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Continued: Nonprofit Minnesota group puts seniors, others, on the water

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 17, 2014 - 12:24 AM

Said Holm: “That first week, I was out with a fellow and we were catching fish after fish. All of a sudden his head went down and he was weeping. I asked if he was OK. He said, ‘My wife died four months ago, and this is exactly what I needed.’ ”

Word about the program spread, and soon chapters from Detroit Lakes to Winona formed. The chapters use donations, sponsorships (usually in the form of advertisements on the boats) and fundraisers to buy and operate their boats and pay insurance.

Often, local businesses provide services or deals to help keep costs down. Bayport Marina, for example, gives the St. Croix Valley chapter a boat slip, saving the group thousands of dollars.

Holm and one other person are the only paid employees. They and about 2,200 volunteers keep the organization afloat.

“We always need more volunteers,” Pat Bailey said of the St. Croix chapter.

The group is hamstrung now, without funds to hire more people to help the organization grow, Holm said. He has identified 17 additional communities that could operate Let’s Go Fishing boats.

“We’re geared up to impact 25,000 people per year; I’d like that to be 100,000 people per year,” Holm said.

Giving back

Dave Csanda, president of the Brainerd Lakes chapter, has seen firsthand how popular Let’s Go Fishing has become. His chapter, now in its fifth season, holds a drawing each spring for 30 area senior facilities to select dates for boat trips from May through September.

The competition is intense.

“We will book most of our season by late April,” said Csanda, one of 70 volunteers. “We leave some open slots for churches, senior centers or service clubs.”

Their pontoon boat is on the water at least twice a day five days a week during the summer, taking up to about 10 people on each trip.

“Most of them wouldn’t have an opportunity to do this if we didn’t have the program,” Csanda said. “You see the look on their faces and how much fun they are having. It’s very rewarding.

“It’s a way to give back to the people who helped build the community.”

 

Fun — fish or no fish

Back on the St. Croix, the fishing action was slow, but the smiles were frequent. The group saw an osprey dive into the water, a hen mallard paddle nearby, and egrets and cranes feed along the shore on a warm, sun-splashed morning.

Hohenstein boated a small rock bass, the only fish caught.

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  • George Welp and his wife, Barb, fished the St. Croix River near Bayport on a recent Let’s Go Fishing outing. The nonprofit group takes seniors, veterans and youths out on the water. There are 30 chapters around Minnesota. “It’s wonderful,” said Barb Welp, 77. She and George, 83, live in St. Paul.

  • Wayne Beyer, 69, of Bayport, a Let’s Go Fishing volunteer, helped Barb Welp off the group’s pontoon boat at Bayport Marina after a two-hour fishing trip on the St. Croix River.

  • Dick Hohenstein, 82, of Stillwater held a rock bass he caught on the St. Croix River during a recent Let’s Go Fishing outing. “I enjoy getting out,’’ he said.

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Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

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