It's a pretty piece of river front property right in the commercial center of town. Acquired by PORT Group Homes in 1988, the land is sandwiched behind a car dealership and a Dairy Queen on the east side of the Mississippi River and holds 24 boys in a group home.
Like other Brainerd citizens, the boys ignored the river, enjoying the grassy field behind the home for softball in summer, not giving much thought to the natural river boundary unless an errant fly ball landed in the drink.
But this summer Mike snagged a 6-pound bass out of the river and since then, the boys have thought about little else.
"That was a trophy fish that should be hanging on someone's wall," said Jerry Welch, Boys Group Home house supervisor.
In no time, fishing fever spread throughout the house. Boys asked for rods and reels, while management looked at the feasibility of a dock.
Jeff got first crack at a fish from the fishing pier on the Mississippi River built by PORT staff and residents with funds from the Rotary Foundation.
In these days of shrinking budgets, it was Rotary to the rescue, the Rotary Foundation gifting PORT with $500, so boys could stand on a safe, flat surface in life vests and go after the big ones.
Dan Kuchera and George Klippenes, maintenance staff for PORT, bought the wood at a discount from United Building Center then apprenticed boys from the group home to help build the dock in two five-foot sections. Wood steps down the bank and a railing allow for easy access.
It was a hot August day when the boys carried the dock to the water, but large willows spread over much of the slick mud banks, keeping them cool.
The water is low this rain starved summer, so the dock went in a few feet above the bank, about halfway between the bridges of Washington and Laurel streets.
But the boys don't care. While group homes aren't summer camp, thanks to the generosity of the community, PORT boys learned something about carpentry and now get to fish on the banks of the mighty Mississippi.
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