Friends and family work to raise funds in search for Joshua

There was no news to report this week in the ongoing search for Maple Lake college student Joshua Guimond, but that’s not stopping family and friends from continuing fund-raising efforts to keep the search going.

“Find Joshua” buttons have become a much-sought, but hard to find item in Maple Lake. Four hundred buttons donated by the Maple Lake Messenger to be produced and sold by Joshua’s friends were gone in one day. Kathy and Alfred Wurm donated materials for the next 500 buttons, which were produced by Rick and Sheila Benson. And with heavy demand for the buttons continuing, an additional 500 have been ordered by the Bensons.     Also helping in the button drive is ProWorks of Litchfield, an employer for mentally challenged adults, which donated more buttons at the request of Barbara Gasta, sister of Joshua’s mother, Lisa Cheney.

In addition to the Messenger, buttons can now be obtained for a suggested donation of $2 at Heavenly Grounds Coffee Shop, the American Legion Club, Madigan’s Pub and Grill, and Security State Bank.

On Thursday, Joshua’s friends at St. John’s are sponsoring the “Keep Hope Alive Benefit Concert.” The concert will feature three area bands: “Another Day,” Second-Hand Halo,” and “Panormaic Blue.” The event is scheduled to run from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at Willie’s Pub on the St. John’s Campus. There will be no cover charge, but donations will be gratefully accepted.

All funds raised are deposited into the “Find Joshua Fund” at Security State Bank, which also accepts direct contributions. Cheryl Pullins of Security State Bank said the account to provide funding for the search effort will be administered by Dawn Nelson, owner of Madigan’s, and Rev. Steven King, pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Although she couldn’t disclose the amount of donations, Pullins said the account was “doing really well. Donations have been coming in from all over and people are being very, very generous.”

The funds could be used to hire a private investigator, but Lisa Cheney said they want to wait before taking such a step.  “My cousin is a private investigator,” she said. “And he’s worried that if we do this now, we’ll hinder the investigation.”

Lisa said she’s received word this week that the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department has determined that neither she nor Joshua’s father, Brian Guimond, would be required to submit to polygraph tests. But she said she was also told that the Sheriff’s Department has not talked to all of the nine other students attending the party with Joshua on the night of his disappearance. “They’ve talked to eight out of the nine,” Cheney said. “But they can’t seem to locate the ninth.”

And Cheney said she has a hard time understanding such delays.  “There are certain things that we thought should be done in a timely manner that have not been done,” she said. “We just don’t know what to do right now.”

Another obstacle in the search is that Joshua, at the age of 20, is legally an adult, which is making it difficult for his parents to take certain steps on his behalf. Cheney said she intends to research the issue to find out what rights she and Brian have as Joshua’s parents. “He’s not here to exercise those rights and he would want us to do everything we can to find him.

“I don’t care how old he is. He’s missing.”

But she said that at this point, the red tape and politics involved in dealing with the agencies involved in the search is overwhelming. “It’s like beating your head against a brick wall,” she said.

Cheney said she was also told that many of the calls received on the case by the Sheriff’s Department have been from psychics. Unsure of how to deal with such offers for help or information, Cheney said her boyfriend, Rick Smelser, has made arrangements to meet with one of the physics next month. “We just don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” she said.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department at 320-251-4240 or the Tri-County Crime Stoppers at 320-255-1301 or 800-255-1301. A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered by Crime Stoppers for information that leads to finding Joshua Guimond.