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Ben Berger, Osakis 6th grader, took first place in the 44th annual Minnesota State Free Throw shooting championship sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. (Contributed)1 / 4
Members of the Alexandria Garden Club plant an emerald lustre maple tree at City Park in Alexandria. Members pictured include (left to right) Linda Vickstrom, Ceil Campbell, Tommie Plaster and Linda Maack. (Contributed)2 / 4
A big crowd turned out for the National Day of Prayer Breakfast in Alexandria at 5:45 a.m. on May 3. (Contributed) 3 / 4
CEO Carl Vaagenes raises his hand shortly before revealing that Alomere Health will be the new name for Douglas County Hospital and its partners. (Ross Evavold / Echo Press)4 / 4

Hospital's new name

Thumbs Up: Douglas County Hospital's new name — Alomere Health — will take a little getting used to but it is a good name. In the words of retired hospital administrator Bill Flaig: "It's simple, straightforward and different," he said, adding that it reflects the hospital's growing service area that reaches far beyond Douglas County. The hospital and its clinics serve patients from 186 zip codes. While Alomere can't be found in the dictionary, it's a combination of two words: "alo," meaning to nurture or strengthen, and an old English word, "mere," or lake. Hospital CEO Carl Vaagenes pointed out that those two concepts honor the hospital's passion and purpose, along with the hospital's heritage and location. There's no denying all the work and consideration hospital leaders put into the new branding. They started the process more than 18 months ago, getting feedback and ideas from more than 900 employees and 400 community members. Sister Patrice Kiefer, who led a prayer during the program to unveil the name, stated afterward that she was impressed with how much work went into choosing Alomere. "It's not just a name," she said. "It's meaningful, and it's very well thought out. It speaks to who the hospital is — we're here to give meaningful care to people." Not everyone likes the name — that's expected any time a change is made. But we hope the naysayers will come around and accept the change, realizing that our county-owned hospital's excellent legacy of service will continue.

A green idea

Thumbs Up: We give the Alexandria Garden Club a green thumbs up for once again planting a tree as part of Arbor Day. Although the holiday was observed back on April 27, the ground wasn't ready for a tree planting until last week. Members of the club planted an emerald lustre maple tree at City Park. The hardy tree, with its red-tinged foliage that will mature to glossy deep green, will make a colorful addition to the park.

Members of the Garden Club in the picture: Linda Vickstrom, Ceil Campbell, Tommie Plaster and Linda Maack.

Poppy supporters

Thumbs Up:The VFW Post 936 and Auxiliary appreciates all the local businesses that donated and are displaying their "Buddy Poppy" cards in their businesses in support of veterans. All the money raised will help veterans and their families. "We also want to thank community members who donated to our Buddy Poppy street sales," said Cecilia Haffner, VFW Buddy Poppy chair. "Wear your Buddy Poppy proudly to show support for our veterans both at home and abroad. Freedom is not free!"

Power of prayer

Thumbs Up: The National Day of Prayer observed in Alexandria on May 3 was a resounding success. Hundreds of people woke up well before sunrise to attend a 5:45 a.m. breakfast at Broadway Ballroom. With a theme of "Pray for America — Unity," participants offered prayers at Alexandria City Hall from noon to 12:30 p.m. Several churches conducted services and prayer times. A lot of pre-planning went into the National Day of Prayer, which invites people of all faiths ro pray for the nation.

Skillful shooters

Thumbs Up: Ben Berger, Osakis sixth-grader and Alexandria resident, took first place in the 44th annual Minnesota State Free Throw Shooting Championship sponsored by the Knights of Columbus last month. He competed against 11 other state finalists and won the competition by making 24 of his 25 free throws. In addition, to Ben, two other Osakis students took home trophies. Isaac Maddock made 20 of his 25 free throws to take third place, and his sister, Leah, made 15 of her 25 free throws to also take home third place. These kids didn't just pick up a basketball and fling it to the hoop. They spent a lot of time sharpening their skills and deserve "thumbs up" recognition.