Rockford Lhotka

 Monday, December 10, 2007
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I love the holiday season! This is one of my favorite times of the year, especially in a year like this when Minnesota is actually having a real winter for a change (first time in seven years they say). We are on track for a white Christmas once again!

A few years ago I joined the Eden Prairie Optimist Club. This is a community service organization focused entirely on supporting and encouraging youth in positive ways. We provide funds to anti-drug programs and help to deliver food and clothing for those who can't afford it. We also offer scholarships through speech and essay contests and coordinate community activities like Take a Kid Fishing, Kite Flying Day, Firearms Safety classes and the annual Halloween party at the local shopping mall.

I joined the group because I felt horribly disconnected from the physical community in which I live. Magenic is a consulting company, which means the employees live in various cities around the country. Even those that live here in the Twin Cities live scattered throughout the metro area, and only a few live near me. And given all my writing and speaking, I am at least as connected to friends and colleagues from around the globe as I am to people within Magenic.

Not that I'm complaining! I absolutely love the fact that I can go almost anywhere in the world and know that there are people there with whom I've at least traded emails if not met in person. Living the virtual lifestyle is a wonderful thing! I think that if more people made more connections around the globe it would help them break out of their petty little religious/nationalistic/dogmatic/tribal/factional world views and understand that mankind is more alike than different.

As wonderful as it is to be connected to people around the world, I also think it is important to remain in touch with the local, non-virtual world. With the people that physically surround me and my family. I may have less in common with many local people from the perspective of career or interests, but I have more in common in terms of local concerns like civil discourse, roads, taxes, parks and schools. The quality of my life and the lives of my family flows, in large part, from this local community. The Optimists provide a nice way to stay connected, and to contribute, to this community in which I live.

Our only fundraiser is selling Christmas trees each December.

2007 Tree Lot 011   2007 Tree Lot 004

Personally I love it. Most people coming in to buy a tree are in good cheer - or at least one is in each group. Often one spouse is enthused, and the other has been dragged there, but the kids are always having a great time :)  Most of our business is repeat business - people who buy their tree from us either because they want the money to go to youth, or because we just have good trees. The majority of people are regular local citizens, but some are also local personalities like sports stars, politicians or civil servants.

There's no doubt that it takes a lot of time because we're open every evening and all day on weekends. All staffed by people with jobs and families of their own, along with (especially this year) a ton of youth volunteers from the local schools. And it can be hard work (some of the bigger trees are really heavy, even for a big guy like me). But the end result is well worth it - smiling happy faces of kids (and often adults), and the knowledge that all the money we bring in will go back into some pretty darn cool youth programs over the next year.

Having done this for three years now, I can say that I'm getting what I wanted - a connection to the people I live with in my community, and a way of making that community a better place.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2007 9:46:24 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer