By Jennie Zeitler
Paynesville business owner Kay McDaniel is the newest Dairyland Peach Woman of the Month. She is part of the Paynesville Event Planning (PEP) Committee, a group of downtown business owners who pool their efforts, creativity and funds to promote Paynesville.
In addition to being the owner of BlessingWell Gallery and Frame Shoppe, McDaniel was elected to the City Council in 2012.
“I was strongly encouraged by friends to run,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. The staff at City Hall has a positive attitude.”
McDaniel noted that there were anticipated changes to Paynesville prior to the opening of the Highway 23 bypass in July 2012.
“We fight any change, anything that requires sacrifice,” she said. “But there has been a lot of growth in our community, especially in the industial park.”
She continues to work to make those changes a positive thing for Paynesville.
McDaniel grew up in Drayton, N.D., the eldest of eight children. Wanting to break out of the “usual” female occupations of teacher or nurse, she became a nun.
But due to stress and conflict within the convent in the wake of Vatican II, she gave up her habit.
Life has made her no stranger to changes, expected or unexpected. She and her husband, Robert, were business owners living in Grand Forks when the Flood of 1997 occurred. After spending a few years in Buffalo, they have now been residents of Paynesville for nine years.
As her four children were growing, McDaniel began writing blessings as gifts for family members and friends. She was looking for a way to open that up to other people when she found out about the available Ben Franklin building on James Street.
The store’s name — BlessingWell — comes from the special blessings McDaniel creates. She uses a questionnaire to determine the personality of each recipient, making each one a unique work of art.
McDaniel describes her spiritual life as being her whole life. She takes time twice a day to sit quietly in centering prayer.
“It’s a time to listen,” she said.
An important part of McDaniel’s viewpoint is in not viewing herself as a politician.
“I see myself as a servant of the people,” she said. “That is entirely different. My whole life has been about social justice and contemplation to help each other,” said McDaniel.
There are so many ways to serve, but McDaniel has found ways that suit her.
“I love being a Lion,” she said. “‘We Serve’ is the motto, and the Lions do marvelous things for the community.”
She describes a process that people often go through during the latter half of their lives — of emptying themselves of things that weren’t really making them happy.
“It’s realizing, ‘That wasn’t it,’” she said. “Once you have possessions you have to take care of them, you defend them and then they become you and you’re no longer a servant of others.”
McDaniel likens the emptying process to a transformation, and “only transformed people can change the world,” she said. “Otherwise we just do the same things over and over.”
One of the ways McDaniel has found to gather resources in order to distribute to others is through BlessingWell.
“The whole gallery is an incubator for other people’s creations; I am simply a conduit,” said McDaniel with a smile.
She is particularly fond of a quote by Marilyn Carlson:
“Whatever you do, do with integrity. Wherever you go, go as a leader. Have the courage to lead. Whenever you serve, serve with caring. …”
McDaniel lives in the moment, looking for what is inside of the people around her. It was described by Thomas Merton as “the goodness of God that resides within people.”
“Kay is one of the most positive people I’ve come across,” said Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson. “She is never negative; her outlook is so refreshing.”
As a new person on the City Council, McDaniel is still learning.
“She is very thoughtful and very interested,” said Thompson. “She sits and absorbs. Both she and her husband have been strong community suppporters. She’s a fun gal with a great sense of humor.”