Elsey Hagen and Caleb Mahoney earn ‘Youth of the Year’ awards

By Tim Douglass


Known to most as “Chief,” Ivan Fossen was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Glenwood Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Welcome Center annual meeting and community awards luncheon on Tuesday.

The event was held at the Minnewaska House Brewing Co. + Grill and attracted about 100 chamber members and area residents. 

Also honored at the luncheon was Terry Duhn, who was presented with the Volunteer of the Year Award; and Pope County Meals on Wheels was awarded the Non-profit of the Year.

The Outstanding Youth of the Year Award went to Minnewaska Area High School seniors Elsey Hagen, daughter of Randy and Stephanie Hagen, and Caleb Mahoney, son of Cheryl and Pastor Kelly Mahoney.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Glenwood native Ivan Fossen told those gathered at the awards banquet that he was “honored and humbled” to receive the award and all the recognition, and thanked Marie Chan for nominating him for the award.  He congratulated the other award winners and said after listening to the accomplishments of the student award winners; “I thought, geez, I was just glad to make the C or D honor roll.”

“If you look around this room you can see a lot of people–at least one, maybe two at each table–that deserve this award more than I do,” he said.  “It’s amazing the knowledge, skills and the wonderful people we have in our community.”

Fossen said there was one person who stands out in his mind who has encouraged, guided, influenced and inspired more people than I ever could;  “that’s my wife, Susan.” 

He also credited good friend and former state patrol officer Phil McMahon for inspiring him and encouraging him to pursue a career in law enforcement.  He was Glenwood’s Chief of Police for 22 years.  

He also credited the local sheriff’s office, police department and the EMS crew for demonstrating a “wonderful example of leadership” during the recent and tragic loss of Pope County Deputy Josh Owen.  

Fossen said Margaret Pederson, the founder of the Be Kind movement in Pope County who is now 101 years old “and still going strong,” is an inspiration to many.  He then named Jeannie Pederson as another inspiring individual who gives “so much to the community.” 

He also credited many people who cared and showed him kindness and inspired him during his younger days in Glenwood.  He named store owners Pete and Ralph Meyers for providing him with tennis shoes for basketball when he was young and couldn’t afford them.  They allowed him to “shovel snow for them” to pay for the shoes.  “These were good shoes (Converse All-Star) and I realized that I never really paid the real price for those shoes.”

He also mentioned the importance of local banks in Glenwood and said they are “both generous to a fault.”  He named Richard (Dick) Gandrud for caring about him and providing financial help when he first got out of the military service and returned home.

Fossen’s dedication to the community has continued long after his retirement.  He has found ways to contribute his time and skills to honor the kindness he received throughout his life.  

Sarah Boll, introduced Fossen as the recipient of the 2023 Lakes Area Chamber Lifetime Achievement Award, telling the crowd that the award to Fossen is “a testament to his exceptional contributions that have left an indelible mark on our community.”

“Chief Fossen’s name is synonymous with kindness, dedication, integrity, and a profound sense of service,” Boll said before the award presentation.  “Throughout his career as the chief of police, he stood tall, both in stature and in his unwavering commitment to protecting and serving the people of Glenwood. He proved that strength and authority can coexist with empathy and understanding,” she added.

It is not just his professional accomplishments that define Ivan, she added. 

Since his retirement 23 years ago, he has applied the same energy, character, and dedication to the idea of “paying it forward,” for the kindness and generosity he says he has experienced throughout his life here in Glenwood.

Fossen has served on numerous boards, including Glacial Ridge Hospital for more than 20 years, the Ridgewood Villa, and the board of Minnesota Chiefs of Police. He co-founded the hospice motorcycle ride fundraiser, “Ride for a Cause,” and helped launch The United Foundation for Disabled Archers with his friend Dan Hendricks, the organization provide a means to practice all forms of archery for any physically challenged person.  He is currently involved in the Be Kind group, helping do numerous projects for the local community.  

“There is a long list of good deeds that range from significant to small kindnesses, and they add up to a life of giving to others,” Boll said about Fossen.

Volunteer of the Year

It was fitting that Long Beach Mayor Mike Pfeiffer introduced the 2023 Volunteer of the Year, Terry Duhn.  Mayor Pfeiffer first met Terry after the Long Beach City Council had decided it would try to sell the Morning Glory Gardens property on Lake Minnewaska.  The mayor received immediate contact from Terry, who has championed Morning Glory Gardens since it was first established and has been its primary caretaker.   

“In the next two years, the people of Long Beach learned the meaning of the term over my dead body,” Duhn explained after he was presented with the Volunteer of the Year award.

“We’ve come a long way since then and I want to thank the Long Beach City Council and a special thanks to Mike for his willingness to listen and work to restore Morning Glory Gardens.

When he first learned of his nomination for the award, Duhn said, “What?”  He said he thought there were a lot of people more deserving of the award and thanked Mike Pfeiffer for nominating him and the chamber’s award selection committee. He thanked his wife and his sister, “who came all the way from Iowa” to be here.

“And, especially I thank the good Lord for blessing me.”

Each year the Glenwood Lakes Area Chamber & Welcome Center recognizes a Volunteer of the Year–chosen based on community support or involvement over the past year. Duhn was nominated for his “unwavering dedication to Morning Glory Gardens as a caretaker, advocate and community organizer,” said Pfeiffer as he introduced Duhn.   

“Through his tireless efforts, Terry has transformed the garden into a beautiful haven for the community, complete with a picturesque flower garden park and charming chapel for special events and receptions.  His passion for beautifying Long Beach and fostering a sense of community togetherness has greatly impacted the lives of countless resident and visitors alike, making him an exemplary recipient for this prestigious recognition,” Pfeiffer said.  

Besides Morning Glory Gardens, he listed other reasons Terry was chosen.  

•He has worked as a liaison for the Resorts and Chamber of Commerce for 10 years.

•He served on the Long Beach City Council for 16 years.

•He volunteered with the Boy Scouts, helping with the Fishing Derby, taking scouts to camp and other activities.

•He is active with his church, St. Paul’s Lutheran in Lowry, singing in the Choir, helping serve for funerals, giving children’s sermons.

•He puts on a “big red suit” since 2002 to help with kid’s events for Welcome Center/Chamber events, nursing homes, schools, Starbuck VFW, and many times on Christmas Day at the hospital. While taking time to talk with kids and time and patience to take 100’s of photos.

Duhn, who is also well known for his work as Santa Claus, wore red to the luncheon and also donned a special “summer hat.” He said he enjoys meeting all the kids at school and visiting those in the hospital and nursing home during the Christmas season.  

He invited anyone interested in more information about Morning Glory Gardens to contact him.  Duhn said he is also famous for sending emails seeking volunteers to help plant flowers, do spring cleaning and get the grounds ready for weddings.  He said Morning Glory Gardens, located just off of Highway 28-29 on Lake Minnewaska south of the Minnewaska House Brewing Co.+ Grill, hosted seven weddings last year and has already scheduled four for this year.  He said volunteers will likely receive an email from him to prepare for upcoming weddings.  “I call it my “weeding for weddings” request,” he said.

Non-Profit of the Year

The Non-Profit of the Year award went to Pope County Meals on Wheels, a service provided by Nutrition Services Incorporated (NSI), a privately owned non-profit founded in 1996.  

NSI holds the contract to provide senior meals (including home delivered meals, or better known as “Meals on Wheels,” congregate dining, and elderly waivered/alternative care) in 9 counties—including Pope County.  NSI has been operating the senior meals program in this area since 1999.

Kristi Giese, who leads the home-delivered meals program accepted the award on behalf of NSI.

She told those at the luncheon that the Village Inn in Glenwood recently took over meal preparation for the program, which is a 5-days-a-week commitment.  The Village Inn also provides congregate dining for seniors as well as the Meals on Wheels lunches.  She said the Village services about 20 to 30 seniors for noon lunch as well as about 30 meals that are delivered to homes.  She added that the Hatchery in Lowry and Blair’s in Starbuck also provide congregate dining for seniors.  

The program provides a hot noon meal Monday through Friday and provides frozen meals for the weekend.  “The suggested price for a meal is from $4 to $8 per meal, but we don’t refuse a meal to anyone,” she said. “And we accept what they can pay.”

Giese said the meals delivery program relies heavily on volunteers and credited  volunteer scheduler David Sheppard for organizing the volunteers who deliver the Pope County meals each day.  “Sheppard organizes, recruits volunteers and schedules deliveries in the county,” she said.  “Anyone who wants to volunteer to deliver meals can get in touch to him.  Without volunteers, the program wouldn’t be successful,” she added.

Jen Jabas, who introduced Giese for the award, said “The Meals on Wheels program has such a huge impact on the seniors in our community, however, it often goes unnoticed even though it is happening every day of the week.  We are excited to take this opportunity to properly recognize the Meals on Wheels program provided by Nutrition Services,” she added.

Youth of the Year

Each year, the Minnewaska Area Schools selected at least one male and one female from the graduating class to receive the Glenwood Lakes Area Chamber & Welcome Center “Youth of the Year” award.  The students are chosen based on their “character, academic performance, Activity Participation, community support and involvement”  The high school teaching staff nominates and then selects the award recipient’s based on that criteria, it was stated by Nate Miessner, high school principal for Minnewaska Area Schools.  

“These two seniors are perfect recipients of this award and exemplify what we strive for at Minnewaska Area High School, Meissner said.   This year’s seniors selected for the Glenwood Lakes Area Chamber and Welcome Center Youth of the Year are Elsey Hagen and Caleb Mahoney.

Elsey Hagen: 

Elsey has taken has pretty much every college and AP course we offer at Minnewaska High School, Meissner said.  He listed them: AP World History, College Algebra and Trigonometry, Chemistry, Composition, College Spanish III and IV, College Literature, Pre-Calculus and Calculus, Anatomy and Physiology and Public Speaking.  She earned a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 4.119.

She has also participated in numerous activities throughout her years- cross country, speech, track and field, National Honor Society (NHS), student council, jazz band, jazz choir and drumline.

She was a “Triple A Award” recipient, All-State Band participant and won Academic All-Conference awards in 9-12 grades.

Elsey’s plans to attend Gustavus Adolphus College to play band, run on the cross country and track teams, and study for a degree in environmental studies. 

Meissner read a few comments from the teachers who nominated her for the award.

“Elsey Hagen is extremely committed to excellence, not only in academics but in all areas of her high school career.”  

“She is foundationally such a wonderful human being, and it pours out into everything she does. She is a humble leader, always showing up fully prepared and giving her all. She accepts and fulfills any task she is given, big or small, with excellence. 

“Elsey shows up to help whenever needed, volunteering her time and talents. She is mature and thoughtful and excellent at everything she does. Elsey embodies integrity, kindness, and dedication. She gives so much to the school, community, and every group she is a part of, and her content of character truly inspires others (including myself) to be better in all we do. I could honestly go on forever, but Elsey is truly one of a kind and so incredibly deserving of this recognition!”

Caleb Mahoney

Caleb Mahoney has been a student at Minnewaska since kindergarten. He has participated in soccer, track, trap, choir, band, jazz band, FCA, FFA, and NHS. Along with volunteering at a Christian bible camp for the past three summers.

Throughout school, he has earned a cumulative GPA of 3.6 while taking advantage of a wide variety of classes in Minnewaska with college courses in Trig and College Algebra and Advanced Placement English courses and in the CTE department: Laker Construction, AG Sales and Entrepreneurship, Home/Car Maintenance, and Welding and Manufacturing.  

He plans on attending Ridgewater Collage in Willmar next year to get his Associate’s Degree in Electrical Technology, and then using that degree to become an electrician. 

Meissner then read some comments about Caleb from teachers.

“Caleb has been an amazing student who was involved in NHS and has helped with trick-or-treating for the food shelf, helped a family move, and filled Easter Eggs for the community Easter Egg hunt this year, and many other volunteer activities.”  

Caleb is an outstanding young man, who I was honored to have in my soccer program throughout high school.  He is a young man who sacrifices personal accolades for the success of his team.  In the classroom, Caleb is hardworking and possesses a great sense of humor.  He is always willing to help other students and lead by example.  Caleb takes this attitude into the community by sharing his gifts at his church, and through his community service.”