The Season of Gratitude

The Season of Gratitude

A lot of the time my job is to put a magnifying lens on the community issues that United Way is working on or problems that need to be addressed. It is important that community members are aware of problems that might not directly affect them or of struggles other Steele County citizens are experiencing. I could write a monthly column just on the needs of our community, but for this one, I really want to talk about gratitude and what we all have to be grateful for in our community.

Experts are recommending that we practice gratitude daily. They tell us there are a wide variety of benefits to us as individuals if we write down what we are grateful for and/or share that with others. Benefits include better health, mental health, and sleep; improved self-esteem, relationships, and social lives; and less aggression, less stress, and less resentment.

In Steele County, we have a lot of community assets to be grateful for such as our parks and green space. I am so thankful we have nature-filled places that are free to access so that everyone who wishes to can visit. We can be grateful for the local businesses, the employment opportunities they offer, and the acts of caring they perform in our community — many of them generously support a wide variety of charities and nonprofits and give support to our schools, churches and clubs. I am especially grateful for Federated Insurance, Viracon, and Wenger Corporation for their pledges of support for a new high school. This generous support lessens the burden on all of the rest of Owatonna residents.

We can be grateful for clean air and water, food that grows in the rich earth near us, and astounding natural resources all around us. We can be grateful for the many nonprofit organizations and charities in our community that support our neighbors in need, those in pain, those who are aging, and children of all ages. These agencies also give many of us opportunities to sit on their boards, give of our time volunteering, and participate in community problem solving — which further connects us to our neighbors and the community.

Personally, I am grateful for the many, many volunteers who help United Way raise funds, assess and solve problems, and who serve the community. I’m especially grateful for the United Way of Steele County Board of Directors who also serve on UWSC committees such as Community Investment, Strategic Impact, Finance/Audit and Marketing/Fundraising. I am grateful for community partners such as the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Owatonna and Medford School Districts, Workforce Development, Smart Transit, Public Health, and University of Minnesota Extension among others.

I am grateful for my colleagues at United Way of Steele County who everyday make our community better, make my job easier, and come to work with a positive, service minded attitude. Tanya Paley, Andi Gaffke, Neil Lyons, and Leah Pratt are the heart and soul of United Way of Steele County. They make magic and are rarely adequately recognized or thanked. I am deeply grateful for them.

Kim Schaufenbuel is the Executive Director of United Way of Steele County. She can be reached at 507-455-1180 or via email at