Barb Mann, who has always given her all to the youth in the community, is the Working Together Coalition's Be Inspiring recipient for August.
No matter which direction you look, there's a program for youth that Mann has had a hand in. She came to Pine River in 1993, working her way here from western New York.
Her adult mentors growing up were her parents and her 4-H agents. Mann looked up to them because they taught her to be engaged and involved.
If you know Mann, it's hard to imagine she was ever shy; but as a youth, her mentors, with their can-do attitudes, helped her to come out of her shell and learn new things. They set the example for giving back to the community and pushed her to do things she hadn't done before.
Mann's commitment to youth is evidenced by the number of programs she has either developed or assisted with over the years. She has worked with the family center's youth enrichment classes, led youth development workshops through Community Education, and worked with the Sparkling Waters 4-H group. She started the Youth as Resources program, along with a group of youth, as well as championed Gifts of the Heart.
Mann also worked for many years with Teen Times, the Pine River-Backus (PR-B) teen-produced newspaper, and helped with the first Tiger Pride Day at the Community Garden.
There have been many summer Prairie Fire Theater productions and PR-B school musicals that just wouldn't have been the same without Mann's long hours and costume wizardry.
Perhaps the list of Mann's engagement with youth is so long because she believes that kids are our future.
"They might be taking care of me someday," she said.
Mann believes it's all about encouraging them to be critical thinkers and share their ideas.
"When I grew up, I didn't think anything I thought about was really of much interest to anyone, other than my parents," she said.
She feels kids are great and have great ideas and a fresh perspective. She would advise others to listen to youth and not always talk at them. Empower them by asking, "What do you think?"
As a community, Mann believes we need to take time to build relationships with youth, recognize the good they do, encourage them and get their feedback. She feels strongly that youth are important, valuable and can contribute.
"They can make a difference now. ... They don't have to wait until they are adults," she said.
Mann keeps busy, contracting her services to the Cass County/Leech Lake Reservation Children's Initiative as director, and to the Legacy Chorale of Greater Minnesota as manager. In her spare time, she re-creates and re-purposes items that she sells at Design Consign in Brainerd, Savvy Mercantile in Crosslake and the Pine River Market Square.
She is also a member of the Remer Arts & Crafts Co-Op, and sits on the boards of the Community Garden and the Pine River Market Square.
As if that's not enough, she bakes organic delights that are available at her booth at the market.
The community is fortunate to have here.
Every month the Working Together Coalition recognizes someone from the community who has made a positive impact in children's lives. Submit nominations to Kelly Felton at 218-330-8129 or at www.workingtogethercoalition.org.