How to Build Community

MMFS Founder Robin Brooksbank stands with MMFS artisan-instructor Laurelei Creuzer at an Appreciation Event
By Laurelei Creuzer

From a speech Laurelei gave at the March 2024 MMFS Appreciation Event

Robin Brooksbank asked me to speak about how I view community and how it applies to Marine Mills Folk School.

For those of you who do not know me, let me fill you in on a few fun facts. I have been a Folk School junkie for decades. When I lived in Virginia Beach for 30-plus years, I yearned to attend a class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC – a folk school founded in 1925. 

It was just an 8-hour drive, but as a single mother of four, I never made it. I would receive their catalog each quarter and dream of taking JUST ONE CLASS!

When I moved back to northern Wisconsin in 2007, I discovered North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. Oh, my! I was only 3½ hours from my first folk school class! I would literally take a personal day (I’m a teacher), get up at 4:30 a.m. to drive north for a 9 a.m. class – and then drive home at 2 p.m. Yes. I am that person! 

I was hooked! I took many classes there, volunteered a few weekends for various projects, and watched their catalog for new offerings.

Those trips ended in 2018 when SOMEHOW, I caught wind of an emerging folk school RIGHT IN MY BACKYARD! I jumped at the chance to help make it happen! I crossed the river every chance I had and volunteered to clean, to host, to teach, and (of course) to take classes! 

I remember my first class was in Emily Anderson’s little shop downtown [Highway North]. It was a nälbinding class taught by Janet Ames, and it was grand! 

I also remember acting as a class day host when the school was utilizing River Grove Elementary’s classrooms. What a fun setting! The foraging class attendees found so many wonderful items to put together in the kitchen that day. 

That same year, I ended up teaching my Ukrainian Egg class at the Gammelgården Museum in Scandia. I’ve never been so nervous that an egg might hit the floor!

Eventually, this building [at 550 Pine Street] became available, and a call went out for volunteers to come clean it prior to the first classes. There were many volunteers that day and we CLEANED for hours. We were getting closer to hosting classes in our own space! It was so exciting!

Fast forward – past the online classes of 2020 and 2021 – to today. Remember how happy we all were to open these doors again to students? To gather and celebrate community IN PERSON?!

I am truly AMAZED at how far MMFS has come in such a short time. This community has been blessed by Robin’s vision and the hard and intelligent work of all those behind the scenes!  So many people have shared their talents – and continue to share their talents — with this fabulous venture to make this a space to unplug, to gather, to learn side-by-side with youngsters and oldsters – to be a place to celebrate community! 

Like the John C Campbell folk school, MMFS was founded by a woman! A woman whose heart is obviously all about community. This school is about bringing the best out of people. This space is all about inner growth as creative, thoughtful individuals and social development as tolerant, caring members of a community. 

I have a “How to Build Community” poster in my home.

So many of the ideas shared on it are part of what MMFS does so well:

Turn off your TV

Leave your house

Greet people

Know your neighbors

Play together

Listen to the birds

Help Carry Something Heavy

Start A Tradition

Ask a Question

Ask for Help when You need it

Share your skills

Seek to Understand 

Learn from New and Uncomfortable Angles

THAT is how I view community and how it applies to MMFS. Thank you.

Laurelei Creuzer teaches at Marine Mills Folk School. Search our Upcoming Events to see which classes she’s teaching.