Roy Terwilliger describes Eden Prairie as a community of builders. He said that’s how it was 48 years ago when he came to town, and that’s how it is today.
Terwilliger prefaced his point by reciting a poem by memory. It can be found online under a few different titles, though “The Wreckers” seems to be its original name.
The Wreckers I watched them tearing a building down, A gang of men in a busy town. With a ho-heave-ho and lusty yell, They swung a beam and a sidewall fell. I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled, As the men you’d hire if you had to build?” He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed! Just common labor is all I need. I can easily wreck in a day or two What builders have taken a year to do.” And I thought to myself as I went my way, Which of these two roles have I tried to play? Am I a builder who works with care, Measuring life by the rule and square? Am I shaping my deeds by a well-made plan. Patiently doing the best I can? Or am I a wrecker who walks the town, Content with the labor of tearing down?
“So my concluding comment would be that this community is a community of builders, people who are starting this newspaper, behind the schools, and the city government,” Terwilliger said. “When you look across the broad spectrum, this community is what it is because people are willing to work together regardless of political bent or economic status.”
Terwilliger was honored during the Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) Annual Meeting on Monday, Oct. 17, in the Star Bank community room.
A founding member of the non-profit news start-up, Terwilliger is retiring this month as an EPLN board director. Frank Farrell, a longtime EP resident and attorney, is taking his place on the board.
Nancy Tyra-Lukens, the former Eden Prairie mayor who serves as chair of the EPLN board of directors, presented Terwilliger with a commemorative keepsake: a recent article highlighting his lifetime of service to EP mounted on poster board.
Over the years, Terwilliger helped launch institutions such as Eden Prairie Rotary, the Eden Prairie Community Foundation, and the Eden Prairie Crime Prevention Fund. He helped grow the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce and hire its first staff. He founded Eden Prairie’s first bank. He also represented Eden Prairie in the Minnesota Senate for 10 years.
Yes, the city looks much different than the sleepy hamlet it was 48 years ago. But, despite all that has changed, he said the community’s spirit of cooperation endures.
“It’s been my privilege to be at the table of many of these things (over the years),” he said.
More than 40 people attended the second annual meeting, which served as a celebration of EPLN’s first two years of publication and the recent distribution of the first Eden Prairie Voter Guide.
The 2022 Voter Guide was mailed to all 26,000 Eden Prairie households the first week of this month. It offers voters information on all the candidates running for local races. (To view the online version of the voter guide, go to the EPLN website here.)
Lori Sturdevant, the longtime Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist, was the guest speaker. Though officially retired, Sturdevant still occasionally writes articles for the Star Tribune.
Sturdevant talked about the importance of local journalism and praised Eden Prairie Local News’ broad range of coverage.
EPLN consists of a growing group of neighbors – journalists, board members and volunteer contributors – whose mission is to serve the community with trustworthy reporting, compelling stories, and news you can use.
The non-profit, non-partisan, hyperlocal website has published more than 1,200 articles since it began in September 2020. More than 2,300 people subscribe to its daily and weekly newsletters. Free subscriptions are available here.
“With that kind of list of topics, you’re trying to serve the whole community,” she said. “And that gives you a real strength and builds better citizenship. So, I just wanted to compliment you on having all of that on the list. I think to the extent you are able to deliver stories with all that information, you’re going to build a stronger base here in Eden Prairie for Eden Prairie Local News.”
EPLN Publisher/CEO Steve Schewe offered an accounting of the EPLN’s stewardship of the funds the community gave it to gather and report local news in 2022.
“The TV stations, public radio, and the Star Tribune are fine media,” he said. “But the Twin Cities is a big place, and they can’t cover our hometown like we can.”
Schewe also provided a glimpse at EPLN’s plans to continue its upward trend in 2023.
According to Schewe, EPLN would like to generate at least $115,000 in revenue. He and the EPLN Board of Directors see a third of that coming from matching grants and foundations, another third from advertising, and the last third from individuals in the community.
(For the past 12 months, he said EPLN generated $100,000 in revenue, with just a smidge of positive cash flow.)
“The last third is the most important, because it drives the response for the other two-thirds,” he said.
With that said, Schewe announced EPLN’s second annual NewsMatch campaign.
Schewe said a national organization, The Institute for NonProfit News, offers EPLN $15,000 in matching funds if it can raise at least that amount by the end of the year.
Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, Schewe said EPLN’s goal is to raise $21,300 from individuals and sponsors.
Barb Farrell and Sue Donkersgoed, who raised funds through the Lemonade Stand for the 9/11 first responders in Olympic Hills for 20 years, have agreed to lead EPLN’s NewsMatch campaign this year.
EPLN has also started a Founders Fund to honor the people who helped launch EPLN, such as Terwilliger, former EPLN board of director Dean Edstrom, former EPLN editor Brad Canham, and former EPLN Publisher/CEO Jenifer Loon.
Schewe said the key to EPLN’s success is for “all of us to work together,” like Terwilliger said, as community builders.
“Our team is not just the one on the masthead; it’s the entire community,” Schewe said. “If you like what we’re doing, we’ll be inviting you to be generous with your time, talent, and treasure so we can sustain this public trust.”
Editor’s note: Both poets Edgar Guest and Charles Benvegar have been credited online with writing “The Wreckers.” Benvegar’s son stated online in 2015 that his father wrote “The Wreckers” for a poetry anthology book titled “Sons of the Free State Bards” published in 1967 under a pseudonym. His real name was Carmelo Benvenga (1913-1989).
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