By Barbie Porter


Contributed photo
Tracy Neuffer was recently hired as the CornerStone exective director. Pictured with her are her family. Front, from left: Mikah, their dog Zaaga (which is the Ojibwe word for love), Tracy, olivia, (back) Lucas and her husband Michael.  

The CornerStone youth community center hired Tracy Neuffer as its executive director.

The Detroit Lakes resident was raised in Mahnomen and is excited to be part of the community-driven project.

“The people I have met in Frazee so far have been unbelievably kind and friendly,” she said.  

Neuffer grew up next to the country club in Mahnomen, and she spent many hours on the course with her dad and younger brother.  Her father was a barber and worked at the casino as a shift manager while her mother worked in the insurance business. Her youth was filled with extended family and many visits to her grandmother who only lived a block away. 

Coming from a working class family, Neuffer said she never thought of college until a few aunts and uncles enrolled and shared their experiences.

“When I was a kid I didn’t see the big picture,” she said. “Even when I went to college I did not know what I would focus on. I remember having anxiety because of that; I thought I should know it all. In time I learned to trust in the process of life.”

The process led her to a career in social work. After an orientation to social work class her eyes opened to the many possibilities the field has to offer, and she found it fit her interests and personality. 

Neuffer became the first college graduate of her family. She went to work as a counselor for kids and families in crisis. Years later, opportunity presented itself to become a professor at her al mater, Minnesota State University-Moorhead. She applied and was hired in 2001. While teaching, Neuffer saw a half-time executive director position open up for CornerStone. 

“Something about CornerStone absolutely pulled at me,” she said. “The story behind it and desire for community to make life better for themselves and the youth. I wanted to apply and see what would happen.”

Neuffer was offered the job. She went to the administration at MSUM and asked for a limited appointment, to which they agreed.

Her job as the executive director at CornerStone is multifaceted, and will likely change as the project progresses to the opening stage. Currently, the group secured a building through a generous donation of the Methodist Church in Frazee. The church sold CornerStone their building for a nominal fee, as they plan to build a new house of worship in the coming year.

Renovations began and the  vision for the new venue includes a bistro in the lower level and a community youth center on the top floor. In the youth center the vision is to offer a place to gather and to learn. There is also hope of having an outdoor garden space and patio area.

“My first goal is to get to know the people in the community and understand what they envision for the community,” she said. “We will also have to engage in a capital campaign to sustain ourselves financially.”

Neuffer noted all the work to date has been done by volunteers, and she looks to take some weight from their shoulders. She will look for grants, consider marketing and fundraising options and help lead staff members, which currently includes one employee for the bistro.

“It is amazing this all started at focus group meetings two years ago,” she said. “I want to bring to life the vision of what the people want this to be.”

Neuffer said her leadership style is “very democratic” and wants to “empower people” to become leaders as with guidance, encouragement and support. 

When not at work, Neuffer will likely be found on the golf course or enjoying outdoor activities such as kayaking or snow shoeing.

“When I was a kid I didn’t see the big picture. Even when I went to college I did not know what I would focus on. I remember having anxiety because of that; I thought I should know it all. In time I learned to trust in the process of life.”

Tracy Neuffer