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Grand Forks volunteers come to help in Bemidji

Hailee Hawthorne, 17, of Grand Forks, works to clean the bathroom at a Bemidji business Monday afternoon. She is part of a 14-member group from Cottonwood Community Church in Grand Forks, N.D., that has come to the Bemidji area for the summer to volunteer. Pioneer Photo/Bethany Wesley

Interested in spending your summer scrubbing toilets?

A group of 14 people from a North Dakota church has come to Bemidji this summer to spread goodwill and volunteer.

They come from Cottonwood Community Church in Grand Forks, N.D., where they all are involved in the Leaders in Training Program.

"We're just doing random acts of kindness," said Hailee Hawthorne, 17, of Grand Forks, who will begin college at the University of North Dakota this fall.

The group chose the Bemidji area because of its central location to area reservations. The volunteers have been going out and meeting people, talking about their work and popping into area businesses to see if they could be of any assistance.

And, they've been cleaning bathrooms.

They arrived here in mid-May and are staying in Tamarack Hall at Bemidji State University.

While in the area, the volunteers are considering the possibility of a "church plant," having the Grand Forks church expand to Bemidji.

Cottonwood Community Church is a Christian church that presents Biblical lessons in a non-traditional, contemporary way in a casual atmosphere, according to its Web site.

"We're a church that actively looks to share kindness and God's love," said Tyler Anderson, 33, a student at the University of Minnesota-Crookston.

Their main goal for the summer is to volunteer and perform random acts of kindness.

After stopping by the Pioneer Monday, the pair was interviewed - but both said they didn't come to the newspaper office to seek publicity.

"We more or less came here to clean toilets," Anderson said.

Which hasn't always been easy.

Hawthorne said that when she first arrived to volunteer, she was not thrilled with the tasks ahead of her.

"I was so in a bad mood," she said. "But I prayed on it and decided to leave the bad attitude behind. Now I'm having fun."

In addition to volunteering, the group has gone to the Lake Bemidji waterfront to simply meet people and talk. Earlier this summer, they offered hot chocolate as a social activity, and the volunteers plan to have a water bottle giveaway and a hot dog barbeque.

"That's what it's all about, making new relationships," Hawthrone said. "We want to get to know the people."