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Paynesville Press - April 21, 2004

"Let's Go Fishing" starts Paynesville chapter

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

"Let's Go Fishing" - a group that provides free fishing and boating excursions for senior citizens - has formed a chapter in Paynesville.

During an organizational meeting - on Tuesday, April 13 - Paynesville area residents formed a board, appointed officers, and volunteered their services to the group.

Board members are: Inez Jones, president and facilitator; Bonnie Jo Hanson, secretary; Aldon Ellingson; Mary Ellen Morris; Paul Oman; and Kathy Ziegler. In addition, the board will include a treasurer, and a representative from the Paynesville Area Health Care System.

The Paynesville chapter of "Let's Go Fishing could be on the water by this summer. A local resort owner has offered the use of a pontoon, and the Willmar chapter has also offered the use of a boat and enough equipment to get started.

Paynesville's is the second chapter of "Let's Go Fishing," which was started in Willmar by businessman Joe Holm as a way to give something back to his community. The Willmar group started in 2002 with 15 volunteers and took about 500 seniors on excursions in its first year. Last year, the Willmar group had grown to 53 volunteers, and over 1,000 seniors were treated to free fishing or boating outings, said Holm.

Holm believes the Paynesville chapter can be equally successful because of the abundance of lakes in the area, and because the area has a need for recreational pursuits for its seniors.

Before the Paynesville chapter can start offering excursions, the group still needs to purchase liability insurance, which is estimated at $1,300. The group also needs another $1,000 or so for start-up costs and administrative and legal fees.

The Willmar chapter has agreed to help the Paynesville chapter with "seed money" to help offest some of its start-up expenses.

A raffle to benefit "Let's Go Fishing" of Minnesota - with a 2004 Crestliner pontoon as the grand prize - is currently underway with a quarter of the proceeds of every $10 raffle ticket sold in Paynesville going to the local chapter. In addition, "Let's Go Fishing" will hold its annual fish fry fundraiser in Paynesville this year with those proceeds being used locally.

Eventually, as the Paynesville chapter grows and outings become more frequent, it will need to buy its own boat and will need additional funds to offset the cost of any equipment that isn't donated. In Willmar, said Holm, outings increased from two times a week to five times a week when the chapter had its own boat to use.

With growing demand, more volunteers will be needed. Volunteers are the heart of "Let's Go Fishing." Without them, the free outings wouldn't be possible, said Holm.

Volunteers can donate time to drive boats, assist senior anglers, or perform duties off the water such as scheduling, fundraising, and providing refreshments for the outings.

Volunteers don't need to make a large time commitment, said Holm. They need only to have big hearts and a few hours a week in the summer to help out. Holm pointed out that volunteers usually have as much fun as the seniors.

Eventually, the group would like to add more board members and members to the advisory board. Board members will help plan and organize the group. Initially, the board will be tasked with start-up details, including finding equipment, deciding when the group will be able to begin making excursions, and fundraising.

Advisory board members, especially anyone over 55, are encouraged to share their knowledge and to give tips on fishing, boating, and how to best enjoy area lakes.

The next board meeting for the Paynesville Chapter of "Let's Go Fishing" is scheduled for Thursday, April 29, at 10 a.m. at the Paynesville Area Center. Anyone interested in acting as a board member or joining the advisory board is welcome.

For more information about "Let's Go Fishing," call 320-235-8448. For information on volunteering for the Paynesville chapter of "Let's Go Fishing," call Inez Jones at 320-243-4799.

(Editor's Note: Bonnie Jo Hanson is a reporter for the Paynesville Press as well as a volunteer for Let's Go Fishing.)

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