Written By Emma Saxton
Jenell Feller has lived in International Falls for close to twenty five years. Jenell and her husband chose to live in International Falls because of the people. She thinks that the best people in the world live right here. Jenell is the executive director of Friends Against Abuse, an organization that serves victims of crime in Koochiching County and Lake of The Woods County. She does all of the administrative work such as writing grants and managing funding. She manages the staff, and together they do the programming and provide the services that make up Friends Against Abuse.
Friends Against Abuse is a private nonprofit classified as a 501-C3. They provide services to victims of crime, which is broken down into three categories. The first category is victims of domestic violence, which is the largest number of people they serve. In 2019 they served 250 victims of domestic violence. The second largest group they serve include victims of general crime. In our community this ends up mostly involving stalking and sexual harassment. In 2019 they served 119 people in this category. The third and most difficult category to serve is victims of sexual assault, and in 2019 that ended up being 18 people.
Friends Against Abuse also helps to pay for the training and recertification of the local SANE nurses, or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. They do a forensic exam on victims of sexual assault to obtain information that can be used in court. There are two SANE nurses in our community.
Another service Friends Against Abuse provides is supervised visitation. This allows kids to visit and spend time with their non-custodial parent. Oftentimes the parent may not have custody because they have very little experience as a parent, struggle with addiction, or have a history of abuse and neglect. Typically these visits are done in the Friends Against Abuse living room, but due to COVID-19 these visits are currently being done online.
You can reach Friends Against Abuse twenty four hours a day, seven days a week at any of their phone numbers. Outside of business hours there are phone advocates who will answer the phone. They can help anyone in crisis regardless of what the crisis is. Last year there were 224 calls to the crisis line, which ends up being approximately one call every business day. If someone is in an unsafe situation or they know of someone in an unsafe situation they can call the crisis line. The crisis line will give them resources based on their situation.
Another major program Friends Against Abuse provides is their podcast Gone. They recieve about 500 listeners a month. Since quarantine started all calls to the office have been reduced, and they suspect it is because victims, specifically of domestic violence, are being monitored at all times and cannot reach out to them. The podcast is the only area where their numbers have increased. Many organizations across the state that are similar to Friends Against Abuse have also seen a reduction of calls, although a few organizations have seen an increase in the number of calls.
If someone was having a mental health crisis they could call the crisis line, but Jenell recommends calling 211 which is the number that can help access the mobile crisis unit. The mobile crisis unit is specifically designed to help someone who is having a mental health crisis. You can call the crisis line at any time and they can provide that number and they will also provide additional resources if necessary. Sometimes someone just needs to talk out the issue. The way the crisis line responds is situational, and they will do whatever they can to help.
If someone is struggling with anxiety they can call the crisis line. If someone is just generally anxious, Jenell would offer suggestions such as exercise, reducing their caffeine intake, meditation, mindfulness, getting enough sleep, and using different breathing techniques. If the anxiety is causing panic attacks or anything extreme Jenell would recommend contacting a therapist or seeing your medical practitioner. Sometimes medication is needed to help reduce your anxiety.
Jenell thinks that many people may be experiencing decision fatigue right now, because COVID has turned decisions that would typically be inconsequential into major choices. A million more decisions need to be made just because of COVID, and it can become very stressful. Make sure to practice good self care, and see a professional if needed.
This is Jenell´s sixth year at Friends Against Abuse. To make it easier on the people working at Friends Against Abuse they have an office dog named Lucy. Jenell´s co-workers make sure to practice self-care and find joy wherever they can. Although she has a heavy job, there is a surprising amount of laughter and joy in their office.
24 Hour Crisis Line: 218-285-7220
24 Hour Crisis Line Toll Free: 1-888-344-3264
Help Line: 211
By: Ellen Windels
Harley Droba will serve his second term as mayor of
International Falls after winning the local election in November.
The Falls High Ink conducted an interview with Mayor Droba as
an introduction into who he is and how his mayorship will
Please provide a short introduction of yourself, including
your history with International Falls:
My name is Harley Droba, a 1996 graduate of FHS. I joined the US Army upon my graduation. I was trained as a 31R “multichannel and tropospheric scatter communications systems operator/maintainer, a fancy way to say I worked with satellite communications. In 2003 I moved back to International Falls. I have worked/managed both the Coffee Landing and the Espresso Lane over the last 17 years. Eight years ago, I felt compelled to run for ISD 361 School Board, I lost by 100 votes. Two years later I ran for City Council and I have served as a City Councilor up until the untimely death of my predecessor Mayor Bob Anderson. I was appointed Mayor on Oct 1, 2019 and have served in that capacity since.
What are some activities you enjoy doing in our area?
We all have reasons that we choose to live here. As weird as it is, I am not an outdoors person in any way. What I enjoy is that our community hosts lots of events and functions. I love organizing fundraisers, charity events, and helping others build our area one event at a time. This last summer my little group IFalls Nice started a drive-in movie in the High School parking lot. That was so much fun watching the happiness that it brought people in the area.
What do you think makes International Falls special?
Opportunity. There are very few places in this world that you can start a business or grow professionally like International Falls. I grew up in a low- income family on 9th street and despite my meager upbringing this community has allowed me to manage some great businesses. I have been able to purchase and sell the bowling alley, my wife has just purchased a flower shop on main street, and I have been able to become the Mayor. International Falls is a great place to start and grow a professional career and make a good life.
How has Covid affected you? How have you seen it affect our community?
COVID is such a crazy thing. I have always tried to be a compromiser. Give and take is truly how we make progress in most things. Covid is a different animal. With a world of information at your fingertips people can get information to back any crazy theory they want. Masks are good, masks are bad, this is a flu, this is a global pandemic. There is no compromise, every decision that is made in compromise makes both sides dangerously angry. So Covid has affected me that same as what I see in the community as a whole…Mental health. Stress, fear and concern for others is eating me up. I believe that we are so focused on the virus that we have neglected our mental health. Social distancing from friends and family in a time that we need others more than ever.
What is your plan for Covid-19 response?
We have been taking our response from Minnesota Department of Health. This is outside normal protocol for most municipalities. We feel it is best to listen to guidance from others and plan accordingly.
What is your relationship with the school? Did you go to Falls High?
I attended Falls Elementary, Backus Middle School and Falls High School, graduating in 1996. I was active in Knowledge Bowl, Theater, Student Council, Prom/Post Prom Committee member and being myself. I was… let’s just say different. I had a goldfish in my locker all four years of High School. I was co-emcee of my senior Homecoming pep fest, and voted “Teachers Pain”, “Most Talkative”, “Most Outgoing”, and “Most School Spirit”. To top off my FHS career I had my senior picture taken in a toga.
What changes do you plan to make in our area that would positively affect the
youth in International Falls?
I have been an advocate to reimagine Kerry Park. Our community needs a community center that offers programing, recreational activities, and new updated facilities. This is a major undertaking, but our youth need another safe place with activities outside of the school system. I would also see a program like Big Brothers/Big Sisters in our community. We must encourage our youth that this community is a place to start a business, create opportunities and make a home.
What role do you think the Mayor should play in our town?
The Mayor is the figure head of our community and I take that very seriously. The position of Mayor is 50% Student Council, 25% Speech Team, 25% Cheerleader. I believe that it is important to showcase our successes and strive for more. I want to encourage everyone to do better.
How do students get involved with local government?
Keep up on local issues. Read the Journal online or in print and listen to KGHS/KSDM & B93. Watch what we are doing on KCC-TV on YouTube or channel 7 on TV. Let us hear your thoughts. Tell us what you want. I am so concerned about your generation and the unfilled needs of our community to keep you here.