Bruce and Kathy Buxton are Brainerd’s August Community Members of the Month, but they really don’t want all the recognition for themselves.

“Everything that we do, we always have a backup group that helps us,” Kathy said. “It isn’t just Bruce and I that do this stuff. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes that help us.”

That “stuff” includes helping to organize events like Relay for Life and spearheading community efforts like River to Rail. An ongoing initiative to revitalize Brainerd, River to Rail focuses its work on the downtown area between the Northern Pacific Center and the Mississippi River, and Washington and Oak streets.

Both now retired, Bruce previously worked as a civil engineer for Widseth Smith Nolting, while Kathy ran her own business -- A Woman’s Choice -- where she fitted women who had had mastectomies with breast prosthetics. In 2010, Kathy also initiated The Pink Ribbon Cupboard, a program offering emergency assistance for non-medical needs and expenses for those undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

“They’ve done a lot of work with cancer patients and survivors and asked for no recognition,” Mayor Ed Menk said as he presented the couple with the award Monday, Aug. 5. “Recently Bruce has started doing the River to Rail -- again, no recognition. He just wanted to do it because he likes it and he’s a nice guy.”

Brainerd Mayor Ed Menk (right) presents Bruce and Kathy Buxton with a plaque to honor them as August Community Members of the Month. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd Mayor Ed Menk (right) presents Bruce and Kathy Buxton with a plaque to honor them as August Community Members of the Month. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Bruce said River to Rail wouldn’t be possible, though, if it weren’t for the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Brainerd Restoration, the chamber of commerce and all the other participants and investors putting money into the project.

“I’m just volunteering, trying to do something, but there’s a lot of people behind it,” he said.

And one way Bruce believes he and his wife are able to find so many generous volunteers to work with is because of the gratitude Kathy gives the teams of people after each event.

“They get a personal, handwritten thank you for her,” Bruce said. “And people say, ‘You know what? That’s a lost art. Most people don’t do that anymore.’”

When asked why they feel the desire to be involved in so many activities and events in the community, both Bruce and Kathy had the same response: “We live here.”

“Both of us have always felt, we made our living here, we want to give back,” Kathy added.

It’s been their home for the last 41 years, and they just feel called to help, whether it’s involvement with the chamber, BLAEDC, the Susan G. Komen Board, the hospital board or any of the other plethora of organizations they’re involved with.

But again, the Buxtons stressed it isn’t just them.

“We want everybody to understand that it’s the group behind us and with us that really deserves the thank you and the accolades and everything else,” Bruce said.

“We couldn’t do this alone,” Kathy added.

Nominate a community member

Know someone in Brainerd who goes above and beyond for their community? Someone who often works behind the scenes without gaining recognition?

The city of Brainerd is continuously taking nominations for Community Member(s) of the Month. Nominations can be found on the community development page of the city’s website at http://ci.brainerd.mn.us/208/Community-Development or picked up at city hall.

If a nominee does not get picked one month, their name stays in the running for future months.

The city council recognizes the winner during the first council meeting of each month.