CENTURY 21 Atwood shares the #RELENTLESS story of Holly Karsjens, Albert Lea, MN.
“We need to do this because it is good for everyone’s soul. That is the language of humans.”
This is a story in the making, and though we are sharing the beginning you will want to know what happens for months to come. It is a story of what humanity looks like. Holly Karsjens is on a #relentless mission to accomplish expanding all communities in Albert Lea, Minnesota and her progress so far proves that we are all stronger together. Compassionate, independent, outside-of-the-box thinker? Check, check and check. Her marketing background, leadership, event planning experience, and collaborative art space studio in Albert Lea including dance, yoga, art, and music for kids and adults, really got her involved in the community. Especially as an advocate for other businesses. Like many other entrepreneurs, she had to close the doors on that business in March of 2020.
“The phone call heard around the world” as she explains it. The art studio was the start of something different, the start of people coming together in unique ways. How do you keep building a community when the community can’t be open?
At that moment, in March of 2020, Holly accepted a position with the Albert Lea Convention And Visitors Bureau, which was combined with the Main Street Program Director position. She had an idea of the challenge she was facing, but it led to an opportunity to create so much more than she expected. Holly’s background was a great match for the CVB and Main Street Organization, a perfect fit for all that was needed and all that was to come. It was also an “Oh, you want to have events and tourism, but we are in a pandemic!” kind of moment. Holly was a positive force that was needed.
“Making a great community impacts positive change. Little things can make big impacts, a ripple effect.”
This ripple effect that Holly is creating is attached to broadening what community means. Attached to comfortable conversation embracing new and modern thought perspectives. “Growth means exploring different thought processes, being open at the heart of the community.” It can be a bumpy road while exploring that type of change. Holly likes to say to her colleagues and community members, “…you can be mad at me today, but I know you will come to our future events. By me doing these things it makes it a safer space for your kids and grandkids, and it’s expanding what community means.”
What has been evolving because of Holly? Just a little bit… Albert Lea’s first ever PRIDE event coming up in 2023! This year's Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day events and working on public art features. Before she began this impactful role, Holly earned the 2018 Citizen Of The Year award and uses that for inspiration. It is her compass, her standard of what she must accomplish for the future. “Main Street is building, rejuvenation is happening in downtown. The CVB is having great events and we are able to market them. We are breaking boundaries and elevating community growth.”
Albert Lea, MN is feeling the positive effects and it is validated by the comments of community members. During that Mexican Independence Event that just happened on 9/16 people came up teary and emotional because they now feel like the community is making space for them. People have written letters. Heartfelt, open dialog like, “…hey, I never really felt seen in our community but now I do know.” “I have been worried because I see and hear things people say, but because you are in leadership it is changing, slowly moving ahead.” Holly knows she is finding ways to get beyond divisiveness.
Just keep moving is this year’s mantra. Community outreach is building. “Build the things so that the future leaders can continue to expand on them. When people speak of this community I want them to have an endearing feeling of fond memories. When people speak positively about the community they are more inclined to be kind, and be a part of culture change while embracing each other.”
Holly has visualized and executed the premise that expanding the view of a community means more for businesses, more for the business leaders in the community, and more for bringing people together and enlightening perspectives. “If there is nothing here, no one is going to come and visit.”
Built on Holly’s driving force that the residents of the community are #1 and the visitors #2, it all comes back to “Humans are the piece that matter.”