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BIZ BUZZ: Photographers donate time for deploying soldiers

Photographers in the area are among those donating their time to provide free portraits for the families of more than 750 deploying soldiers gathered at Cragun’s resort this weekend. 

Mike Aulie, Deerwood, coordinated the effort after a chance contact with Cragun’s staff. Now more than 20 photographers from four states are volunteering to take the family portraits. The deploying soldiers are part of a Family Preparation Academy Saturday and Sunday. Aulie is president of the Northern Lights Professional Photographers Association. 

Aulie, also Deerwood mayor, said when he first learned of the date for the last weekend in February, his heart sank. The date came at the same time as the photographer’s association annual convention at Breezy Point Resort. The association includes photographers from Minnesota along with North Dakota and South Dakota. 

“Logistically, it scared the heck out of me with all the planning for the convention,” Aulie stated. “But after talking with some of my convention planners, we decided to put out an e-mail blast to our members and see who could help.

“Within four minutes, I had my first response saying ‘count me in’ and from that point on, it grew legs of its own. The next morning, I had a call from the national sales manager from one of our industry professional labs offering to print the photos at no charge.”

Each family will receive a free 8x10 photo along with a 5x7 photo and four wallet photographs. The photographers are donating the time at their own expense and include the volunteer assistance of Hennepin Technical College photo students. One of the photo students will act as an on-site coordinator for the weekend effort.

Aulie reported photographers planned to work from four stations in two- to three-hour shifts each, taking photos from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days, or longer if needed. 

Photographers at the convention also offered to donate their time to help with the project. Aulie is photographer/owner of Sothers Studio in Brainerd. He started working at Sothers Studio in 1967 when he was a Crosby-Ironton High School.

Aulie said some photographers are coming to the area, including one from Wisconsin, just to help with the military family portrait project. 

“Everyone involved with the project is eager and excited to do something for the soldiers and their families who sacrifice so much for all of us and our country,” Aulie said. 

The military Family Preparation Academy has workshops to provide information on programming for children for during deployments, technology to stay connected while soldiers are in Iraq and Kuwait such as Skype, strengthening relationships, education, finances, healthcare, career and life planning, faith-based resources, stress reduction and wellness. 

Pizza Ranch will be on the menu this spring. Pizza Ranch is continuing on it’s track for a likely late March opening. The restaurant is going into the North Pointe Centre just off Edgewood Drive in Baxter along Highway 371 North. It’s in the mall by Buffalo Wild Wings. 

Speculation regarding the addition of a Costco, which came up in Feb. 19 Biz Buzz column continued this week. A Nisswa couple reported they were told a Costco was opening here when they were shopping at a Costco in Maple Grove. The store manager at the Maple Grove store reported Thursday he did not have any knowledge of a Costco addition here. The Costco corporate office is in Issaquah, Wash. 

The Costco website includes a list of locations coming soon. A number are listed but none in the Brainerd lakes area, or Minnesota for that matter. 

Avada Hearing is moving from south Brainerd to Baxter. The new office is 7656 Design Drive, Suite 300. 

Lakewood Health System expanded its Staples clinic hours to include 5-8 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Beginning March 5, the Staples clinic will also be open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon for walk-in visits. 

Saturdays will be set aside for medical conditions that are not life-threatening but that require more immediate attention. A Grand Opening Celebration is planned 2 p.m. Monday at Lakewood’s Staples clinic, 49725 County Road 83.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at or 855-5852.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.