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Our view: We need more like Westvaal, Patrick

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opinion Duluth, 55802
Duluth News Tribune
(218) 723-5295 customer support
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

One started serving the community he loves shortly after moving in near Central Hillside’s Cascade Park in Duluth. After getting home from his night shift as a paper mill worker, Michael Westvaal conducted daily garbage sweeps, picking up and throwing out broken glass, litter and worse — some days far worse — from the park’s concrete pavilion and grounds areas.

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Others noticed. Someone cared.

“Without some minimal care from one person, people would look at Cascade as a lost cause. After two years of upkeep, including hours of trimming areas of high grass and weeds, one can see a future for the park,” the News Tribune’s Michael Creger wrote in a column Sunday. “Westvaal tries to work with the city in reminding them of what is needed at the park: new lights, garbage cans, benches, tables and signs. He’s slowly getting a better response.”

Another started serving the hometown he loved in 1995 after landing a job there as a police officer. His dream job. Over nearly two decades, Officer Scott Patrick became well-known in Mendota Heights, Minn., and became the senior-most officer at his small, suburban department. He was a “family man,” a “jolly guy,” and the type who’d stop by to check on a teen in the hospital after an accident or to pop in just about anywhere, if only to chat, according to news reports.

A week ago today, Patrick gave the ultimate sacrifice to his community. He was shot in the line of duty in what began as a routine traffic stop. His funeral is today. Thousands of mourners are expected to line up along the entire eight-mile procession from

St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in West St. Paul to Acacia Park Cemetery in Mendota Heights.

Chances are, had he not been killed, Patrick and his extraordinary ordinariness would have gone largely unnoticed.

And had no column been written, all that Westvaal is doing would have been missed by most in Duluth.

They’re just two people. But they’re also two examples of the countless many out there who are working and striving every day to make our communities better places. Cleaner places. Safer places. Not for any attention but because it needs to be done.

Every community needs citizens like Westvaal and Patrick. Check that: Every community needs more citizens like Westvaal and Patrick — and for far more of us to step up and to emulate them and their efforts. We can all do our part. Or some part. Whether anyone ever hears about it or not.

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