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Foster parenting can also help the parents

Mike Trowbridge, the store manager of Hirshfield's in Baxter, said he takes fun

Mike Trowbridge finds his inspiration in more unorthodox ways than most. The most recent life-changing decision was inspired by the animated film "Despicable Me."

 The scenario is a bit different for the Trowbridges. Unlike the main character of the film, Mike is not an evil villain plotting his greatest heist with the help of three little orphan girls, but he and his wife, Tamra, have been thinking about becoming foster parents.

Trowbridge said it wasn't until he and his wife saw "Despicable Me" that he gave the prospect of foster parenting a serious thought. "We had both been thinking about it for years, but never said anything to each other," Trowbridge said. "That was the kick- we knew this is the right thing."

Trowbridge, originally from Williston, N.D., comes from a large family- five brothers and five sisters. Trowbridge said he loved growing up with the unique support system that comes with having lots of siblings. "We figured, why not give some of these kids an opportunity," Trowbridge said of the decision to foster parent. He and Tamra have three daughters of their own - Taylor, 14, Madison, 11, and Ellie, 8.

"That's why I don't have any hair," Trowbridge joked about his bald head. "You should have seen the locks on my head before I had children."

The Trowbridges were recently approved to serve as foster parents and said the waiting part has been exciting and unpredictable. "It can be anywhere from five minutes to a couple of days' notice," Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge said that he and his wife will first serve as respite care providers as a sort of practice for later opportunities to serve as long term foster parents.

On Jan. 28, Mike and Tamra received their first foster child, a 14-month-old boy who he called "Lee." Mike said it has been a great experience thus far and they are excited about the future. "It's going really well," Trowbridge said. "We've learned a lot already. I think it's actually helped us more than it's helped him."

Mike and Tamra Trowbridge moved to the Brainerd area in 1999 when Mike was offered a job with an area commercial painting supply company. Trowbridge started selling paint in 1994 in Williston. He and Tamra moved to Fargo in 1997, and before accepting the position in Brainerd, was working four jobs at one time. "My best friend's dad offered me a job with him in (the Brainerd area) and said, 'I'll pay you more than all of them combined,'" Trowbridge said. "That was it. We decided to make the move."

Trowbridge now works for Hirschfield's Paint in Baxter as the general manager. Hirshfield's is a Minnesota-based paint manufacturer. Trowbridge said the Baxter store mixes paint and stains for commercial contractors but it is always happy to help out those brave enough to take on their own home improvement projects. "We don't ever turn a retail customer away," he said.

Trowbridge said his store mixes good humor in with the day-to-day routine of matching paint colors and concocting stains. "We have a lot of fun around here," he said. "We try to keep it loose."

Trowbridge said he enjoys his time at work, but he takes the fun with him even when he's not on the clock. He's a bit of a board game junkie and said he loves game night. "I call all the time to invite myself over to friends' houses," he explained. "We are terrible hermits. We need people."

Trowbridge said his three daughters keep he and Tamra, a physical therapist in Pequot Lakes, busy with their sports practices and games, dance practice and choir practice. And starting next year, the girls will be at three different schools.

"The good news is I have no more hair to lose," Trowbridge said.

SARAH NELSON may be reached at or 855-5879.