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Wendy Reuer, Published November 21 2012

‘Chain of thanks’ stretches from coffee shop to boardroom

FARGO – It’s the little things that can make the biggest difference.

As many sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, a round of gratitude is offered up for the many blessings throughout the year. But outside one’s circle of friends and family, there are often others who have made an impact, whether by small acts of kindness or simply carving out a bit of time.

So The Forum set out to form a “chain of thanks,” linking others not by blood or proxy but by asking Fargo-Moorhead residents whom they are thankful for, then asking one of the people they named to do the same. The gratitude flowed deep, unhampered by distance and time.

We started with a reader who responded to an online query: Robin Salter, a native of Iowa who now lives with her husband and family in West Fargo.

Salter is thankful for Megan Hastings

Salter, a busy mother of two who runs the West Fargo Caribou Coffee, said she is thankful for co-worker Megan Hastings.

Not only does Hastings make Salter’s job easier, she made losing weight more fun. The two joined a gym together and have been motivating each other ever since.

“Without her, I would never have lost all that baby weight,” Salter said.

Hastings said it is surprising she and Salter get on so well, as the two personalities are “completely opposite.”

Hastings, of West Fargo, said the gratitude is mutual. Salter’s cool head helps her “keep my sanity,” she said.

Hastings is thankful for Julie Pallum

Hastings said that despite hectic schedules, Pallum invites her and her family over for twice-a-month dinners.

“She is always such a good listener and gives the best advice,” Hastings said of Pallum.

Pallum, a mother of three children, ages 5 and under, said she was surprised Hastings would mention her, but she looks forward to the regular get-togethers.

Pallum is thankful for the Rev. Kevin Zellers

Pallum first met Zellers at age 5 in her hometown of Beach.

Pallum later moved to West Fargo, where she and Zellers crossed paths again when he became a pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church.

Although Zeller’s life’s work has since moved him to North Branch, Minn., Pallum credits him with helping her strengthen her relationship with God and moving her past troubles in life.

“He is super easy to talk to, and when I had really big problems in my life, I could go to him,” Pallum said.

Zellers returned Pallum’s warm regards, calling her a “lovely young lady.”

Zellers is thankful for Jerry Barnum

Though he now lives nearly 250 miles away, Zellers keeps former parishioner Jerry Barnum close to his heart.

Zellers said not only does Barnum, principal of Harwood Elementary School in Harwood, make an impact on young lives every day, he made an impact on Zellers for simply being the kind of person he is.

“He’s just a great guy. He had a wonderful way of putting things in perspective and minimizing offenses,” Zellers said.

Barnum was surprised by Zellers’ mention.

“That is so cool,” Barnum said. “We were always thankful for him, too. We were so impressed with his connection with God.”

Barnum is thankful for Marvin Leidal

Leidal was a teacher, high school principal and West Fargo superintendent from 1960 until he retired in 1999.

Barnum said Leidal possessed a gentle, calm demeanor that made him an “excellent” mentor.

“Marvin taught me that every interaction with a person is an important interaction,” Barnum said. “He taught me that it is so important to value the children and that the children are the reason we do what we do.”

To be honored for his work was humbling, Leidal said.

“Anybody who would say that would surprise me,” Leidal said, as he quickly passed praise back to Barnum. “He could solve problems in a very caring way.”

Leidal is thankful for Brad Schmidt

Schmidt, vice president of engineering and operations at Cass County Electric, served on the West Fargo School Board for seven years when Leidal was working in the district.

“Some people can be intelligent but are not wise. He has wisdom and intelligence. Those are two characteristics that can make for a pretty impressive person,” Leidal said. “He will do most anything for anyone.”

But it is Leidal whom Schmidt said he truly learned from.

Schmidt lost his father early in life. He said he learned much more from Leidal than boardroom business.

“I probably learned more out of life from Marvin than anybody,” Schmidt said. “That was probably one of the most profound learning times of my life.”

While Leidal made a big impact on Schmidt’s life, Schmidt said gestures don’t have to be grand to be noticed.

He said anything from opening a door for someone else to simply a smile and “hello” can be a game-changer.

“That can make all the difference in somebody’s day,” he said.

Schmidt said he sees it happen every day.

“Here, you pass someone and you get a wave,” he said. “You see those warm, friendly people on the road all the time. That’s what is pretty special about North Dakota.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530