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Text Box: Connie Payson  *   Community Circles Project Coordinator
PO Box 793  *  Elizabeth, MN 56533  *  218 736-4427  *

Community Circles

Changing Faces,                Changing Communities

Pelican Rapids Area Project Report

Spring 2000







Financial support has come from The Otto Bremer Foundation, Medtronic, Beim Foundation, Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation, Siegel, Brill, Gruepner, Duffy & Foster, and Reliastar.





Changing Faces, Changing Communities

Changing Faces, Changing Communities. 3

Minnesota Statewide Project 4

League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund. 4

Minnesota Statewide Project Communities. 4

Pelican Rapids Area Project 4

One of 17 Communities. 4

Outcome Potential for Community-wide Study Circles. 5

Changing Faces, Changing Communities Study Guide. 5

Steering Committee Parameters. 5

What Participants Said. 6

Diverse Circles. 6

Immigration and Pelican Rapids, Three Circles Concerns. 6

Citizenship. 7

Community Perceptions. 7

Access to Services. 8

Education. 9

English as a Second Language (ESL) 11

Commerce. 11

Language Barriers. 12

Employment 12

Housing. 13

Cultural Implications. 15

Miscellaneous Concerns. 15

Community Support 18

Steering Committee. 18

Agencies Represented at the Action Forum.. 2


Minnesota Statewide Project

League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund                                                        

A record 8,977 immigrants came to Minnesota directly from their native countries in 1996 (Minnesota Planning publication).  Many of these were refugees – more than forty percent of Minnesota’s immigrants that year – from places such as the former Soviet Union, Somalia, Sudan Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon, and Southeast Asian countries.  In addition, Minnesota’s economy is strong at this time, and immigrants are attracted to a welcoming job market.

Their integration into the communities in which they settle, however, has not always been smooth.  In response to this development, LWVMNEF is in the middle of a two-year project to focus community discussions state wide on immigration and the accompanying issues of race, jobs, housing, language differences and education.

Community Circle projects began in 17 communities starting in February of 2000.  A statewide kickoff was held February 13 in Pelican Rapids and February 14 in Eden Prairie and St. Paul.  A statewide action forum is scheduled for Saturday, April 29, 2000, 12:30 - 5:00 p.m. in St. Paul, MN.


Minnesota Statewide Project Communities

The following communities have agreed to participate in the League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund Changing Faces, Changing Communities Project:

Edina                                                  St. Cloud                                        Minneaopolis


Edin Prairie                                        Austin                                            Winona


Marshall                                             Mankato                                        St. Paul


Willmar                                               Pelican Rapids                              Rochester


Northfield                                          St. Peter                                 Plymouth/Wayzata


College of St. Catherine’s               Robbinsdale Armstrong High School


      Pelican Rapids Area Project

One of 17 Communities

The League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund sponsored the organization of the Pelican Rapids Area Community Circles.  Changing Faces, Changing Communities is a new one-year project for 1999-2000, which focuses on race and diversity in the State of Minnesota.  Community Circles is a process for small-group deliberation, developed in 1990, that uses discussion materials provided by the Study Circle Resource Center of the Topsfield Foundation, based in Connecticut.

The purpose of the project is to initiate discussion on immigration, race and diversity, and all of the accompanying issues, such as jobs, schools and language differences. 

The Community Circles in Pelican Rapids brought a cross-section of individuals – people who don’t usually have dialogue with others on current issues – together in face-to-face discussions.   After five – two hour discussion sessions, three Community Circles presented summaries of their discussion at a Community Action Forum. 

Action Forum Participants included representatives from the Community Circles, policy makers, agency directors, local media and the public.  The participants in the action forum now have a better idea of the needs of the Pelican Rapids area, and what Pelican Rapids has to offer from its experience to other communities undergoing similar changes. 

Committees are forming as necessary and appropriate for the Pelican Rapids community.



Outcome Potential for Community-wide Study Circles

By participating in study circles, citizens gain “ownership” of the issues, discover a connection between personal experiences and public policies, gain a deeper understanding of their own and others perspectives and concerns.  They discover common ground and a greater desire and ability to work collaboratively to solve local problems – as individuals, as members of small groups, as members of larger organizations in the community.  Community-wide study circle programs foster new connections among community members that lead to new levels of community action.  They also create new connections between citizens and government, both at an institutional level and among community members.




Changing Faces, Changing Communities Study Guide

The purpose of the guide Changing Faces, Changing Communities is to help people use study circles (or Community Circles in Minnesota) to talk about and take action on community changes.

Study Guide sessions 1, 2, and 3 deal with immigration in our community.  In these sessions we look at how immigration issues touch our daily lives and how they affect our communities.  Session 4 deals with what it means to be a citizen.  Session 5 has a list of action ideas on how to make a difference on your own, in small groups, or with the whole community. 


Steering Committee Parameters

In organizing the Pelican Rapids Community Circles, the steering committee incorporated the following components:

1.       Provide safe settings to talk with people from different backgrounds about common problems

2.       Recruit facilitators who are not always experts on the issue, but are there to help the meeting go well.

3.       Recruit facilitators from outside of Pelican Rapids, where the facilitators are providing an unbiased setting for fair dialogue, where participants do not know their background or position of the issues.

4.       Recruit more than one Community Circle.  Community Circles work best when there are many going on at the same time in a community.

5.       Enlist the support of groups and leaders in the community.

6.       Incorporate 3 rules in each Community Circle:

 Participants use “I” statements

 Remember listening is ½ of communication

 Refrain from judgments.

7.       Community Circle Participants recruited from cross sections of the community,  differing points of view regarding immigration, and from diverse backgrounds.

8.       Recruit co-facilitators to record the dialogue.

9.       Explain the difference of “dialogue” verses “debate” to participants.

10.    Provide study guides to each participant




What Participants Said

Diverse Circles

The Community Circles were diverse.  Members ranged in age from about twenty-five to over seventy years old.  At lest seven ethnic groups were represented.  Participants ranged widely in economic status and employment.  The mix included line workers at West Central Turkeys, teachers, health care professionals, service agencies, businesspersons, homemakers and retirees.  Both male and female were participants.



Immigration and Pelican Rapids, Three Circles Concerns

The common concerns discussed by all three circles included the effects of immigration on education, housing and employment, as well as the cultural implications of immigration.  All three circles suggested teaching second languages to English speaking children at a young age and sensitivity training and workshops for educators and students.  They also discussed the housing problem in Pelican Rapids.

The concerns of housing discussed by all three circles was the lack of affordable housing, and that “no vacancy” is common in Pelican Rapids.  Topics related to West Central Turkeys were discussed by all of the Community Circles.  Members were in agreement that employment opportunities at West Central Turkeys (which offer more than minimum wage) are critical components to the immigration issues in Pelican Rapids.

The three circles stated their cultural implications perceptions in this manner:

                *   Diversity is not the problem

*           Lack of Tolerance, Respect, not understanding power, lack of understanding of culture and resources

*           We can pick up good things from diversity

*           We are “losing” if we all had a common identity



Common Concerns of Two Circles

                                                *   English should be preliminary to Citizenship status

                                                *   Term “Citizen” is not always the right to vote


Concern of One Circle

                                                *   Citizenship requirements are adequate



Community Perceptions

Common Concerns of Two circles

                                                *   Pelican Rapids is known as a Diverse Community

                                                *   Mistaken View of all immigrants on welfare

                                                *   Most immigrants are off welfare in 3 months

                                                *   Community job opportunities, reducing welfare


Concerns of One Circle

                                                *   Immigration Impacts Community in stressful ways if “too fast”

                                                *   Immigrants tend to be more conservative

                                                *   Mistaken view – Pelican Rapids is full of crime

                                                *   Mistaken view – Pelican Rapids School inferiority

                                                *   Develop a Public Relations Campaign to dispel the myths

                                                *   People shut out help that is available

                                                *   Some privileges have been moved to perceived rights


Concern of Action Forum Participants

                                                *   Work on Positive aspects of our diversity

                                                *   Positive Communication

                                                *   Public Relations

                                                *   Media Coverage

                                                *   Articles


Access to Services

Common Concerns of Two Circles

                                                *   Facilitate accurate information to newcomers

                                            *       Reduce conflict from miscommunications between cultures

                                                        *  Transportation, or lack of – barrier to services               

                                            *       Develop realistic expectation of immigrant's ability to obtain service (language) and understand rule

                                                *   Incorporate Home Visits whenever possible

                                                *   Mentor Program

                                                *   Service Agencies

                                                *   ESL Tutors

                                                *   Need more people newcomers can contact for information

                                                *   Someone to call to answer questions

                                                *   Identify, train and mentor future leaders within ethnic groups


Concerns of One Circle

*   Develop a mentor program to aid in connection to services

*   Community Based Multicultural Center for information and referral

*   Community based interpreter program to facilitate correct information

*   Devise method to get information out to newcomers about meetings and groups

*   Provide “Welcome to Minnesota” Booklet to newcomers

*   Advisory team or method of determining when to help, when not to help – prevent enabling


Concerns of Action Forum Participants

*   Cultural Resource Center

*   Find funds to re-establish

*   Interpreter Services

*   Who and How to Pay

*   Service Providers need more diversity in the workforce

*   Help needed for newcomers

*   First 30 days (immigrants)

*   Still tension between ethnic groups

*   Prejudice

*   Befrienders (Mentors) needed




Common Concerns of Two Circles

*   Expand Head Start (it is always full)

*   Elementary School needs another ESL teacher

*   Special wing or classroom for ESL kids

*   Offer Free Spanish as a Second Language Class for Children and    Adults

*   Explore the pivotal age of truancy/drop outs between refugee and immigrant children

*   Offer Ethnic targeted classes:

*   GED

*   Home Buyers Education

*   Computers/Internet


                Concerns of One Circle

*   Discipline at School

*   School needs more rights to discipline

*   Explore different discipline options that work for different cultures

*   Paid Parent Helpers

*   Professional Interpreters to facilitate communication

*   Preventing misunderstanding of the Rules

*   Power back to the parents (children are not interpreting)

*   Recognize different Cultures Adapt Differently

*   Celebrate the differences in culture in the early grades

*   Encourage English Speaking people to learn a different language

*   Home Stretch Classes available through Community Ed, Ethnically Targeted

*   Develop a Public Relations / Marketing campaign showcasing Pelican Rapids Schools

*   Emphasize International opportunities

*   Emphasize Small Class Sizes


                Concerns of Action Forum Participants

*   Tutoring in the homes

*   Friendship and Education (Hand and Hand)

*   Connect with Service Learning at Fergus Falls Community College  (Community Connections)

*   Need for a Multicultural Resource Center

*   Access to Translators

*   Bilingual Staffing

*   Sensitivity training for integration in the classrooms

*   Intolerance problem, need to be educated

*   Sports/Activities for kids

*   Small Class Sizes

*   Address/Explore Cultural related Retention Issues

*   Federal Programs – Need Full funding

*   After school and summer programs

*   Find funding for full day, everyday, Kindergarten

*   Explore/Address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among students

*   Literacy Training



English as a Second Language (ESL)

Concerns Common to Two Circles

*   Many are tired after work, hard to attend ESL

*   Request for Advanced ESL Classes

*   Need Home Visitors for ESL Tutors

*   Add another ESL Teacher to Elementary

*   Lack of ability to read and write in First Language is ESL Barrier

*   Explore ways to increase motivation to learn ESL


Concerns of One Circle

*   Expand Library Resources for computer aided ESL

*   English Fluency will occur by 2nd Generation

*   Child Care is a barrier for parents who want to attend ESL classes

*   Provide Free Family ESL program at West Central Turkeys, with incentive




Common Concerns of Two Circles

*   Some Businesses helped by immigration

                *   Businesses that adapt to cultural needs

*   Downtown businesses growing smaller

                *   Immigration is seen as the blame


Concerns of One Circle     

*   Overall Economy is doing well

*   Bank needs to target immigrants for marketing

*   Promote an Ethnic Restaurant

*   Need an Ethnic presence in commerce downtown


Concerns of Action Forum Participants

*   Businesses are adapting to Diversity

*   New Types of Businesses could begin

*   Need Help in Establishing




Language Barriers

Concerns of Two Circles

*   Lack of Funding for Translating Documents

*   Language Barriers result in fewer job opportunities

*   Identified need for Professionally trained Interpreters

                *   Children miss school to interpret

                *   Children given too much power because of language

                *   Children receive mixed messages “Don’t talk to strangers” and “We need your help”


Concerns of One Circle

*   Motivation to learn English is low for some immigrants

*   Workers may be more motivated to learn English if they worked with other ethnicities in their crew

*   Language barriers causes a lack of knowledge of available services, loss of connection to services




Concerns of Two Circles

*   Easier to get a job than to keep a job

*   Identify previous work history and find adaptable existing employment opportunities

*   More Upper Paying Job Opportunities

*   Will motivate immigrants to learn English

*   Will provide motivation for higher education

*  Will help families afford existing homes in Pelican Rapids, keeping the housing market stable

*  Will help move Pelican Rapids from a transitional community to a permanent community (We train and people move after trained)


Concern of One Circle

*   Perspective of the Turkey Plant Worker

*   Need Respect and Recognition

*   Need more immigrants in supervisory positions


Concerns of Action Forum Participants

*   Communication is the Key!

*   Written and Verbal

*   Communication through ESL & Interpreters

*   Need more employers willing to hire non-or LEP

*   Work permits, some miscommunication as to what is needed

*   Ethnic Work ethic

*   Advocacy/Intermediary for newcomers & employers

*   Mentor newcomers and teach the rules




Concerns of Two Circles

*   Ethnic Targeted Home-ownership Training

*   Housing (or lack of) is a problem for commuters

*   Financing Options – Ethnic Groups Targeted


Concerns of One Circle

*  Vicious Cycle:  Needing a job, needing a place to work, both need to be first

*   Too many houses for sale in the community

*   Whites moving to the country more and more

*   Immigrants can’t always afford the houses for sale in Pelican Rapids, or don’t know how to qualify for mortgage

*   Concern for stable market value of homes

*   Buyers can’t qualify

*   Too many houses for sale

*  Cultures/Religions in some ethnic groups prevent paying interest.  Concerned about homeownership for this ethnic group.

*   Transitional Community

*   Fear immigrants do not want home ownership

*   Limited opportunity for higher employment beyond West Central Turkeys

*   Money for homeless is not always the solution

*   Housing is hard to find

*   Occupancy restrictions barrier for housing for some families

*   Identified need for Transitional Housing in Pelican Rapids (Not Fergus Falls)

*   Immigrants arrive without housing, no funds from Social Services for 30 days

*   Limit stay in Transitional Housing (40 Days)


Concerns by Action Forum Participants

*   Who do you contact when you need housing?

*   Transitional Housing

*   No help with Social Services for the first 30 days

*   Takes time to find a vacant place to rent

*   (Too temporary if only 30 days?  No place to go?)

*   Too many homes for sale, where are the buyers?

*   Education for homeownership

*   Ethnic Targeted

*   Mentor needed

*   Interpreter needed

*   Qualification problems



Cultural Implications

Concerns by Two Circles

*   Lack of Knowledge of Laws and Differences in Culture

*   May cause legal trouble for some immigrants

*   Marriage at younger ages in other cultures are considered against the law in our country

*   Census

*   Difficult to establish accurate demographics

*   Bosnians race is white, but have many barriers

*   Somalian’s race is black, but do not share same challenges as African Americans

*   Census may be ignored because of a fear of Government

*   Television contributes to a common identity of cultures (stereotyping)


Concerns of Action Forum Participants

*   Census completed by all!  Have some bilingual people trained!

*   Churches outside of Pelican Rapids can be resources also


Miscellaneous Concerns

Concerns of Two Circles

*   Need a conscious and deliberate plan for inclusiveness in all aspects of community planning

*   Creating more of a sense of “community”

*   Moving from a transitional resettlement community to a permanent resettlement community

*   Parenting and Family Support

*   Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Support Groups

*   Family Mentoring Program

*   Crime Victim Services (Sex Crimes in war)

*   Violence Prevention

*  Develop an environment where all community members are better at “Watching out for one another”

*   Mentor Program


Concerns of One Circle

* Use the school to survey students, to develop action

*   “Peace” Pole at the schools

*   More articles in the paper about the history of culture in the region:  Past and Present

*   More displays at Otter Tail County Historical Museum

*   Youth/Adult Theater, respect for diversity topics

*   Multicultural Educational Opportunities

*  Cultural Foods, Dances, Music, Art

*   Prevention and Intervention Difficult

*   Employ “It Takes a Village”

*  Multicultural Resource Center

                                  *    Community Interpreter Service

                                  *    Mentor Support and Training

*    Nationwide Policy needed to standardize Immunization Cards

*    Implement a database, immunization  records

                          *    Mentor program could help bridge health care

*    Food Shelf Task Force

                                  *    Explore the underlying reason, overuse

                                  *    Implement Fair Share Program

                                                                  *    Enforce limit, 4 times year

                                                                  *    Require agency referrals over 4 times

Community Support

Pelican Rapids High School, Pelican Rapids Library, and Pelican Valley Health Center provided locations for Community Circle meetings.  Pelican Rapids City Hall provided photocopies; Lakes Country State Bank and Lake Region Electrical Cooperative donated miscellaneous supplies.   The Pelican Press, Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Fargo Forum, Minnesota Public Radio Detroit Lakes Tribune, and the Pelican Rapids High School Channel 5 provided articles and coverage. 

Entertainment for the kick-off event featured local talent.  Octaviano Salinas sang in Spanish, and played the accordion for a crowd at the International Potluck.  The Vietnamese Dancers and the Pelican Rapids Band of Faith also provided entertainment and support for the Community Circles kick off.

Fergus Falls Community College’s new department named “Community Connections”; a Service Learning program was instrumental in providing co-facilitators for two Community Circles.  The Community Connection program also identified student leadership to facilitate the third circle. 

Educators, service providers, homemakers, and local employees also provided volunteer services for the events.

Steering Committee

Johanna Christianson

Glenys Ehlert

Paulette Nettestad

Connie Payson

Dee Bowman

James Onerheim

Dianne Kimm

Joan Jarvis Ellison


Agencies Represented at the Action Forum

City of Pelican Rapids  *  Ottertail County Commissioners  *  Pelican Rapids Schools  *   Rural MN CEP  *  Lutheran Social Services LIRS  *  Fergus Falls Community College  *  Rural MN Family Action Center  *  Midwest Home Health  *  Pelican Rapids Food Shelf  *  Johnson’s Furniture  *  Larry’s Supermarket  *  ABE ESL Volunteer Tutor Program  *  Pelican Rapids Head Start  *  Pelican Drug  *  West Central Turkeys  *  Fergus Falls Daily Journal  *  Minnesota Public Radio  *  Ottertail County  Public Health  *  Ottertail County Social Services  *  Seifert Realty  *  Ottertail-Wadena CAC  *  University of Minnesota Extension Service, Becker County  *  Region 4 Council on Domestic Violence  *  Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota  *  Congressman Colin Peterson  *  Christianson’s Bus Service  *  League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund  *  Pelican Rapids Ministerium  *  Pelican Rapids Chamber of Commerce