The Friendly Fifth

Directors’ Messages

International Board Director - District 5 Report

DISTRICT 5 Sons of Norway International Board

The past year has been quite unusual for most of us, trying to stay safe from Covid-19. Though it has been challenging, the International Board has been working as usual via email and video conferencing. The huge loss is not seeing our friends and colleagues during these past months. Currently, it is not practical to do a PowerPoint report, so here it is in letter form.

The last meeting of the Sons of Norway International Board of Directors was held via video conference on November 16-19, 2020, meeting for over three hours each day. The full board was present along with CEO Chris Pinkerton and Executive Assistant Lonna Hanson. Staff members who gave reports were; CFO Erica Oberg, CIO Dan Seyfried, Matt Roedel (Insurance Sales and Operations Director), Connie O’Brien (Fraternal Development & Marketing Director), Lizabeth Halva (Human Resources & Business Integration Director), Kevin Cassidy (General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer), and David Crabb (Fraternal Engagement Manager). Outside Legal Counsel Dave Ness from Fafinski Mark & Johnson, P.A. also attended parts of the meeting.

Outside professionals are involved with the meetings and all reports are reviewed: investment advisor portfolio reports, IT strategic planning, Anti-Fraud Statues from MN, 3rd Quarter financial statements, budgets, Viking Magazine, 10-year actuarial projections, updates from the American Fraternal Alliance, Human Resource and new building updates, Insurance recruiting and product updates, Code of Ethics review, governance structure, and life insurance logos. SONS Officers and Committees gave reports regarding; the Board Policy Book (ongoing reviews), lodge owned real estate, lodge liability insurance, Finance Committee Resolutions, Audit Committee, board member expenses, document signing authority by home office, 2022 Convention in MN.

Following the meeting there were several staffing changes at the home office. SONS has been operating many years in a regular pattern of business that has not kept up with the latest technology to operate efficiently and effectively. However, even during the past year of difficult times when lodges are unable to meet, membership has grown, and sales of insurance policies are moving upwards. Social media has kept many in touch with their SONS roots, we are optimistic about our future growth and sustainability.

Sons of Norway Foundation Board of Governors

The SONS Foundation Board of Governors has been meeting via video conferencing for the past year. The board last met on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, for a 4-hour meeting. The new board is: Merv Eriksson, chair; Jon Tehven, vice chair; Ernie Fosse, treasurer; and Christy Olsen Field, secretary.
Robin Fossum International Director, District 5 SONS Foundation, Board of Governors Dovre Lodge 5-353, president 630 28th St, Chetek WI 54728 715-642-2414 

I was appointed last year to a two-year term by International President Ron Stubbings. My committee appointment is chair of the Development Committee.

The board participated in a strategic plan workshop hosted by Jaime Rate, Keystone Group. Following the workshop, Committee reports were reviewed; Executive Governance Committee (Merv), District Foundation Directors (Jon), Development Committee “Together We Are the Future” update, (Jon & Robin), Finance Committee (Ernie), Disaster Relief/Extreme Illness (Allison). Ron Stubbings gave a brief International Report, and Connie O’Brien reported on the Foundation general updates. Goals were discussed.

The Development Committee designed the Together We Are the Future campaign for October Foundation month. Our goal was to share awareness of the SONS Foundation and involve members, lodges, Districts, the International Board and Board of Governors, and corporations. We started work with Anne Olson, Foundation Director (resigned) and continued with Connie O’Brien at the Home Office. Our goal was to raise $100,000 for SONS scholarships and Humanitarian funds. As of this week, over $210,164 was brought in from 113 lodges, 837 personal donations. These gifts came from the direct mailing envelope, Viking Magazine article, and personal giving to scholarship accounts.

I personally would like to thank former International President Jon Tehven, Connie O’Brien, and our District 5 Foundation Director Darlene Arneson for all their work and perseverance in completing this successful campaign. We have development a general template for the fund-raising effort, our future goal is to have the Futures campaign annually from October 1 - January 1, to raise awareness for the Foundation.

District 5 Zone Alignment Committee wants your input

  The Zone Alignment committee has met many times the past year to discuss possible ways to propose changes to our zones. We began this process two years ago in committee discussion. In February 2020 we sent out a survey to all District 5 lodge officers via the FFFN. We used the results in our discussion preparing for the spring District 5 Board Meeting and discussion during the meeting. The direction given during the meeting was to proceed with developing some options, getting feedback, and then move forward with some concrete ways to more evenly divide our District.
We did another survey in May and received more feedback. We used that feedback, along with the discussion in March and April, and came up with various proposals that have been discussed by the committee and board during conference calls, and then changed, modified, or eliminated!

We have four options for you to review and the fifth option is to do nothing. If adding another zone or an additional director to one zone if the preferred route, that leads to an expense to the District of additional board members for two board meetings, convention expenses, and other expenses zone directors incur. We have asked District Treasurer Mike Palecek for a financial impact for adding additional directors- it is estimated at $2,900 per board member for a biennium. We would like to invite the District to review four options plus the “don’t do anything option” which we have narrowed down through many calls, emails, survey results, and discussion. We also have explored how to proceed and based on the recent referendum passed by the 2018 International Lodge to allow Districts conduct business via electronic communications, that we can make these changes without reconvening the delegate body in-person.
Any change would take effect at the District Lodge Meeting in June 2022 – on that Saturday when the delegates go to caucus. The delegates would be going to the new zones as they elect board members, alternates and delegates/alternates to the International Lodge meeting.

Our proposed timeline:
1. July- September 1- get feedback from lodge members, officers, and board
2. September- Committee meets to finalize a proposal for a district bylaw change
3. October Board Meeting- Board reviews the proposal and moves a motion to send it to the 2018 delegates (District Lodge) for action
4. November 1- send the proposed bylaw change to the delegates to vote
5. By December 31, 2020 complete the voting process on the bylaw change

  We want to complete this process by early 2021 as the new nominating committee has to be elected at the spring board meeting (April 2021) of the year preceding the convention. The committee needs to know what the district and zones looks like to start their work.

Spring 2020 D5 Sports & Recreation Report by Cheryl Wille-Schlesser

Spring 2020 District 5 Sports and Recreation Report - April 4, 2020
Committee Members: 
Cheryl Wille-Schlesser, Chair, Darlene Arneson, Connie Kross, and  Audrey Severson, Guest: Mike Palecek, District 5 Treasurer

     The Committee discussed the Virtual Walk to Norway sports challenge and recommends an extension on the timeline to December 15, 2020. Members are encouraged to continue exercising and earning Sons of Norway sports medals. Lodges are encouraged to submit pictures of those who are exercising. Due to the cancellation of the 2020 Convention, a Power Point slide show of this activity will be posted to the District 5 webpage: at the end of December. Be thinking of a way to celebrate all members who participated in this activity. Lodges should submit the names of those who participated so that completion certificates can be sent. Please make the sports and recreation director aware of those members who completed the challenge. All “winner” names will be posted to the District 5 webpage.
     In the meantime, District 5 Presidents are asked to share the number of miles their lodge has accomplished to date. The District 5 website will reflect the accomplishments of each lodge. Participating lodges should forward their check of support to District 5 Treasurer Mike Palecek by December 31, 2020. The $50.00 fee per Lodge will be deposited in the Masse Moro account.
     It would be great to know how many members have earned sports medals during this challenge, too. Please send that number to the sports and recreation director for sharing.
     A total of 859 children registered for the Barnebirkie.  Due to the chilly temperature of 15 degrees at race time, some children did not report. We greeted 627 young skiers on race day.
     There were 232 youth who came as part of local school groups. Sixteen children registered in person on race day.

1. The Prince Haakon Race, the fastest growing race in numbers, had 665 participants.
2. Barkiebirkie racers numbered 95. In this race, competitors are tied to their dogs who pull them along the Main Street course.
3. The Junior Birkie included 309 competitors. This course is quite challenging as the participants ski the International Bridge twice!  
4. American Birkebeiner-6,249, people raced on Saturday, including our District President Andy Johnsen who came to the Finish Line after a grueling duration of 7.5 hours on the course. Forty-seven states were represented in this race
5. The Kortelopet race had 2,824 skiers.  
6. In the Giant Ski, 34 teams competed (6 persons per team) totaling 204 participants.  
*No numbers were available from the Adaptive Ski race.
2020 Barnebirkie District 5 volunteers
Barnebirkie Registration:                                       Masse Moro Representative     
Arlene Watrud-Krueger-Vennelag Lodge                  Sandy Olson-Valkyrien Lodge
Cheryl Wille-Schlesser-Vennelag Lodge
Celebration (cookie) Tent Volunteers  
Carol Anderson-Dovre Lodge                                                                                 
Bill Bosak-Dovre Lodge
Robert Fossum-Dovre Lodge                                   Expo Center Volunteers
Robin Fossum-Dovre Lodge                                    Mary Bennett-Idun Lodge
Judy Herrman-Dovre Lodge                                   Asta Blanchar-Idun Lodge
Judy Kielholtz-Dovre Lodge                                             
Grace Neilsen-Dovre Lodge                                    Volunteer Prep and Serving Luncheon
Gene Nelson-Dovre Lodge                                      Sharon Anderson-Idun Lodge
Audrey Severson-Valkyrien Lodge                          Lucy Ghastin-Idun Lodge
Clair Severson-Valkyrien Lodge                              Hild Petre-Idun Lodge
Andy Johnsen-Scandiana Lodge                             Judith Ghastin-Norse Valley Lodge
Eugene Johnson-Wergeland Lodge                                    
Montaya Harter-Wergeland Lodge             Others                                   
David Hermundson-Løven Lodge                          Rolf Grönroos from Sweden (friend of President Andrew Johnsen)
                                                                          John Gierke-former Norse Valley Lodge member
Lodges that provided cookies, totaling 1,181.1 dozen
Dovre 5-353        Elvedal 5-556        Idun 5-074      Løven 5-029      Mandt 5-314     
Nordlyset 5-183      Norse Valley 5-491            Norskeland 5-580     
Ostestaden 5-642     
Polar Star 5-472      Scandiana 5-600      Skjold 5-100      Solvang 5-457
Vakkertland 5-570       Valhall  5-168      Valkyrien 5-053       Vennelag 5-513      Wergeland 5-028

                  It was suggested that the District consider providing a small token of appreciation for Barnebirkie volunteers. A $25.00 gas card could be given to acknowledge member service during this uncertain and challenging time of the calendar year. Also mentioned was sending a survey to these volunteers asking for their input on the event. A special thank you is extended to those lodges and individuals who made monetary donations this year.
                  Further discussed was the distribution of a token that District 5 could give to the children at the registration table. Some options: a jacket pull, a Frisbee®, or a miniature deck of playing cards. A triangular ice scraper was also considered which would has enough space for the District’s logo and could be used by anyone in a family. This would be an additional way to share the Sons of Norway name with the general public, and this could translate to future memberships. It is the goal of the Sports and Recreation Committee to move this item for approval at the fall District 5 Board meeting. Funding for these items could be taken from Lodge donations that have been given for use at the Barnebirkie. Later discussed was the option of gifting a deck of cards with Masse Moro pictures.       
         Due to the uncertainty of these times, lodges may wish to offer their members virtual summer options that allow for social distancing and provide an outlet for fun. A virtual kubb contest can be found on-line: Board and card games for adults and families are accessible through If you are a euchre player, offers play on-line against others. Sports directors may send updates on what their lodge has decided to do so these ideas can be shared with others.
Several lodge members have asked for birdwatching to added to our line-up. A space will be created on the District 5 webpage where members can post photos of birds. If one so chooses, the Sports and Recreation Director can take care of this task. Send your photos to: Through this activity one can enjoy the migrating fowl that is returning to the Midwest, and birdwatching will provide members with the opportunity for additional photograph. Members will have the option of displaying one of their wildlife photos in the 2022 Convention’s photography exhibit.
Furthermore, our members can be sorting through their accumulated photos from Norway or Norwegian-themed events. Interested members can select one photo to be entered in the 2022 canvas print display. Directions for doing so and options for printing have been posted to the District 5 webpage.
Should social distancing restrictions be lifted, summer provides a great time for Zone or Lodge picnics and other gatherings. Many communities hold charity walks or runs for a variety of causes, and lodge members could participate together.
 If you have an axe-throwing venue near you, assemble to have a night of Viking fun with your members! Bowling would also provide another avenue for members to gather. Organize a game of traveling Bingo, Bunco, or a card tournament locally; invite another lodge or community group to join you.

Engaging members during COVID-19 by Mike Palecek -D5 Treasurer

Engaging Sons of Norway members during the COVID-19 crisis can be quite a challenge. Picking up the phone is the easiest way. Many lodge member are grateful that you made the call, how it brightened their day and how isolated they feel. Some lodges have asked their board to split up their membership list, and each person makes about 10 calls to other lodge members, with great results.

Many lodges are using technology to reach out. Conferencing services, like Zoom, FreeConferenceCall, Facebook Meeting and GoToMeeting are being used by different lodges. Earlier this week, Mandt lodge did their first virtual lodge meeting with Zoom, with a Tubfrim presentation. You can watch it at:

Other engagement ideas include:

Have a parade. Everyone decorates their car and drives through town as a group, so members maintain social distancing. The parade ends at the local hospital where the lodge donates manufactured pre-packaged snacks as a tusen takk to medical workers.

Have a smaller parade, just to go by members houses. Let them know ahead of time, so they can watch your parade through their windows or from their front porch. Your drivers can stop one at a time, get out of their cars and wave. Maybe you can even wear some Viking costumes or hats, to make your parade more festive.

Create a traveling diary, where members take a day and write their recollections during the COVID-19 crisis. The diary is emailed to the next person on the list, who adds their thoughts for the next day, etc. For those who don't have email, you can also create a group diary, where people are assigned a day and they mail in their diary entry. The Wisconsin State Historical Society has created a COVID-19 journal project. To learn how you can participate, see:

Create a closed Facebook page, for people in your lodge to share their daily news.

Organize a "Zoom coffee hour." Instead of gathering at the local coffee shop, have small groups get together via conferencing software and chat, have a book group, or discuss some other topic.

Join a virtual game. An Idun lodge member told me that his family was playing in a weekly online trivia contest, where their family was pitted against twenty or more other teams. Their family worked together remotely, with some members in Madison, and others in Texas and Minnesota, to come up with trivia answers. Darlene Arneson says that one of her sons is playing a virtual kuub game, with players in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
In this week's FFFN, you will learn about District 5's Scandinavian Photo Contest. It is a great time to go back through your old travel pictures to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Greenland, or Iceland, reminisce, and submit your five best pictures to the photo contest. Winning photos will be used on some new District 5 Scandinavian playing cards.

One member I talked to said she's using her extra time to study genealogy. Her local library has opened up the Ancestry research database, so people can now use it to search from home. Until recently, one had to go to the library to use it. She is also taking a Genealogy Basics course online from Gale, through her local library. The next course starts on April 15, and you take classes twice a week. Here's a write up on it at the Omaha Public Library:

Helping others in times of trouble is what the Sons of Norway is really all about. Reaching out to engage other members in your lodge is a safe way to do this. How we respond to the COVID-19 crisis can make us stronger.

Be safe, be healthy, Mike Palecek, D5 Treasurer

Masse Moro Message from District 5 Youth Directer Sandra Olson

Masse Moro Message from Sandra Olson
To our Sons of Norway members, leaders and friends:
This is the year of 2020 ….. my 20/20 vision for you is to invite your young people to an experience that will last a life time for them.
Masse Moro gives our young people that Nordic Experience that they will cherish for a life time.
We are delighted to announce that Zachary Garner and Keir Kristiansen will be returning again as our Masse Moro Co-Directors.
We are looking for a maximum of 60 to 65 campers, so to help us better plan for a super camp experience we encourage registrations early or by April 1st.
The dates for camp this year are July 12 – 25. The cost for this two week camp experience is only $850 per camper compared to similar programs that run over $2000.
There are many opportunities for campers to lower their cost for camp, please check them out.
Early Bird Benefits: Early registrants get a better chance at scholarships and lodge matching funds, so register by April 1st. Registration and Supporting forms can be found at or at the District 5 website.
Bring A Friend: Campers can bring a new camper and they will both receive $25 off your tuition (both registrations and the total cost for camp must be postmarked by April 1, 2020 to receive this benefit).
Get Your Match: Campers are encouraged to check with their local lodge for supporting scholarships. To receive the matching funds (up to $150) from District 5 campers must complete all paperwork by May 17th. All campers from other Districts, should check with their local lodges for Grants and Scholarships.
Looking for additional Masse Moro scholarships and information? Check out the Masse Moro website at for more information concerning scholarships can be found at Youth Scholarship and District 5 Scholarship section of our Scholarships page.
Sandra Olson, Youth Director
Sons of Norway – District 5

Cheryl Wille-Schlesser - District 5 Sports and Recreation Director - Zone 3 Director

Stronger Together
It has been said that we are stronger together, and I full-heartedly echo that sentiment. I am proud to be a member of the 5th District where Lodges genuinely care for one another and want to see others succeed. Many members travel back and forth between lodges to support fundraising events. Individual lodges welcome guests to take part in cultural classes or to participate in Norwegian sporting events such as Kubb. Travel opportunities are often inclusive; having fun is central to a successful lodge. These are some of the reasons why District 5 has been nicknamed the “Friendly Fifth.”
Takk for Hjelpen
Are you aware of a lodge that is aging-out and could use a bolster? Could it be helped with a membership event? Do you know a lodge that can’t afford to pay for a speaker, but someone in your lodge has a great program? Could your members offer support to a lodge whose treasury is nearly nonexistent? If you are a Zone Director, how have you extended a helping hand?
Promoting the Order
Providing youth opportunities is a niche we can fill. Few people recognize the great offerings that many lodges provide. Toot your own horn! Grab the ear of a local news editor or submit your events to TV station’s community calendar. Use the relationship that you have established with the nearest Chamber of Commerce to share the word about your family programming. Today’s millennials use social media pages first. Post your events where they will see them! If you don’t know how to do this, ask a young person; they are the technology experts. This might be the carrot that a young person needs to feel more involved.
Consider Making a Difference.
Your members will feel needed and the sense of pride that they feel for the Sons of Norway multiplies. Not only will you impact the lodge that you are helping, but you will bring acknowledgement to your own lodge members, as you live up to the ideals of the Sons of Norway: freedom, fraternity, progress, and brotherly love.
This month, as we consider all that we are thankful for, I ask our members to reflect on local programming. What has been done to make your lodge successful? Why is your lodge known as a proud community partner? How is the Mission of the Sons of Norway celebrated in your community?

Sandra Olson, Youth & Zone 1 Director - 2019

Good Afternoon District 5 Leaders:

I hope that everything is going well for you.

As the holidays are approaching it is never too early to start talking
to our members and young people about camp; more specifically our
District 5 Masse Moro Nordic Heritage Camp.

I encourage you to suggest to your members a terrific gift that can be
given to our young people - an opportunity for their children to have a
lasting heritage gift.   Campers, who have attended Masse Moro have
cherished this opportunity throughout their lives.  What a wonderful
gift!  Sending their loved ones to our wonderful Nordic Heritage Camp -
Masse Moro would be a lasting gift.

The cost is only $850 for two weeks of a wonderful Nordic experience.
This is a real bargain compared to other similar camps which cost well
over $2000.

I have attached a flyer; 2020 registration; welcome letter and Lodge
supporting grant form.  Please feel free to make copies or you can go to
our District 5 website: [1] or

I have included the two formats, so I hope that you will be able to open
one of these and make them available to your members.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Tusen Takk!

Sandra Olson, Youth & Zone 1 Director
Sons of Norway - District 5
(651) 208-3333