"Our first Harmony Area Community Foundation's 'Swing Into Spring' celebration surpassed all expectations," said Vicky Tribon, chairman of the local foundation. "Harmony has always loved its celebrations and Monday evening's event reflected that love of a good time."

Tribon reported that over 100 area residents attended the fundraiser and celebration, held at the Harmony Golf Course on Monday evening, April 14. The event featured an evening of socializing, wine and beer tasting, bidding on silent auction items and a short program by Duane Benson, Tribon and representatives from organizations that have benefitted from Harmony Area Community Foundation (HACF) grants.

Tribon was especially pleased with the cross section of those who attended - from all ages and all walks of life - showing their support for the foundation as well as their community devotion and community pride.

A total of $6,200 was raised through ticket sales and silent auction proceeds, Tribon also reported. The net proceeds after expenses were over $4,500 and an additional $1,600 was raised through Founders Club monies and miscellaneous donations. Therefore, a total of $6,100 was applied to the Fillmore Central electronic sign project, she added.

During the fundraiser, Superintendent Richard Keith explained the high school would be purchasing an electronic sign to be located on the front lawn of the school, using a new foundation after the current sign and rock structure are removed. Because the electronic signs are quite expensive, Keith said any support the district receives from the foundation is very much appreciated.

In the past year, the foundation also donated funds to the district to help cover the costs of providing laptop computers for each of the high school students, which Tribon highlighted.

Aubrey Johnson, representing the Harmony Park Board, thanked the community members in attendance for their support and for the generosity of the foundation for the new playground equipment in Selvig Park. She said she was not only grateful as a Park Board volunteer, but also as a parent and community member who sees the city's children play in the park. With the new equipment, the park is a more attractive and safer place to be.

Tribon thanked both Keith and Johnson for their words and added, "The Harmony Area Community Foundation has been able to provide grant monies of over $22,500 for numerous projects in the last year. As you can see we have accomplished a great deal in a very short period of time which gives us another reason for celebration."

Marsha Love introduced the evening's speaker, Duane Benson. As a native of Grand Meadow and a current resident of Lanesboro, Benson is quite familiar with the area and was complimentary about what Harmony has going for it. His speech, entitled "Harmony, What's Next?" touched on some of those assets as well as the trends that will affect the community in years to come.

"You may not realize what a special community this is," Benson said as he took the floor. "You have a lumber yard, a drug store, a theater, a grocery store, a major exporter . . . You have what no other city in Fillmore County has. You have a culture here that is really quite amazing."

Benson, who served as a state senator for over a decade, recalled some of his campaign visits to Harmony on the Fourth of July. "Most all of the floats were by local people," he said, adding that stood out to him as an example of the pride the residents and business owners had in their town.

Drawing upon his experiences in football and government, Benson shared stories and insights on the ever-changing world of technology, globalization and demographics.

Benson told the Swing Into Spring audience about how changing technology can affect everything from socialization to farming. He told of a conversation he had with the CEO of DuPont chemical company. He had asked Benson what he thought a good corn yield was, to which Benson had responded around 200 bushel per acre. The CEO said in 10 years, the yield would be around 500 bushel per acre. This conversation occurred around 10 years ago and just last spring, Benson said it was reported in the Wall Street Journal that a man in Illinois had produced 503 bushel. Because of technology advancements, Benson said, more calories per person are now being produced than ever before.

On the flip side of that, however, is the affect technology has on personal interactions. "Technology has been a godsend," he said, "but it is also a tremendous challenge for all of us."

Benson shared an example of students who were taking a three-hour-long class. When they were given a break, few of them talked to other students in class, but instead focused on their smartphones or other technological devices for the duration of the break.

Benson also said the demographics have already shifted toward the younger part of the population who understands the new technology and can use it and the future technologies that will be developed.

Benson addressed what he felt is a problem in high school education in Minnesota: diversity. He cited several statistics from the Department of Education on high school graduation rates. For white populations, he said, Minnesota ranks 23rd in the nation; for African-Americans, 49th; for Asian/Hispanic/American Indian, last.

Citing another study, Benson said, "In 12 years, all the job openings will be filled with people of color."

That is already the case on local dairy farms, Benson said. Right now, two-thirds of the people who work on dairy farms are not from this country.

Globalization means that what is happening in other parts of the world now has a greater impact on what is happening here. Benson shared an example of the Japanese company of Nissan building a production plant in Mexico. "Most of their market is here," he said.

He added that education and global thinking can help local industries and businesses to create great employees and great entrepreneurs.

Benson once again complimented Harmony and those gathered at the fundraiser for what is happening throughout the community. "I think you are prepared to do it well. A lot of towns would happily change places with you," he said. "You have the culture of solving your own problems and doing it well."

Before the program ended, Joyce Jacobson told the audience about her dream to see an indoor swimming pool built in Harmony. Not only would it be a benefit for fitness, but it could also be used as a therapy tool for nursing home residents and patients recovering from surgery or injury.

She said she has requested financial support from Richard Jacobson, a philanthropist and her husband's cousin, but would also seek support from the surrounding community if such a project could be taken on. If others are interested in helping with this project, Jacobson urged them to contact her.

"I'm 87 years old and I still want it to happen in my lifetime," she concluded.

Tribon ended the program with words of gratitude to her fellow foundation board members, the Swing Into Spring committee and to Benson for his words of support for Harmony.

"We share your love and concern for our small communities which make up southeast Minnesota and the need for everyone to pull together to make it thrive and be the best it can be," she said. "When our communities work together, our entire region grows stronger."

Tribon noted that the next quarterly meeting for the foundation will be held on May 7 and said there is another grant application from Fillmore Central's Community Education program for school readiness scholarships.

"I am delighted the foundation is able to support so many worthwhile projects that serve the Harmony area," she concluded.