Austin

Astrup Cos. gives $500K for local rec center project

Astrup Cos. announced last week that it would give $500,000 toward the construction of the 105,000-square-foot Austin Community Rec Center, bringing the public fundraising effort to 80 percent of its $5 million goal.

“I couldn’t be more proud to make this donation, through our Family Foundation, on behalf of our employees,” Chris Astrup, co-owner of Astrup Cos., said in a statement.

“We believe that the Austin Community Rec Center will be a fantastic addition to Austin and the surrounding communities and we wanted to do our part to help bring this vision to reality.”

The center will feature a family aquatic center, athletic and recreation facilities and programs supporting healthy living. Some areas will be free to the public and others will be available for daily or monthly fees. It also will accommodate preschool programs, a classroom for 120 students and a school-age child care program for 150 children.

“This generous donation from Astrup is just incredible,” said Sandy Anderson, interim director of Vision 2020, a volunteer organization for community development.

“We are moving closer to reaching our fundraising goal every day, and it is gifts like this that are really making a difference.”

The two largest donations have come from the Hormel Foundation ($25 million) and Hormel Foods Corp. ($5 million). The remaining $5 million is from public donations.

Construction could begin as soon as July. Leonard Astrup opened the first Sterling Drug store in Austin in 1952. Astrup Drug Inc. owns and operates 21 retail and long-term care pharmacies in Minnesota and Iowa.

The Astrup family also operates several other businesses out of their corporate offices in Austin and Mendota Heights. The Astrup Family Foundation was created in 2014 after Leonard Astrup’s death.

Dan Browning

Stearns County

Authorities start new sex-trafficking task force

Stearns County is bolstering attempts to crack down on sex trafficking and sex buyers.

With the help of a $313,000, two-year state grant, county officials this spring formally launched a full-time task force to address the problem.

The St. Cloud metro area, home to nearly 190,000 residents, is about an hour’s drive north of the Twin Cities. Officials say that, next to the metro area, it has the highest volume of sex ads in Minnesota.

The Central Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force is made up of two Waite Park and St. Cloud police investigators, a part-time Stearns County Sheriff’s Office detective and a crime analyst from the Stearns County Attorney’s Office.

The task force is modeled after one in Washington County and will target sex traffickers and buyers while also supporting adult and child victims of sex trafficking.

St. Cloud also has the second so-called “john school” in Minnesota. Sex buyers caught in undercover prostitution stings are ordered by the courts to complete the eight-hour program, which costs $750 to attend and aims to show the realities of sexual exploitation.

Kelly Smith