From: Richard Ricker
I am a new member of the Winona community having moved here last November. Winona is an impressive place with festivals, new development, lovely colleges, welcoming people and breath-taking scenery. My wife and I have gotten involved in many things and feel blessed. The most special of the groups we have been part of is the Friendship Center in downtown Winona. Activities abound for the seasoned members of the community. We have taken part in everything from biking and Tai Chi to educational and art classes. The list of things to be part of is endless. Every day over 100 people enter the center. They may come to play cards, exercise or meet old and new friends or take part in countless activities. Last year nearly 27,000 members of the community participated in Friendship Center activities. This year the number could approach 28,000. The center is on the Masonic building main floor. It is too small to accommodate the growing numbers. Parking has always been a challenge but there was some parking available at the Hardee’s space next door. Now that is gone. Millions of dollars of development is taking place around us. Twenty-five million dollars in the Hardee’s space and a million or more right above us as the Masonic Hall is refurbished. Oddly though, the space where nearly 27,000 community members gather is still on that busy corner. It is frustrating to see so much being done while the center seems to be left behind. I fear for winter, as older members wanting to get out of the house have to park further away and walk in the unpredictable winter weather. I urge the City Council, mayor and other leaders to work with center director Malia Fox and her staff to make a new home for the Friendship Center the highest priority.