Area Briefs

2020 ChamberChoice Awards

MOORHEAD – This year’s ChamberChoice Awards pivoted to a virtual celebration of business, entrepreneurship and community. Emcee Patrick Kirby of Do Good Better Consulting hosted the virtual event with fun, anticipation and activities that kept the magic of the luncheon alive. Congratulations to the 2020 ChamberChoice candidates, finalists and winners.

Not-for-Profit of the Year: Valley Senior Services

Small Business of the Year: Sagency

Business of the Year: BNG Team

Young Professionals Best Place to Work: Vogel Law Firm

Entrepreneur of the Year: Tom McDougall, High Point Networks

People’s Choice: CHI Friendship


MOORHEAD – Moorhead Area Public Schools had 7,153 students in grades K-12 enrolled for the first day of school Sept. 8, which continues the recent trend of high enrollment. Students returned to fall instruction in a hybrid learning model which is a mix of distance learning and in-person classes, or Spud Academy, a virtual learning model available for families desiring full time distance learning. Spud Academy enrollment was 1,299 with 496 in grades K-4; 478 in grades 5-8 and 325 in grades 9-12.

The 2020-21 school year’s opening enrollment is 66 students more than last year’s. The number of students in the district will fluctuate over the next few weeks before stabilizing in October and November, according to historical trends.

 The current 2020-21 enrollment figures of 7,153 continue the trend of increasing enrollment in the district. Opening enrollment for the 2019-20 school year was 7,087; 20018-19 was 6,987; 2017-18 was 6,701 and 2016-17 was 6,538.

Grade 5 is the largest grade level with 624 students, followed by grade 1 with 603 students. The smallest classes are 10th grade at 494 and 11th grade at 508 students.

“We are pleased to welcome our students back, whether their first day was in-person as a Track A student, in distance learning as a Track B student or virtually as a Spud Academy student,” said Dr. Brandon Lunak, Superintendent. “After six months of being apart, there are a lot of smiles on the faces of students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators today. Although this is a unique fall with a lot of uncertainty, we are excited to bring our students and staff back in a way that protects our health and safety and provides educational excellence and equity for students.”

U of M Extension Master Gardener program applications open

The application period to become a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener is open through Oct. 1.

Extension Master Gardeners bring science-based horticulture knowledge and practices to Minnesota, promoting healthy landscapes and building communities through volunteer efforts.

Master Gardeners are respected as reliable sources of gardening information for Minnesotans.  

The University of Minnesota has trained thousands of Master Gardeners; each year, they contribute more than 140,000 hours of service in Minnesota communities.

This year, the training will be all online and spread out over 14 weeks, making the program more student-friendly than ever. To become a Master Gardener, individuals commit to complete online training and 50 hours of volunteering in the first year. After the first year, they commit 25 hours to annual volunteer work; many choose to devote more time to the program.

“Now more than ever, people around the state are turning to gardening as a soothing, family-friendly endeavor and a way to serve neighborhoods and communities. Interest in growing food is high, as is commitment to addressing local issues such as water quality and preservation of native plants,” said Tim Kenny, statewide director, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program. 

Master Gardeners come from all ages and backgrounds. To learn more about the program and apply, visit

I-94 Water Tower Art Options

MOORHEAD – In 2021, Moorhead Public Service will be performing required maintenance and recoating of the Interstate 94 water tower. As part of the tower rehabilitation, new artwork will be applied. With interstate highway traffic at this location reaching over 43,000 trips per day, this project will be the most visible and most viewed artistic application in the city. It will be seen by commuters, visitors and the local community and will provide a work of art to be enjoyed for 20 or more years.

The Churchill Group was selected in June to work with the community to develop a new design for the I-94 water tower. Over the past few months, Churchill Group has gathered feedback from Moorhead residents of all ages to inspire the design for the new tower. Design concepts have been drafted, and your opinion is needed once again.

Complete a survey that will help with selection and refinement of the design here:

The survey is open until September 13, 2020. 

Sanford Health opens first-in-the-nation trial to treat COVID-19 patients with umbilical stem cells from RESTEM

SIOUX FALLS, SD – Sanford Health, the largest provider of rural healthcare in the country, today announced it has opened a Phase 1/2a trial using umbilical cord lining stem cells (ULSCs) to treat patients with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, both prior to being placed on a ventilator as well as after requiring ventilator support. The study is the first of its kind in the U.S.

“We’re committed to bringing the best treatments and discoveries to our patients first,” said David A. Pearce, PhD, president of innovation and research at Sanford Health. “We are thrilled to be the first health system in the country to open this trial and offer access to a novel treatment option to our patients with severe cases of COVID-19.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled and blinded study will look at whether infusing patients with ULSCs may be a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19. The trial also aims to identify the population that will benefit most optimally by enrolling patients with moderate to severe COVID-19.

“We are optimistic about the potential improvement with this treatment,” said Dr. W. Chad Spanos, MD, principal investigator of the clinical trial at Sanford Health. “We look forward to enrolling more patients onto this trial and bringing promising new treatment options to our patients’ bedside in the future.”

The trial has already enrolled five patients at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and may expand to Fargo, North Dakota.

“It’s a pleasure to work with Sanford Health and their team of professionals,” said Dr. Rafael Gonzalez, senior vice president of research & development for RESTEM. “We have spent many years researching the properties of ULSCs in order to assure we are delivering the best quality cells that may provide a robust response. We look forward to the results of the study.”

RESTEM’s cells are grown from umbilical cord tissue by a proprietary process that allows millions of doses to be replicated rapidly.

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