Hettinger's beauty was improved by the hands of many Sunday, as townsfolk young and old gathered paint cans and garden tools to participate in an unprecedented day of community engagement.
Make Hettinger Beautiful was an all-day event that saw more than 150 volunteers, adults and children gather in the town's center and participate in numerous beautification events, including planting trees, potting plants, restoring bridges and picking up trash.
"It's just an opportunity for individuals in the community to come together and serve their community. We'll be working on projects that will both clean up the city and improve the appearance of the city," Jasmine Fosheim, director of the Hettinger Chamber of Commerce and director for Adams County development corporation, said of the event, which she spearheaded. "We're in an important position in that we're right along the highway, and as a city with a declining population, we need to be drawing people in. We need ... to make sure that Hettinger is catching people's eyes."
Hettinger, Fosheim said, is characterized by a seemingly unusual level of community involvement. The impetus for this event stemmed from a desire to recognize the efforts of volunteers who had already helped Fosheim, the first director of Hettinger's Chamber, over the course of her first year in the role.
"When I first got here I was pretty inspired by how much individuals on the Chamber board stepped up for certain events and for volunteering their time," Fosheim said. "It sort of morphed into this bigger event where people would have the opportunity to volunteer and also recognize them with the two free meals, door prizes; we wanted it to be a fun event where we could give our time and celebrate those who give their time."
Hettinger's mayor, Richard Wyman, spent the day alongside a few other volunteers sprucing up and making some necessary fixes to a suspension bridge that crosses a narrow stream exiting Mirror Lake, one of the town's main draws.
Wyman said he's never seen quite this level of community involvement, but "we've always had good people."
He said that Fosheim has been a driving force that has energized the town, resulting in what he said is a level of community involvement he's not seen.
"For one thing we have a good mix of people who have been here forever (and) young people who fortunately move back," Wyman said. "The medical facility has brought in (people) and there's a continuity there ... they are really good, we've had some really good organizations. If they don't have the manpower, they may have a few dollars."
One of the volunteers, Shannon LeFebre, sported a shirt decorated specially for this event, with slogans showcasing civic pride. She was a proud volunteer and a 20-year-long resident of the town. Her favorite part about Hettinger?
"Events like this, where the entire community will come together and help each other-and not (with) anything necessarily to gain, besides pride for themselves," She said. "It's amazing."
Kerri Howard, the vice president of a local beautification group in the town, taught other volunteers how to plant a garden. Flowers are her passion, and she'd like to see the town in bloom.
"I really love flowers. I want to see flowers all over Hettinger," Howard said. "We have such a huge volunteer list every year just with maintaining this park and watering the hanging baskets. It's great, I think. If you are involved in something like that you care about it more, you're interested in seeing that continue and hopefully that turns into something big and long-lasting in the community."
Fosheim said she's encountered an incredible energy since she arrived in town.
"Since I've arrived there seems to be this kind of energy that's come about in Hettinger. I don't know if it's because we have some younger people coming into leadership positions ... I don't know what it is, but it seems more and more people want to get involved, get engaged. People are suddenly realizing that if we don't change things up a little bit, we're not going to grow ... Hettinger is going to fall into the abyss that is rural Midwest."