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Say ‘Aloha’ to Darla

Darla Ellingson started as the new CEO and executive director of Perham’s museums on Aug. 1. Relatively new to Minnesota, she lived in Hawaii for 22 years before moving to the area. She has decades of experience with business and nonprofit development. Marie Nitke/Perham FOCUS

Perham, say “Aloha!” to Darla Ellingson.

After living in Hawaii for 22 years, Ellingson moved to Minnesota with her family a few years ago, and in August, she was hired to lead Perham’s two museums.

Darla Ellingson

Moving from beaches to blizzards was a big adjustment for her, but, with decades of similar professional experiences under her belt, moving into her new role at the museums came naturally.

“I feel very lucky to be here,” she said in a recent interview.

Ellingson joined the museums at a time of great change and transition. The In Their Own Words Veterans Museum was in the midst of a serious struggle with debt, the former museums director had retired, and very few board members were left to keep things going. Some people were speculating that ITOW might not make it, and would have to shut its doors.

Luckily, the board members that were left weren’t about to let that happen. They rolled up their shirtsleeves and got to work, tirelessly fundraising and arranging to make payments on any bills owed.

They also came up with a long-range plan in hopes of securing ITOW’s future, broadening its scope beyond that of only a museum, and opening up the building to more community groups and events.

Their plan also included the hire of a key person; a new leader who knew how to manage a nonprofit, how to fundraise, and how to write grants. Someone who could effectively take a ‘shoestring’ organization and nurture it back into something healthy, well-functioning and self-sustaining for well into the future.

They found that person in Ellingson.

“I was very grateful that we were able to recruit and retain Darla as CEO and executive director for the museums,” said Marcia Davis, museums board president. “Her previous experience, skills and passion for what she does made her a perfect fit.”

She added that Ellingson’s leadership has already made a difference: “Since August, she has worked diligently to build a strong foundation for our museums with new board bylaws, policies and procedures. She is helping target and has already recruited

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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