Spring Grove must have something pretty special.
Over the past 12 months, they’ve earned three awards of excellence with the help of Journal readers.
The 2022 Teacher of the Year was Stacey Schultz, an elementary school teacher for Spring Grove.
In January 2023, we recognized Jerry and Nancy Kraus, owners of Kraus Oil, as the 2022 Business Persons of the Year.
Today, we recognize Trent Turner, of Spring Grove, Minn., as the 2023 Volunteer of the Year.
Trent grew up in Postville, Iowa, but eventually ended up in Caledonia, Minn., before settling down in Spring Grove, Minn.
He’s worked for Hendel Farms, just outside of Spring Grove, for 23 years. When he’s not working on the farm, he volunteers his time as the fire chief for the Spring Grove Fire Department, as a city council member on the Spring Grove City Council, and he helps out with the Spring Grove High School trap team.
When asked why he joined the Spring Grove Fire Department in 2007, he said his wife gave him two options when they moved to town. He either needed to join the fire department or the Lions Club. He chose the fire department.
Out of 16 years he has served on the fire department, he has been elected fire chief for the past seven years.
He takes his responsibilities very serious. Trent said that his department trains hard. Most departments have two meetings each month, one for business and one for training. The Spring Grove Fire Department has a training meeting and business meeting every time they meet. They currently meet the second and fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. And, their coverage is quite large, spanning west toward Mabel, east toward Caledonia, north toward Houston, and south toward Dorchester, Iowa. As a matter of fact, they do a lot of training down in Iowa, just across the border.
Trent has fielded quite a few interviews with the media following the devastating loss of Spring Grove’s hardware store in the heart of the downtown area. It was on December 22, 2022, and temperatures with wind chill ranged between –30 and –40 degrees.
“Six families comprised of 11 individuals, including three young children and one teenager, were displaced, but no lives were lost. One family cat was lost, and two firefighters sustained minimal injuries,” as reported in the Fillmore County Journal following the fire. It was a catastrophic event for so many people affected in Spring Grove.
In the January 2, 2023, Journal article about the fire, it was stated “as firefighters from multiple agencies worked together to battle the blaze in below zero weather, Chief Turner reflected, ‘It is not only me making decisions. I rely on other chiefs. I’m not afraid to ask questions. We make a great team.’” Firefighters from Brownsville, Caledonia, Decorah, Eitzen, Mabel, and Houston provided mutual aid to the Spring Grove Fire Department throughout the evening and into the morning hours.
Trent leads his department with humility, which is apparent with how he talks about working together with others — whether on his department or with other area departments. He takes a team approach, always.
Trent’s nominator shared, “These guys gave their time and effort without batting an eye. They are on call 24/7 without knowing what they might be responding to. They worked tirelessly on December 22, to save Spring Grove’s Main Street,” continuing with, “The city and surrounding communities and especially those who lived in the hardware store apartments could have suffered much larger losses without them. Every time Spring Grove responds, you know they are putting their best on the line.”
On December 22, 2022, the Spring Grove Fire Department had 20 firefighters. In less that three months, since that fire occurred, they’ve gained seven new firefighters, bumping their numbers up to 27 firefighters in a very short period of time. After seeing the important role the fire department plays in a community, Spring Grove residents felt a need to step up and be a part of the team. The department can have up to 30 firefighters, so there’s still a few seats open for any takers who may want to apply.
This was the first year in which the Journal recognized a member of the communities we serve with this distinguished honor. Our team at the Fillmore County Journal felt that volunteerism can be tremendously under-appreciated, and that’s why we initiated this opportunity of recognition. So many communities benefit from the work of volunteers.
Along with receiving this award of excellence, the 2023 Volunteer of the Year, Trent Turner, was offered the opportunity to select an organization to receive a $250 donation made payable by the Fillmore County Journal. Trent selected the Spring Grove Parks & Recreation Department, so that more money can be spent to enhance the community parks.
To see the rest of the nominees and what nominators had to say about them, look to page 5 of today’s newspaper. To be nominated is an honor in itself.