Craig Otterness and Beth Sauer explained the new volunteer program, TaskTakers. PHOTO: Marlene Deschler
Craig Otterness and Beth Sauer explained the new volunteer program, TaskTakers. PHOTO: Marlene Deschler
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What is a connected community? It can mean many things. General manager of Spring Grove Communications (SGC), Craig Otterness, explained at the SGC annual meeting that one way the Spring Grove community is a connected community is through the fiber optic cable that runs to each home.

"Right now people receive Internet, television, and dial tone through the fiber optic cable. What is going to come next? A few things come to mind," Otterness remarked. "The fiber optics could be used for monitors or sensors. For example, a monitor could be set up in a barn to watch the oxygen level or the humidity level. It could also be set up in a home to help people take care of you. All of this stuff is coming later, but we wanted to be a part of it, and having the fiber optic cable will make that possible."

From their on-going discussions about being connected, SGC has created Connected Community. Connected Community is "an initiative that brings technology and neighbors together to make Spring Grove a great place to live."

TaskTakers

As part of this Connected Community, SGC introduced a new program - TaskTakers. "TaskTakers is a program that connects volunteers with community members who need a little help with basic household tasks," stated the hand-out.

"We have been working on this program for about one year," remarked TaskTakers coordinator Beth Sauer. "It is a way to coordinate volunteers to serve people in the community that need help around their home or around town. It's a way to bring technology and neighbors together."

TaskTakers works with a pool of volunteers who have signed a contract and undergone an easy background check. A person that is in need of help calls TaskTakers at 498-TASK, tells them what their need is and TaskTakers finds a volunteer and coordinates a time for the task to be completed.

Services that are planned to be offered through TaskTakers include: handyman services (changing a light bulb, simple fixing, etc.), transportation, moving heavy items or rearranging furniture, light cleaning, window washing, snow shoveling, assisting with local shopping, yard work, companion/visitor service, etc.

Anyone interested in being a TaskTakers volunteer can contact SGC at (507) 498-3456 for more details and information. Other communities in the area also have similar programs in place.

Guest speaker

With so much in the news regarding credit card fraud, SGC invited a special guest to talk to the 265 patrons present regarding fraud and what to do to protect themselves.

Kerri Bronk, senior operations officer at Merchants Bank, spoke about how fraud has changed in the past 17 years that she has worked at Merchants Bank.

"When I began at the bank, 17 years ago, the fraud that we saw was counterfeit cash and stolen checks. We still see some of this today, but it is very minimal," said Bronk. "Today what we see the most is debit card fraud. It is not that people are using their cards in the wrong places; it is that information is cheap to get. For example, when we make reservations for a hotel, how do we know who is taking our credit card number and how are they storing it? Are they storing it in a secure way?"

Bronk suggested having a separate account especially when traveling that would have a limited amount of cash in so that if the account was compromised they couldn't drain a person's entire bank account, but only the small amount in that account.

She also reminded people to let their banks know when they are traveling so that if that bank suddenly sees action on a person's card that is not in a usual location they will know it is because that person is traveling and not because the card was stolen.

"One of the most important things to do is check your statements," advised Bronk. "Make sure that all the charges are accurate and report something that is not. It is very important to keep an eye on your statements."

Meeting

The annual meeting continued with the election of three director seats. Three positions were up for reelection - Jana Crickman, Bruce Hegge and Leonard Myrah. There were no opposing names on the ballot, so all three were reelected to their positions.

Dave Morken, president of the Board of Directors, spoke briefly to the attendees and remarked with a smile, "We [SGC] have reached a milestone this year - since 2001 we have given back more than six million dollars to our members! With your continued support we can continue this into the future."

Otterness, addressed the patrons. "This is the best year that we've ever had! We hope for good things again next year, too. We [SGC] are interested in several things - being diversified makes us stronger. Like TaskTakers, for example; this is an investment in our community; it is not a dollar thing. We are looking forward to implementing this new program.

"We are also increasing our bandwidth a lot so that we are positioned and ready for all the technology advances that are coming in the future. We are excited to see everyone here tonight. We really appreciate your patronage and look forward to working with you again this year."