Let's Go Fishing readies for its fifth season with a new board of directors at the helm.

Along with those expectations comes the knowledge of what Let's Go Fishing means to those it serves. "We really believe we are impacting their lives and making a difference,'' said Roger Benson, director of the Willmar chapter of Let's Go Fishing of Minnesota.


He leads the newly-chosen board of directors for the local chapter. Ray Oie remains on board as the only remaining charter board member, while other members are starting their first terms, said Benson and fellow board member Oie and Shirely Hulst.

The three board members said they intend to build on the success of past years. Last year, the Willmar area chapter and its volunteers made it possible for more than 1,000 senior citizens to enjoy boating and fishing outings on area waters last year.

Let's Go Fishing tapped a growing network of volunteers in the Willmar area to make it all possible, according to Benson. The volunteers helped make possible some 120 different outings, a tally that includes not only trips on the water but fish fries and parades in the area.

The year ahead will also see the continued growth of Let's Go Fishing. The 2005 Legislature awarded $325,000 to the organization to expand its services state-wide.

As a result, Let's Go Fishing is in transition, according to the board members. There is a separate board of directors to oversee Let's Go Fishing of Minnesota and its mission of expanding the work across the state. There is also a national, Let's Go Fishing With Seniors organization to help carry the mission beyond the state borders.

And, there is a growing number of local Let's Go Fishing of Minnesota chapters being organized. The Willmar area chapter remains the charter, but it is now joined by organized chapters in Little Falls, North Branch, Paynesville, Sauk Centre, and Sleepy Eye.

Benson said all the news about the state funding and Let's Go Fishing of Minnesota's growth in the past year has created some misconceptions. There are people who believe that the state funds help support Let's Go Fishing operations in the area.

In fact, the state monies are designated for helping start new chapters and make possible the expansion of Let's Go Fishing's services to senior citizens across the state. The funds are not used to support the activities of this or other local chapters. Local chapters remain funded and dependent on the generosity and support of their service areas, said Benson.


That's an important word for the local chapter to get out as it launches its annual fund-raising campaign.

The local chapter's new board will begin the campaign with hopes of achieving two goals. It needs to raise the $20,000 needed to fund the operations that make it possible to give back to senior citizens.

Let's Go Fishing is also aiming to raise funds towards the purchase of its first pontoon boat. Support from the United Prairie Bank and Little Crow Sports, both of Spicer, provides Let's Go Fishing with the use of a small pontoon boat. The organization has also been leasing a larger pontoon to accommodate outings that involve larger numbers of people.

The organization would like to purchase its own pontoon boat to meet this need. The purchase would improve Let's Go Fishing's ability to serve seniors, while also providing long-term cost savings for the organization, the members noted.

They are optimistic about finding the support needed. The first $100 donation towards the pontoon came from 93-year old Harold Van Den Ende, a Let's Go Fishing supporter.

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