Kayla says you can find plenty to do in a small town – and lives it

 Kayla Hawkinson, local politics

If you want to get involved in a small Minnesota town, you might consider Kayla Hawkinson’s journey.

In the little town of Chokio, just west of Morris, Kayla could be called the unofficial hometown advocate. She is involved in local politics (city council), healthcare (1st responder), town betterment (community club), economic development (EDA board) and also carries a full-time job with the local telecom. Plus she volunteers with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Stevens County Kinship youth mentoring organization and, really, by the time you read this she might be onto something else!

That’s quite a list but Kayla manages just fine, thank you.

Adopted as an infant, Kayla grew up on a farm south of nearby Alberta. After high school she started working with Onvoy, a call center in Chokio, and fell in love with rural life. She quickly impressed and found herself promoted. She also found herself a husband and got hooked on community involvement.

That passion came courtesy of the Blandin Community Leadership Program, which works with rural citizens to develop their skills, knowledge and relationships in order to help build and sustain a health community.

For Kayla, this intensive leadership training opened her eyes. “That’s when I really got involved with anything I could,” she admits.

For Kayla, giving her time just comes naturally. Volunteering with the local Relay For Life of Stevens County resulted in a full-time job with the American Cancer Society recruiting volunteers, fundraising and event planning. She worked a short stint with the non-profit Pioneer Public Television before taking her current customer service job with Federated Telephone (Accira?).

So what’s her advice for new residents? “I would say to volunteer, and that means you have to seek out places to get involved. They just don’t drop out in front of you.”

She goes on: “You gain a lot from working with groups, and you can have a lot of fun with it, too.”

Kayla says the phrase “Live Wide Open” means celebrating what this region has to offer. “To me, it’s a sense of community and taking advantage of what’s available. People would be surprised to know what’s available even in a tiny town like Chokio.”

And getting involved is the first step toward knowing. Just ask Kayla.

Scott Kiemle