It All Started with a Few Bulldogs
The inaugural meeting to establish Gary Cares took place in 2010 at Who's? Place in Gary, MN. Originally intended as a one-time project, it quickly evolved into a powerful initiative to create a lasting and positive impact on the community.
In the picture, from back left to front, we see the dedicated individuals who played a pivotal role in making Gary Cares a reality:
Back (from left to right): Buck Engen, Elwood Narum, Bryan Thronson, Alden Anderson
Front: Diane Swenson-Littlefield, Karie Kirschbaum, Audrey Felske.
Their passion, vision, and hard work laid the foundation for the community foundation, which continues to thrive and serve the Gary area, making a difference in the lives of its residents.
The Bulldog Connection
In 2010, during the Gary Days celebration, the Bulldog class of 1950 had their 60th-anniversary reunion, organized by Elwood E. Narum, one of the proud alumni. They were all excited to be back at the old Gary High school, but Karie Whitson Kirschbaum from the class of '81 noticed they were headed to the wrong entrance. She swooped in to help, and that's how a wonderful friendship started.
Times Change, but Bulldogs Don't - Its All About Community
While enjoying the festivities, Narum wondered if there would be a 125th-anniversary celebration and an all-school reunion the next year to celebrate Gary's history. He suggested raising funds for the community, and Audrey Felske, another Bulldog alum, jumped on board. Soon, others like Alden A. Anderson, Diane Swenson-Littlefield, Buck Engen, and Bryan Thronson joined in to make it happen.
Honoring Where We Came From and Helping the Next Generation
The following year, in June 2011, they had the grand 125th Anniversary of Gary, Gary Days, and a Bulldog All-School reunion. This marked the birth of Gary Cares. They set up a non-profit group called Gary Cares, led by the ever-enthusiastic Narum, to support their hometown.
The event was a huge success, with more than 750 alumni participating in various fun activities, including gatherings at the Gary gym, class reunions, parades, and other festivities. The community raised over $10,000 for the school and the Gary fire hall. And that's not all – they made their town more beautiful with a brand-new city sign at the corner of Hwy 32 & 19 and lovely banners celebrating the town's people and businesses
Narum's dedication to Gary Cares as president was unwavering until his passing on July 6, 2015 (link for obit). Although he didn't get to witness the completion of the Elwood E. Narum Recreation Park, which included a full basketball court and benches, it was dedicated at Gary Days 2016. As his final act for his hometown, Narum left nearly $30,000 to the Gary Fire Department to help purchase a new building. His legacy, along with other Gary alumni, transcends their lifetimes and leaves a profound impact on the future of rural towns in Minnesota.
Since then, Gary Cares has continued to grow. As of 2019, they expanded their efforts to manage tax-deductible donations for various projects, including those from alumni and residents., including projects such as the Norman County One Fund Drive link, Shock & Awe Youth Philanthropy Link, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, tax deductable donations for the Gary Community Club link, the Gary Pines Project link, the Gary Fire Department, and grants for other area clubs and organizations as needed.
The Bulldog Connection shows what can happen when a group of friends comes together to support their community. With their passion, love for their hometown, and a dash of Bulldog spirit, they made a lasting impact through Gary Cares. It's a story of friendship, giving back, and making their community even better.
The sisters, in-laws, nieces and extended family are pictured at the dedication of the Elwood E. Narum Recreation Park during Gary Days in June of 2016.
It was a day filled with joy, laughter, and cherished memories.