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Interview with Mark Rubin

By Tatjana Mustac, 2021 Rudy Perpich Fellow

For an assignment during my Rudy Perpich Fellowship, I interviewed a member of the Minnesota Croatian community, Mark Rubin.

Please share with me a little bit about your career and life in Minnesota.

Mark was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. For his undergraduate studies, he attended the College of Saint Scholastica, a private Benedictine college in Duluth, where he majored in History. With a history degree, there were limited career options that included either becoming a teacher/professor or librarian but Mark decided to attend law school afterwards.

Mark attended Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His father’s advice was to finish a year of law school before he got married and he followed his father’s advice! After his first year law exams, he married his wife, Nancy whom he dated for 4 years! This June, he will be married for 45 years. During our interview, he praised his wife and was beyond thankful for her!

Additionally, he had two sons with his wife – Tony and Jeremy. Tony is currently one of 34 Assistant Attorneys at the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office. Jeremy has a Masters in Education and is the father of Mark’s two grandchildren: John Angelo and Julia Lynn and is married to a pediatrician in the Duluth area.

Mark began his career in law at 23 years old in the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office where he was a Prosecutor and an Assistant Attorney. He worked there for nine years then left to work in private practice for two years in civil litigation and got criminal defense experience along the way. He also did some maritime law for the big ships that regularly come into Duluth.

After, he returned to work for the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office where he came back to working as a Prosecutor since he missed working in the law enforcement area. In 2010, Mark ran for the job of St. Louis County Attorney and won! He is currently in his third term with a year and a half left.

Where is your family originally from in Croatia and what was their experience with immigrating to the United States?

Mark’s father’s side was from Croatia and his mother’s side was from Ukraine. On his father’s side his grandmother was from Gospic while his grandfather was from the Lika/Sveti Rok area.

His grandmother, Sophie, came to the United States when she was around 16 years old since she was set to be married to a man from Trinidad, Colorado. Upon getting married, they had two children and moved to the Duluth area, specifically the Gary neighborhood. The neighborhoods in the Duluth area had different sections as to where certain immigrant groups could stay; the Gary neighborhood was welcoming to many Croatian immigrants. However, after sometime, the man she had married had passed away.

Sophie met Mark’s grandfather, Anton Rubcic, who switched his name to Rubin. Upon speaking with Mark, he mentioned to me that it is not known why the name change occurred. Anton Rubcic worked as a rigger at the United States Steel Plant in Morgan Park. Sophie and Mark had two children, Mark’s late father and his late Aunt Mary.

Mark’s father unfortunately lost his father quite early on in life around four to five years of age due to a work accident in the 30s. But, Mark’s father, John Rubin, was mostly raised by Mark’s grandmother and John’s step brother. Eventually, Mark’s grandmother remarried a man named George Tomic, who was also passionate about his Croatian heritage. When he was 17, he skipped his senior year of high school and went to serve stateside in the Navy at the end of WWII. At the time, many Croatian immigrants had served. After serving, John trained to slice meats and continued for most of his life.

Mark’s mother, Annette, was a stay-at-home mom who raised him and his two sisters: Monica who currently resides in the Twin Cities area and Susan who currently resides in the Duluth area. Additionally while growing up, Mark’s father was very passionate about maintaining his Croatian heritage through making wine in the basement and preparing lamb outside on the spit with the whole family! Mark expressed to me that he was truly thankful to have been able to experience a taste of the old world with his family!

How do you and your family uphold your Croatian heritage here in the USA?

Mark and his family uphold their Croatian heritage mostly through food related traditions. Mark’s favorite was their traditions for Easter. On Good Fridays, they prepare fresh bakalar to eat with some red wine. While on Easter Sundays, they prepare plenty of sarma for days of delicious leftovers! Additionally on Easter Sundays, Mark and his family enjoy upholding their Ukrainian heritage through having perogies and participating in Easter egg cracking. Mark even expressed that he and his family enjoy preparing other Croatian delicacies such as cevapcici and povitica with ham.

Outside of food related traditions, Mark grew up going to many Croatian picnics in the Gary neighborhood and has enjoyed going to events with the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota. Another way Mark recently has upheld his heritage was through visiting Croatia a few years ago with his wife. They were able to visit various cities such as Zagreb, Dubrovnik (where they attended Carolyn and Fred Bruno’s multi-day wedding celebration, including an evening cruise around the Old City and a Klapa Band at their wedding reception!), and Makarska, where they stayed at the Villa Rubcic for a few nights! Additionally, he was able to explore the Lika area where he met a few locals who had the same last name as his grandfather, Rubcic.

Furthermore, while serving as the County Attorney, Mark told me he was very fortunate to develop a warm friendship with the late Tom Rukavina, Steve Rukavina’s cousin who was serving as County Commissioner. Tom would often refer to Mark as the “Other Croatian Sensation” and always had a new Croatian word or phrase each Tuesday when they met at County Board meetings. Mark expressed how much he misses him but was also very appreciative and thankful of all of the fun times they spent together.

What kind of advice could you share with young Croatian Americans such as myself?

Upon speaking with Mark a piece of advice he was able to share with me was to continue to pass down the traditions and learn as much as possible about your family history. Unfortunately, his grandmother and father did not want him learning Croatian or Ukrainian growing up because they wanted him to learn and know English. Knowing the English language was how you were able to fit in as an immigrant.

Additionally, Mark emphasized continuing to be involved with our close knit Croatian communities both locally and back home in Croatia. Since his father was born in the United States, he was only able to go back once in 1972 with his mother and uncle Nick and his wife. Upon visiting, he met one of his uncles; however, it was the only time he was able to go back.

Mark expressed to me that he wishes he had the opportunity to go back with his father to see the country through his eyes. A big piece of advice Mark emphasized to me was all Croatians should go back home at least once with their immediate family and learn their roots back home! Having had the privilege of going back each year since I was two years old with my parents and grandparents, I agreed!

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2021 Spring Newsletter

Dear Minnesota Croatian Friends,

We had two exciting webinars in February that I hoped you all had a chance to join. The first webinar was on: “The Future of Travel in Croatia”. Co-founders of Mindful Travel Croatia, Alex Schmidt and Domeniko Hajdic, shared their insider knowledge and expertise on what’s going on in Croatia right now and what’s to come in the future of tourism.

Our second event was a virtual wine tasting, hosted by Randall Olson of Blue Ice, an importer and distributor of wines from Croatia and Southeastern Europe. Randall had organized a portfolio of three wines from Istria, Croatia to include a Perla Rose, Terra Rosa and Malvazija wines. He discussed the history of winemaking, along with other notable facts about the regional wines of this beautiful country. This webinar was also recorded and can be found our Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota Facebook site. It was definitely a fun way to spend Friday night.

South St. Paul’s Sarma Queen, Eunice Dasovich has kindly offered to teach a class on how to make her world famous sarma – just in time for Easter. The class will be on Tuesday March 30th at 5 pm at the Croatian Hall. There is no cost for this class and there will be maximum of 12 attendees. She will also be selling sarmas to class attendees and others. The cost for sarma will be 6 for $18 or $3 a piece. Please call Eunice Dasovich to reserve your spot in class today.

Special thanks to our members who volunteer with our social media. Jasmine Hoedemann has been helping with updating our Facebook site and Max Woxland has been updating our Website.

There will be more opportunities for volunteering at the Slavic Experience 2021. This incredible BRAND NEW festival will take place at Father Hennepin Bluff Park in NE Minneapolis on August 7th and 8th, 2021! It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, but this year it will be an outdoor event.

We will again have another summer intern who will be a shared resource with the NFCACF. One of her projects will be to create a Welcome Booklet for Croatians moving to Minnesota. A little about Tatjana – Tatjana Mustać is a master’s student in Biomedical Sciences on the Physiology & Biophysics track at Stony Brook University in Long Island, NY. Tatjana has a diverse background in scientific research, healthcare experience, and experiences within the Croatian American community. As per her future plans, Tatjana hopes to pursue a PhD within the Biomedical Sciences and continue her journey as a lifelong student in all facets of her life beginning with the 2021 Rudy Perpich Fellowship.

The Minneapolis International Festival will be celebrating the different cultures in the City of Minneapolis and surrounding communities with music, dance, art, cultural learning booths, exhibits demonstrations, food AND MORE. Learn about all the many amazing cultures that make Minneapolis such a wonderful place to live. Special thanks to Mary Sedlar who is coordinating this virtual event on our behalf. She selected this fantastic video below. Please make sure to watch it if you are planning to visit Croatia in the near future. The date is not determined. Please check this link for details – https://www.facebook.com/mplsinternationalfestival .

We will be continuing with online Croatian language classes. Below are the dates for the Zoom classes in the Spring 2021:
March 17th
April 7th
May 12th

Classes have been fun via zoom. We have attendees from Hibbing, Eveleth and the Twin Cities. It’s been great meeting Minnesota Croatians from around the state. Classes are moderated by Max Woxland and Vanca Schrunk.

We are looking for volunteers to help with a sister city relationship between Vukovar and St. Paul. If you have family in Vukovar, you could be a great resource for us. Members of this committee would be dedicated to this international friendship by promoting humanitarian, educational, cultural, civic and social events. The committee would meet monthly to determine the program between the two cities. For more information please contact Andrea Novak Neumann.

Our Condolences to the
Chutich, Pavelich and Mikulich Families

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Virtual Event: Wine Tasting

Our second virtual event in February will be a wine tasting, hosted by Randall Olson of Blue Ice, an importer and distributor of wines from Croatia and the Balkans Peninsula. Randall has organized a portfolio of three wines from Croatia to include a sparkling, white and red. The three wines include Perla Rose, Terra Rosa and Malvazija. He will discuss the history of winemaking, along with other notable facts about this beautiful country. This will be a great opportunity to enjoy unique wines with your favorite nibbles from the comfort of your home. Twin Cities liquor stores will be selling the three wines for $35, and they will be available for pickup in early February. For those of you who purchase Croatian Wine – this is the deal of the century! The liquor stores that are participating in the wine sales include:

South Lyndale Liquors – 5300 Lyndale Ave St., Minneapolis
Thomas Liquors -1941 Grand Ave, St. Paul
Wine Republic – 438 Union Pl Ste 2, Excelsior

Participants outside of the Twin Cities may order the wines and they will be delivered directly to your homes. Any orders placed by February 5 through www.blueiceus.com, wines will be delivered on time. Any questions can be directed to Randall at 651-226-3056 or randall.olson@blueiceus.com.

Register early as we will have a limited number of spots open for this event. Once you are registered, you will receive an email with a link to a Zoom webinar.

Register for a Virtual Wine Tasting Webinar

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The Future of Travel in Croatia

Join us for virtual travel event you won’t want to miss: “The Future of Travel in Croatia”. Co-founders of Mindful Travel Croatia, Alex Schmidt and Domeniko Hajdic, will be sharing their insider knowledge and expertise on what’s going on in Croatia right now and what’s to come in the future of tourism. Join us for important updates and exclusive tips on how to plan your dream trip to Croatia. Please register in advance below.

Register Here for “The Future of Travel in Croatia” Webinar

To reach out to Mindful Travel Croatia directly, you may email them at TheMindfulMermaidBlog@gmail.com or visit their website at https://mindfulmermaid.com/.

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Year in Review: 2020 for the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota

Sretna Nova Godina 2021!

I think it’s safe to say that no one could have imagine what 2020 had in store for us. Our board had its most ambitious year planned, only to cancel the majority of the events. The first cancelled event was the Croatian Heritage Night with the Timberwolves after the NBA cancelled its season.

Even though our events were cancelled, our members worked behind the scenes working on grants, creating a new website, hiring an intern to help with adding pictures to our Noteworthy Minnesota Croatians and creating virtual events for our community including language classes and a cooking class.

We started 2020 as many people did with plans and ideas that had to be readjusted or set aside until calmer times returned. We were able to at least participate in the Balkan Festival in February. Cancellations soon followed so we weren’t able to take part in the Festival of Nations and the International Festival or hold our annual Christmas party due to the pandemic.

Croatia has been devastated by major earthquakes this past year – first March 22nd in Zagreb and most recently December 29th in the Petrinja and Sisak regions. Fundraising through the Croatian Fraternal Union and the Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) are the two organizations that I would recommend donating to as I personally know the two organizers. Links will be included for both Go Fund Me’s below. Full disclosure: I am personally involved with the ACAP Go Fund Me fundraising opportunity and it involves over 25+ other Croatian organizations throughout the world. Our organization did make a donation to ACAP while I did make a personal donation to the CFU.

I am always looking for article submissions and ideas for the next CCSM newsletter. Please submit ideas on what you’d like to see in the next newsletter or any events. Also if anyone wants to submit an article, that would be very welcomed. Anyone with a computer can help with the newsletter and our Facebook site. We did hit a new milestone of 500 followers on Facebook in June and less than 6 months later are now at 600 followers! In the last quarter, we had over 160,000 reaches compared to our first year on Facebook where we only had 15,000 views. The number partially grew as a result of our outreach to greater Minnesota and interest from other Croatian groups throughout the world. This type of growth is rewarding but overwhelming too.

We can’t continue this organization without all the wonderful volunteers who help us with the Festival of Nations, the Christmas party, the Friends of the IHRC and many other events as they come up. I can’t even begin to name everyone who has been so gracious with their time to volunteer and help when needed. Your support, attendance and volunteering at our events is very appreciated. Please join us at our annual planning meeting on Thursday January 21st at 7:00 pm am via Zoom to plan activities for the upcoming year. All are welcomed to attend (even if you live in greater Minnesota!)

Pozdrav,

Andrea Novak Neumann
President, Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota

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Chisholm Basketball Coach Bob McDonald Passes Away at 87

Legendary Croatian-American basketball coach Bob McDonald passed away on October 13th at the age of 87. Bob was very proud of his Croatian heritage and made several trips to Croatia with his family. Our sincere condolences to his family.

-Duluth News Tribune https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sports/basketball/6716823-Legendary-Chisholm-coach-Bob-McDonald-dies-at-87

-MSHSL (Minnesota State High School League) https://www.mshsl.org/about/news/johns-journal/johns-journal-chisholm-legend-bob-mcdonald-has-died

-MPR News                  https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/10/14/bob-mcdonald-iconic-local-basketball-coach-dies-at-87

-Bring Me The News                https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-news/minnesota-basketball-legend-bob-mcdonald-dies-at-87

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2020 Fall Newsletter

Dear Minnesota Croatian Friends,

Well it appears that the Year 2020 is the one that keeps giving. Between the pandemic, economic crises, George Floyd riots, environmental disasters, upcoming Presidential elections, international tensions and deaths of a family members and long time friends, it has been a tough year. I personally and selfishly enjoyed the opportunity to relax at our cabin where my family and I could escape the pressures of the world. I had hopes that the fall would bring more stability to my twin daughters who are starting their senior year of high school.

Sadly, most of our Croatian related events and plans for this year were cancelled. We were fortunate enough to participate in the Balkan Festival, but of course missed out on the Croatian Night at the Timberwolves, the Festival of Nations and the new festival, the Slavic Festival. Our plans to have a summer picnic in Duluth were also cancelled, along with a potential visit from Ambassador Pjer Šimunović.

On a good note, one activity that we were able to hold was a Paint Night in July and it was fun to connect with other Minnesota Croatians. And our Facebook page hit a new milestone with 500 followers!

Speaking of Minnesota Croatians, Max Woxland, one of our members, donated his time and energy to design our new web site for our organization, which can be found at http://www.MinnesotaCroatians.com. Please check it out, especially our list of Noteworthy Minnesota Croatians. We are very grateful for his knowledge and expertise with undertaking this project for us.

The Croatian Hall will be selling Take-Out Sarma on Saturday October 24th starting at noon until they sell out. Their price for a carton of sarma is 6 for $18. See below for additional details.

As we get closer to December, it appears to be unlikely that we will hold our Annual Christmas Party. The date is currently reserved for Saturday December 5th. The health and safety of the members of our community is the highest priority. As an option, I wonder if people would attend a virtual Zoom event? I created a survey below and I would appreciate your responses. We would need to have at least 50 responses from our members to make this event happen. I hear from many who say that they will not return to their companies until next year so assume it is unlikely we were able to gather together in person.

My best to all – stay healthy!

Andrea Novak Neumann

https://us3.campaign-archive.com/?u=349394330c2c37a23169f1642&id=bd46cf068a

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An Interview with Joel McDonald

By Abbey McDonald

I had the great pleasure of conducting an interview with my father, Joel McDonald, on Monday, May 11. I began by first asking him about the place that he grew up and if there was a strong Croatian influence during his upbringing.

“I grew up in the south-side of Chisholm, Minnesota. It is kind of the old part of town, down where a lot of the immigrant families lived. My house was moved from a mining location and it was a house that my great-grandmother, all of her children, and my dad lived in. I would say that, when my dad’s aunts and uncles were over, you could tell that Croatian culture was important because they often spoke to each other in Croatian. I would say that my mom, Darlene, even though she was a Findlander, would make things like sarmas quite often to just show the food part of the Croatian culture as well.”

Next, I asked my father what part of the Croatian culture motivates him to have so much pride. He responded with, “It’s hard to pick just one. You know if you look at the culture of the history, I am proud of the history with it being a country that fought for its own recognition multiple times in the history of Yugoslavia and the break-up of Yugoslavia. I love the food. It is kind of the lifestyle of being over there too, with the combination of history, scenery, and family. I am intrigued by the language, but it is a little bit challenging to stay consistent with it, since a lot of the Croatian-speaking generation isn’t around anymore.”

My father cooks Croatian food for my family on a regular basis. Perhaps the most common Croatian dish he makes is ćevapčići with lepinje and pomfrit. This is probably my favorite thing to eat out of all the other food he makes.

When asked how many times he has visited Croatia and if he had a favorite place there that he visited, he said, ”I went there seven times, going back to 1987, which was my first trip and it was still Communist Yugoslavia at the time. But to me, it didn’t feel like a Communist country. The most impressionable place on that trip was Dubrovnik and going up on the cable car to Mt. Srđ, overlooking the town. Dubrovnik has always been a place that had a special meaning to me because of the history of it. The other place hard to not include is the area in Lika, where our relatives are from. That’s the real reason why this happens. You can go to a lot of nice-looking places in the world, but a place that is like Croatia and is also dealing with your heritage makes it totally different.”

Next I asked Joel who his biggest Croatian inspiration is. He said, “I would say that it would have to be my dad, Bob McDonald, just because the seven trips that I have been able to be on were because of him. Whether it’s making me aware of the culture and history or establishing a connection with family over there and making those trips happen is why I would say it would have to be my dad.”
My grandfather, Bob McDonald has been to Croatia a total of 21 times. I have had the pleasure of going on three of those trips. I can proudly say that those three trips in 2009, 2013, and 2014, have been the highlights of my entire life.

We then moved onto my father’s profession and how it is influenced by his Croatian heritage. Joel said, “I teach high school social studies and coach varsity boys basketball at Hibbing High School. My Croatian heritage has influenced both in a number of ways. In the classroom, any time that I am able to talk about Croatia to help students understand something a little bit better, I do that. Whether I am talking about something in my senior geography class or my sophomore world history class, I include it because it’s, to me, important and is important to Europe and its history as well. If you look at basketball, I would say that the passion that Croatian’s generally have with competition and sports is genetic. Croatians take their sports, one of which is basketball, very seriously.”

I next asked him who his favorite Croatian basketball player is. He stated, “I would say, without question, it’s Dražen Petrović. Hearing stories of him and what he was doing in Europe prior to coming to the NBA and following his very short career in the NBA is what separates him from anybody else. I think international basketball wouldn’t be the same without Dražen. Also, I think that competition and passion were written all over his existence.”

I have always looked up to Dražen because of the Croatian influence that has been passed down from both my father and grandfather. I got the chance to see both the memorial for Dražen that is right outside the Cibona basketball arena and his gravesite in the Mirogoj Cemetery. These are two experiences that I will hold close to my heart throughout my entire life. One of my family’s pet beagles is even named after Dražen, the “Mozart of Basketball.”

The last question that I asked my father was, “Having grown up and played for your own father, Bob McDonald, at Chisholm High School, what is it like to now be able to coach your own son, Ayden at Hibbing High School?”

“It’s different, without question. I realize why my dad never really brought the game home with him. I never wanted to force the game upon either you or your brother. It’s really special to be able to coach your own children. I felt that I was a coach to you, even though I wasn’t on the bench during your games. It’s also complicated because of the perception that your children get special privileges when they play for you. But instead it is the hard work that is put in that separates certain players from others. Most of my coaching career has been coaching other people, so the reason I coach isn’t to simply be able to coach my own son. To some extent, all the players are kind of kids to me.”

I remember that all throughout my high school basketball career, after a game, I had to be the one that asked my father to talk about my performance. I think that having a father as a coach is something that is so very important. I will always remember the countless hours he and I spent in the gym. While I have shot thousands of shots in the gym, he has been an amazing rebounder for both my brother, Ayden, and I.

The interview that I did with my father, Joel McDonald was so fantastic to me. I have inherited a Croatian pride that will be with me forever. I hope to one day buy a house in Croatia. Then, I will be able to have my family over for a great vacation. I also hope to one day become fluent in the Croatian language, like my grandfather, Bob.

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2020 Summer Newsletter

Dear Minnesota Croatian Friends,

I hope that everyone is healthy and safe and is getting out a little bit more in Minnesota now that the restrictions have been lifted for restaurants and businesses. Even while we are restricted in our current activities, we are working on some fun things next year such as holding a Croatian Soccer Night with the Minneapolis Soccer league against a Croatian American team from Milwaukee. This could be a fun family event for our community.

Here is an update on some of the fundraising initiatives that was in our last newsletter.

1. CFU – Croatian Fraternal Union. They surpassed their goal and all funds were directed to the Croatian Red Cross. They raised close to $20,000.

2. NFCACF – National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation asked for donations for the Zagreb Museum of Arts and Crafts which received extensive damage. They were able to raise over $20,000 to help with the restoration of the museum. Marko Kirn met with them this past week to take a tour of the damages. It will take up to $18 million dollars for a complete restoration.

3. ACAP – Association of Croatian American Professionals. Supporting KB Dubrava (a hospital in Zagreb) and KBC (a hospital in Split) asking for funding for Medical equipment and supplies – they were able to raise almost $45,000.

The Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota had a very busy year planned for our community and so many things had to be cancelled such as the Timberwolves game, the Festival of Nations, our language classes, and our first ever Paint Night. But the Croatian Hall is opened again and they need our support. The Dubrovnik Paint Night has been rescheduled for Wednesday, July 1st at 6:00 pm at the Croatian Hall.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival went virtual this year instead of being postponed. Hopefully, some of you were able to enjoy viewing some of the Croatian films.

The Slavic Experience 2020 has been postponed until August 7th and 8th, 2021. It would be wonderful if the Minnesota Croatian community will participate in it. If anyone would like to champion this event, please contact me. For more information, please check their link to Facebook for this event or their website https://slavicexperience.com/.

Abbey McDonald from Hibbing, MN was our intern this past spring. Abbey had been busy working on our list of Noteworthy Minnesota Croats and finding their pictures. You can see the entire list here. It seems to be a list of mostly politicians and hockey players! Please feel free to send us any names that we missed.

Abbey also interviewed her father, Joel McDonald, who was named Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball in 1991 and scored over 3,000 points during his prep career. Abbey’s grandfather, Bob McDonald was the winningest high school basketball coach in Minnesota. Abbey herself scored over 2,000 points during her career – a true basketball family. You can read the interview in our newsletter. A big thanks to Abbey for all her help to our organization this year.

As we get closer to December, we will make a decision whether or not to hold our annual Christmas Party depending on the the outcome of the virus. The date is currently reserved for Saturday December 5th and we may only be allowed to have a smaller group attend.

My best to all – stay healthy!

Andrea Novak Neumann

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Newsletter Archive

An archive of our newsletters (dating back to 2018) can be found by visiting this site.