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Lake Sarah Farmers Union Camp gets some tender, loving care

LAKE SARAH, Minn. — Allen and Elaine Torpet's commitment to the Minnesota Farmers Union Lake Sarah Youth Camp has produced results.

A September groundbreaking ceremony at the camp marked the construction start of a new shower/bathroom and sewer system.

The Fertile couple spearheaded fundraising efforts for camp improvements four years ago. The first event was a Youth Camp Golf Event Benefit held at Sandhill Golf Course. Four golf events, from 2008 to 2011, generated $17,000 in donations. Total donations to date are around $55,000. Camp improvement project costs are estimated at $160,000, said Ken Pazdernik of MFU’s outreach staff. The Minnesota Farmers Union Foundation will match the amount raised dollar for dollar.

MFU contracted with Dennis Killian of Lengby to be general manager and contractor for the project.

"It’s nice to know that it’s finally getting off the ground," said Elaine Torpet. "...It’s been a long time that we have been raising funds for this project.''

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The project should be finished by spring, Pazdernik said.

The project is a way for the Torpets to give back to the youth camp and Minnesota Farmers Union. The couple’s son and two daughters and Elaine’s younger sister have all attended Farmers Union camps. They have been torchbearers in the organization and their son, Todd, was a camp counselor.

The Lake Sarah Park and Campground got its start more than 60 years ago when a group of men Torpet calls "forward thinking" sought a campground for the Polk County Farmers Union Reserves and Juniors.

A. M. Larson, Fred Groninger and Ed Tuveng found the site near Lake Sarah. The county’s Farmers Union board called a meeting and unanimously voted to purchase 3.1 acres for $500 as well as a strip along a section line for another $50.

They built a lodge on the property using volunteer labor. Connected dormitories, an auditorium and a kitchen were also constructed. The park has been used by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and church groups. Family reunions and community events also have been held on the grounds.

The Polk County Farmers Union operated the park for 40 years and gifted it to MFU two decades ago.

The Torpets and a committee are making plans for more campsites, a new dump and contact station. Northland Technical College in Thief River Falls developed designs for the bathhouse. The plans include three shower stalls, toilets and sinks.

The Torpets received the MFU’s Outstanding Leadership Award last year for their commitment to the project.

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More donations are needed to finish the bathhouse project. Those donations can be sent to Minnesota Farmers Union Outreach Staff, Ken Pazdernik, 401 5th St. West, Ada, Minn. 56510. Checks can be made to the MN Farmers Union Foundation, Lake Sarah Project.

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