Christmas came early, or late, depending on how you look at it; but ‘Santa’ arrived Feb. 25th– bearing gifts of more than $200,000 to Pelican institutions

Christmas came early in Pelican Rapids. Really early. 

Representing the Carlson family, Karen Engler and Carol Schuster, presented a substantial gift Feb. 25 for the Pelican Valley memory care operation. The gift was courtesy the Howard and Theora (Teddi) Carlson Charitable Remainder Trust. Pelican Valley Hospital District board members are in the background. Standing from left, Richard Bratlien, Mark Sjostrom, John Waller, and Les Rotz. Seated, Brad Knorr, Brian Evenson and Dave Slotten.

Tens of thousands of dollars in gifts were bestowed on  several Pelican institutions–all in a two hour time span on the 25th, of February.  

The spree of generosity began at the Pelican Valley Hospital District board meeting, where  a check for nearly $164,000 was presented. “Santa’s elves” were Karen (Carlson) Engler  and Carol (Carlson) Schuster, both of Fargo but proud Pelican ex-patriots. 

Mr. and Mrs. Santa: The late Howard and Theodora  “Teddi” Carlson–a couple with a passion for Pelican.  

The Carlsons established a trust in about 2006, in the financial and estate planning process. So impressed with the care Teddi received for five years at Pelican Valley, at the end of her life, Howard Carlson wanted to ensure that the senior care facility was included on the “Christmas list.” 

“If my father were here, he would first thank each of you for volunteering your time to be on the Board,” said Karen, at the Pelican Valley meeting.   “Secondly, he would  probably look you in the eye… then say that you all need to plan for your families, for when you are gone or ill, and do not forget to leave something  for your community and church  so that they can continue to grow.”

Carol (Carlson) Schuster and Karen (Carlson) Engler, after presenting a substantial check to Trinity Lutheran Church and the Pelican Valley Cemetery. Representing the church, Rev. Scott Block and Winnie Martinson; and Wayne Runningen far right representing the cemetery.

That same evening, Feb. 25, Karen and Carol went across town from Pelican Valley to the Pelican Rapids Public Library, where they presented checks to the library and also to Trinity Lutheran Church and the Pelican Valley Cemetery–where Howard and Teddi are resting.  Teddi died in 2014, and Howard in fall  2018.  

Well known in the turkey growers industry, across the state and nation, Howard Carlson was the first general manager when Pelican’s West Central Turkeys processing plant went online in 1956. He is credited with being a crucial figure in the evolution of the turkey business in Pelican Rapids. 

The Carlsons raised seven children in Pelican Rapids–all of them Sunday school “graduates” and confirmed at Trinity Lutheran. They are Sherry Brickzin, Brian Carlson, Randy Carlson, Craig Carlson, Karen Engler, Carol Schuster and Gary Carlson.  

“Memory care” was important to the Carlsons, and the family asked that the $164,000 be used to offset basically all of the cost of the remodeling that will transition the “Riverfront on Main” (former Good Samaritan) into an “all memory-dementia”  care facility. 

Teddi became a resident because of Alzheimer’s. 

Carol Schuster and Karen Engler, center, presenting a gift to the Pelican Rapids Public Library Feb. 25. Library board member Wayne Runningen is at left; and library director Annie Wrigg is at right. The gift was from their late parents Howard and Teddi Carlson’s charitable trust.

“My dad would cry every time he talked about having to admit my mom …even though he knew she was well taken care of.   The staff from the nursing home would call or talk to my dad with updates…and my dad would say, “Give my queen whatever she wants or needs.  I want the best for her,” wrote Karen in a statement to Pelican Valley.

“It really meant a lot to me and to my 6 siblings to know that my mom was  in her home town of almost 60 years, and that she was being taken care of by people who we knew personally.  These were people that went to our church, or were our  classmates or family members of our classmates. These were people who our family knew and trusted, and that is why it made it easier for us,” she continued. 

As her cognitive skills further deteriorated, Teddi would wander the halls, enter other’s room and “start organizing drawers and shelves,” chuckled Karen in an interview with the Press. “When you raise seven kids, that’s what you do–go around rooms and orangize.” 

Well, Pelican Valley was not structured for memory care in those years, and the family feared they would have to relocate her. 

“This made us so sad,” wrote Karen.  “We did not want to move her from a place we  trusted,  and one that my dad had named “Teddi’s home away from home.”    As we started the process of looking for a different place, my mother had a fall and no longer wanted to walk on her own.  Now that she was immobile,  Pelican was able to keep her. Although we didn’t like the fact that she was no longer walking, it did have a silver lining, and she was able to stay in Pelican.”

 The importance of a senior care facility, for long term and memory care, was emphasized by Karen.  She further stressed the importance of a staffing ratio that provides sufficient care per resident.  

The substantial gift, from the Carlson Charitable Remainder Trust, left Pelican Valley board chairman Richard Bratlien speechless.  

“I don’t even know what to say,” said  Bratlien.  “It is amazing to have people in the community with hearts like this.” 

Board member Les Rotz later commented that, “it’s really nice to receive something from a local, well-known family that feels so strongly about Pelican Valley.” The Carlsons have always been “very pro-Pelican,” noted Rotz, who also credited staff past and present who have provided the quality of care that inspired such a gift.  

A special celebration will be planned this summer, to honor the Carlsons and Pelican Valley’s commitment to memory care.

The remodeling at Riverfront on Main will feature single room care suites and abundant common areas.  The renovations will include an easily accessible, secure, fenced in outside area with raised flower and vegetable garden beds, among other amenities. 

Library, Trinity church, Pelican Valley Cemetery receive financial gifts from Carlson trust 

Pelican Rapids was close to the heart of the late Howard and Teddi Carlson, which prompted the couple to include the community in estate planning. 

They valued the church and education, and displayed their values in charitable trust gifts to the Pelican Rapids  Public Library; and to Trinity Lutheran Church.  They were longtime members of the church, and all seven of their children were confirmed at Trinity. 

Pelican library director Annie Wrigg was thrilled to receive the gift,  of $18,734.  Use of the money is not specified by the family, so the library board will be discussing options for investing the money at coming meetings.  

Wrigg said that both Howard and Teddi were library patrons.

Meanwhile, another check was presented to Trinity Lutheran–but with the intent to split the proceeds with the Pelican Valley Cemetery, where the Carlsons are buried. 

The practice at Trinity has been to keep the sum of donations and gifts private, so Rev. Block asked that the total of the check remain unpublished.