JWRC Connection, Volume 2 | Jacob Wetterling Resource Center - Gundersen Health System
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JWRC Connection

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Welcome to JWRC Connection! The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed about the work we are doing in the Twin Cities and beyond to keep kids safe. We hope you enjoy the stories, updates, and opportunities found within these pages. JWRC, the families and communities we serve, thank you for your continued support.


Susan Swedell: Missing but not forgotten

Susan Swedell: Missing but not forgotten

A yearbook picture of Susan Swedell who has been missing for 30 years on Jan. 19, 2018.

When a person is reported missing, we never know how long it will be until they are found and what the outcome will be. We let families know we will be here to support them, no matter what happens in their case. We also know after someone is recovered, whether safe or not, the families continue to need support.

One of our long-term missing persons is Susan Swedell. Susan went missing 30 years ago (Jan. 19, 1988) from Lake Elmo, Minn., on her way home from work during a blizzard. Susan was just shy of her 19th birthday.

Because this year signifies the 30-year anniversary of her disappearance and her birthday on Feb. 13, her case has renewed interest. This is, and has always been, an open and active case with the Washington County Sheriff’s office.

Susan’s sister Christine and her mother Kathy have spent nearly 30 years waiting for answers. We make sure to connect with families and honor specific days we know may be difficult, such as birthdays, missing days, holidays and, in some cases, recovery dates. Both Christine and Kathy wanted to bring awareness to Susan’s case and asked for our help to organize a walk to honor Susan.

No matter how long a loved one may be missing, they are never forgotten.

Thank you for supporting this important work that we do for families.

Small gesture makes a lasting impact

JWRC rock cairn

Jane Straub built a rock cairn—a symbol for lost travelers—in Kauai, Hawaii, on the missing anniversary of a young man who has not been heard from since 2005.

“One of our long-term missing person cases involves a young man who flew to Kauai, Hawaii, for vacation and did not return on his flight to Minneapolis. I have been in contact with his mother via phone and email over the years. While on vacation in Kauai, Hawaii, I created a rock cairn for him. Rock cairns have been used for centuries by travelers to mark trails. We use them in the missing person field as a symbol to help the missing find their way home,” explains Jane Straub, NCPTC victim assistance specialist.

“I happened to be in Kauai on the anniversary of the day he went missing in 2005,” says Jane. “We try to connect with families on important dates such as the missing anniversary or birthday, as we know those days may be very difficult. I sent his mother a picture of the rock cairn as well as a picture of me with the structure. I let her know I was thinking of her and hoping her son would soon find his way home. Her response was of joy and gratitude. She stated her son would love the rock cairn. She was also pleased to let me know that although she had never met me, I looked exactly how she had pictured me in her mind.”

Family Gathering Retreat provides hope and healing

Family Gathering Retreat provides hope and healing

Families and JWRC staff members who attended the 2017 Family Gathering Retreat offer hope and support to each other.

Each year for over 20 years, Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) has been able to offer families of missing or murdered loved ones the opportunity to come together for a two-day Family Gathering Retreat. A generous gift from an anonymous donor family is largely what makes this event possible.

What family members find most valuable about Family Gathering is being with a group of people who have a mutual understanding of the loss they feel. The families and JWRC staff members were extremely fortunate to have Pauline Boss, PhD, author of “Ambiguous Loss” and “Loss, Trauma and Resilience,” attend the retreat this year. Dr. Boss led the group through a discussion of ambiguous loss, explaining how a traumatic loss is different from nontraumatic loss, and how valuable storytelling is to healing. According to a survey of attendees, the results were overwhelmingly positive for Dr. Boss’ participation and the opportunity to continue their learning and understanding of grief and healing.

In 2018 JWRC staff plan to increase contact with families year round. With various private events every few months, families will have the opportunity to connect more often and receive more support from staff and each other. The strength, empathy and support the families share with each other continues to be an awe-inspiring reminder of the power of connection and hope.

Thank you, Just for Kids Foundation!

Thank you, Just for Kids Foundation!

Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) is so thankful for the support of the Just for Kids Foundation. Board president Scott Maciej (left) and board secretary Margaret Benson (right) presented a check to JWRC staff, Alison Feigh and Abbey Lowenstein, for $17,511—funds raised from their annual golf tournament. “We remain so thankful for the impact this group makes on the lives of children in Minnesota. It was a joy to meet up at 3 Squares Restaurant, as they also support the golf tournament,” expresses Abbey.

Generosity was in the air Nov. 18

On Nov. 18, 2017, Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) was the benefitting organization at TPC ROSE’s 10th Annual Moonlight Gala. TPC ROSE is an all-volunteer organization of 70 women members of the TPC Twin Cities who share the mission to strengthen their community through service and philanthropy. Since 2008, TPC ROSE has raised and donated more than $700,000 to charities in the Twin Cities area.

JWRC is honored to have been chosen as their 2017 benefiting organization. The Ooh La La Gala was the pinnacle of TPC ROSE’s fundraising year, which included a women’s golf tournament and two evenings of Handbag Bingo and culminated in a check presentation to JWRC on Dec. 12. The generosity of TPC ROSE members and their community resulted in a record-breaking gift of $160,000. JWRC is grateful to TPC ROSE for the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of women in order to better serve our families and communities.

Reflecting on the evening, Alison Feigh, program manager, JWRC, says, “The energy in the room at the gala was electric. I was given the opportunity to speak about the work we do, recognize our co-founders Jerry and Patty Wetterling, recognize our amazing staff and thank the attendees for bringing this positivity and kindness into the world. We truly cannot do the work that we do every day without the support of amazing donors, and it was an honor to be able to thank them in person.”

TPC ROSE check presentation to JWRC

TPC ROSE board members with JWRC staff at the check presentation ceremony on Dec. 12.

TPC ROSE Moonlight Gala

Staff and friends of JWRC with JWRC co-founders, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, at the 2017 TPC ROSE Moonlight Gala on Nov. 18.

Training explores long-term effects of early adversity in life

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

In addition to supporting families of missing loved ones, staff at Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) train and educate professionals, families and communities on identifying harm, supporting survivors of abuse, and preventing violence and maltreatment. One topic gaining momentum is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and the impact of trauma. If this is a subject you would like to learn more about, click here for more information about future training opportunities. This training is for everyone.

Making a difference in the community

“I had a parent recently approach me after a speaking event. She told me her middle school-aged daughter came home from school after seeing the student online safety presentation. The daughter told her mom that she needed to hear the parent talk that night. The daughter told her mom the information was really important and she should really make time to go.” —Alison Feigh, program manager, JWRC.

Thank you to all of these schools and organizations for letting JWRC faculty speak on topics ranging from bullying, social media and Internet safety, to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma Informed Care.

Nativity of Mary School
Lakeville South
Lakes Center for Youth and Families
Minnesota Victim Assistance Academy
Chippewa Middle School

Volunteer highlight: Meet Wendy Lee

Tell us about yourself—your career, how long you have lived in the community and what your favorite part about living in the Twin Cities is.
I was born in Minneapolis at Swedish Hospital and grew up in Richfield, a few blocks from Southdale. At that time, it was fields we walked through to get there, and get a goldfish and nail polish at Woolworth's! That was at a time when you felt children were safe at shopping centers with friends.

In the 1970s, I was leasing manager of 1,200 small apartments on the East and West Bank of the U of M and then transferred to the 1,200 unit Cedar Square West complex, now known as Cedar Riverside. At that time, Mary Tyler Moore was supposed to live there and I was also the advertising and marketing manager, so we did a TV commercial with a look-a-like, a rental agent and myself. It was fun! Before VCRs! Bummers!

The 1980s brought me across the river to Cottage Grove where I lived for 30 years. I got a call from a friend who had a fire and needed a substitute at the School District Kid's Program and I said yes. I spent 27 years in Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), Elementary Special Education and the Computer Lab at the Alterative Learning Center (ALC).

I love the Twin Cities for the great theatre, dining and museums. Great walks around the lakes.

How long have you been volunteering with JWRC?
I have volunteered for Jacob Wetterling Resource Center since the very beginning (1990). I remember freezing by the lake, holding balloons for Jacob's birthday with my 20-month-old daughter and 7- and 10-year old sons.

How did you first become connected to JWRC and its mission?
I became connected through Joan, Patty and Jerry Wetterling. I started getting information out about Jacob and child safety at the Twin Cities Convention Centers for Kidfest and Kid Expo's. Back in the day of portable TV/VCRs, we showed a tape, gave out safety literature and pictures of missing children. We sold Jacob T-shirts. I recruited friends and relatives to staff the booths I was able to get donated for us.

Wendy Lee, JWRC volunteer

Wendy Lee, with her husband David and Twins Mascot TC Bear, at the 2nd annual Running HOME for Jacob 5K, October 2017.

What is your favorite part about working in the JWRC staff?
I have worked with a variety of staff over the years, but I really admire Alison Feigh for her determination, as a classmate of Jacob's, to pursue a career in child protection. All of the staff are very friendly and such an asset to families at a time of need.

What are you most excited to see happen with JWRC in the coming days, months and years?
I think it is great that JWRC was able to get a larger office space for training and more staff. I hope to see the walk/ run continue, and hope new opportunities for getting more information to all children and families will happen.

For more information on becoming a JWRC volunteer, contact Stephanie Randolph at smrandol@gundersenhealth.org.

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