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Crosslake woman puts her community first

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Pat Netko of Crosslake believes in the importance of community.

Netko has been in Crosslake since 1997, but her community pride would make you think she was a native. She grew up in Laurens, Iowa, where she was raised with community involvement.

“I think my parents were always very involved in their community. We were always involved in 4-H, Girl Scouts and always helping and very involved in church. We’ve always served our community,” Netko said.

When she came to Crosslake, she quickly became a part of the community by spending her first year as a para-educator at Pine River-Backus School. She also consigned crafts she made by hand at a store called Lake Country Crafts and Cones. In the beginning, she just sold her potpourri pies, floral projects and woodcrafts there. In 1998, her place at the store changed.

“I used to make crafts and do craft shows all over the place. I got to know the owners of the store here. I started working here. They came in one morning and told me they wanted to retire and they wanted me to buy the store, so I did. It’s been an awesome move. I love it. I absolutely love it here,” Netko said.

Netko’s business ownership awoke her to a whole new level of community involvement. She joined committees, volunteered as a chaperone for school functions while her two sons were in school, joined the chamber of commerce and started attending Crosslake City Council meetings religiously.

“I attend every city council meeting. I listen and I speak up whenever I feel I need to. I do that fairly often. I’m sometimes vocal. It’s never a personal thing. It’s always about what’s best for the city of Crosslake,” Netko said.

Eleven years ago, Netko became the youth director at Crosslake Lutheran Church.

“I love both my jobs. I love what I do. I love working with kids. They are both just really good outlets to me,” Netko said.

With the church, Netko has spread her community pride to her youth group members who help to clean up trash and plant flowers in the city campgrounds. Together, Netko and her youth group have done mission trips together for the past five years.

“I think it’s learning about your world and serving others. That’s what we’re here to do,” Netko said. “I really started serving more in the Crosslake community and the mission trips have sort of spawned from that sense of serving. I guess I think it’s always important for people to look for ways to make things better and make things work better.”

Over the years, Netko has changed Lake Country Crafts and Cones. She has added coffee and a driveup window. She now sells ice cream cake, and she has turned the shop into the No. 1 Kemps cone shop in the state of Minnesota.

“We sell more (Kemps) ice cream than any other cone shop,” Netko said.

She said she has no time for crafts anymore, but she still makes time for her community.

“I think that a busy person can always make time for things that are important to them. I care about this community a lot. I care about my business, and I care about my church. When you care about things you just do the things you need to do. Sometimes I probably lack in finding personal time, but that’s OK. I like being busy,” Netko said.

Thanks to this dedication, Netko has become the first Pat in recent memory to be the Crosslake St. Patrick’s Day Parade grand marshal just in time for year 40 of the annual parade.

“I’m a little uncomfortable with it, but I’m glad to do it because it’s good for Crosslake. The parade is great for Crosslake. I’m excited,” Netko said.

She doesn’t relish the attention, but as always, her first thought is for her community.

“I’m a huge fan of community effort, teamwork. Working together as a community is really important to me. The city of Crosslake, working with the business owners, the residents, the city council, everything is very important to me. I’m very active in a lot of organizations,” Netko said. “I think the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is such a huge thing for Crosslake. It’s been a long winter. ... It’s such a perfect time of the year to have people come to our area during the off-season, for us as business owners to get a little bump in income. All the bars and restaurants and everybody who employs people around here are so weather dependent.”

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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