By Sarah Hanviriyapunt, for RiverReader.org

LANARK — In 2013, the City of Lanark took part in Western Illinois University’s Rural Affairs MAPPING (Management and Planning Programs Involving Nonmetropolitan Groups) program, “which leads citizens to create and map the steps toward accomplishing a a vision for their towns’ futures.” Five years later, many of the mapped-out “visions” have become reality.

In 2014, several committees were created out of this MAPPING program, including Lanark’s Cornucopia Committee, which heads up the Farmer’s Market, Lanark Area Community Foundation (LACF), Economic Development Committee, and the Transformers Team. Lanark’s existing Cornerstone Project, NFP, Lanark Community Club (LCC) and Friends of the Library were well-established, but were also a part of these MAPPING conversations, and all three groups continue to be active in the community, as well.

RiverReader recently spoke with two members of the Transformers Team, Denise Krysiak, a retired Eastland schoolteacher, and Rosemary Flikkema, owner of The Special Touch Flowers and Gifts, who gave great perspectives into this group’s origins, its accomplishments, and its goals for the future.

Krysiak said that the Transformers originally had a goal of “transforming the downtown and business district into an attractive retail center that supplies all of its residents’ needs,” while at the same time keeping the charm and history of Lanark’s downtown buildings and businesses intact.

The two women described how some of the first things the team focused on was giving Lanark’s downtown a fresh look. The team designed a beautiful new City of Lanark logo (seen above this article, as the featured photo), took over decorating the downtown concrete planters, designed and purchased custom pole banners to display on the light poles downtown, along with hanging flower baskets. 

All of these things have brought a crisp and clean new look to the downtown business district, as they have bolstered city pride, missing in Lanark for several years due to economic downturns and other difficulties in Northwest Illinois.

The Transformers have focused on creating events and festivals to attract visitors, and also to show off Lanark’s local businesses. The group originated and has run the Night of Possibility/Day of Possibility, Celebrate Lanark!, JingleFest, Explore Lanark and the Spring Fling events, and has had three consecutive and very successful Fashion Flip Events at Lanark’s Old Settlers’ Days celebrations.

(RiverReader photo by Sarah Hanviriyapunt)

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The Fashion Flip is an offshoot of the team’s “Transformations” clothing store project. The second-hand clothing store can be found inside The Special Touch Gift Shop, 504 West State Route 64 in Lanark, and offers many clothing selections for all ages and sizes, including infant and toddler clothing at only $0.50 each, while children’s and pre-teen sizes are $1 per piece, and teen/adult clothing is $2 per piece. (see photo, above, at left) Winter coats can be purchased for $5 each, regardless of size or type. Donations have included high-quality brands such as London Fog; it can’t ever hurt to peek through the offerings at the Transformations clothing store.

The Transformers also created the Shop Lanark! Card, which has been very successful in establishing a “shop Lanark first” mentality. Cards may be purchased at Lanark Food Center, Lanark Pharmacy and The Special Touch for $10, and offer great discounts, such as a BOGO 50% off your second LP cylinder at Carrol Service Co. All-in-all, there are 11 discounts available with the Shop Lanark! Card, so get yours today.

Photo of Larry Lott working on Welcome Cener

Larry Lott working on Welcome Center, during its construction in 2017.

The team visualized and built the Lanark Information Center (see photo at left) in the parking lot of City Hall/Lanark City Library, and they purchased an electronic marquee sign to advertise local events and businesses. It costs $5 per week to place a business advertisement on the marquee, and Lanark/Lake Carroll community events are free of charge. A request form will be made available here, for download, at a later date. Email Denise Krysiak for more information, at celebratelanark@gmail.com.

Krysiak emphasized that there were numerous contributions made by the volunteers and Carroll Service Co. to the Information Center. Carroll Service Company, donated the building materials, and sited it on the foundation put in by Burkholder and Sons. Members from the Lanark Community Club and others donated their time and effort, including Rod Grove, Andrew Hartman, Josh Kruse, Lynn Landherr, Mark Macomber, Mike Miller, and Mike and Alex York. Scott Lindstrom and Aaron Hubbard from Scott’s Electric, and the crew from WW Builders also contributed their skills. Donations from the City of Lanark, Lanark Chamber of Commerce, Ludwig Family Farms, and Pat Mucerino of Southview Car Wash allowed for the purchase of the electronic sign. Denise added that, “We would accomplish little without the contributions of businesses and and individuals who want to get things done in Lanark,”.

The Transformers have accomplished a great deal since the group was created, and they look forward to many more years of projects to complete, alongside Lanark’s many volunteers and businesses. Some of the things mentioned during RiverReader’s interview include mentoring/ internship/ job training projects for the youth of Lanark, assisting existing businesses, and to recruit new businesses to Lanark in order to have a self-sufficient town. One such idea is that Lanark has a need for a basic clothing store, and another thought is to extend more retail shopping beyond just downtown Lanark.

The need for new volunteers and new ideas is great, and exists in all the groups in Lanark. Cornerstone, Cornucopia, Transformers, Friends of the Library, LCC, LACF and the Economic Development Committees are all seeking new members. A lot has been accomplished in a few short years, and Lanark needs some new people to step up, offer new ideas and to breathe some fresh air into the city. 

Maybe you have a talent to offer Lanark that no one else has. Krysiak maintains a list of volunteers and the services they offer, so send her an email and let her know what you are able to offer this small, but vibrant city. Maybe you or a group you work with has a big project that needs volunteers. If so, ask Krysiak for her list of volunteers. Email her at celebratelanark@gmail.com.

The energy and positivity that this group has put forth into Lanark has certainly affected the flow of information, and the flow of people, to new and better places. Through working together, these groups and committees have made Lanark a better place. Join up with these folks to keep the progress going!

Thank you to the Transformers Team and all the other volunteers and groups/ committees working to improve and advance our little city. You don’t get thanked often enough, and we offer our sincere thanks and gratitude. Best wishes to all of Lanark’s volunteers and hard-working committees.

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