Anyone who has ever been to a Triton school event or any community event in Dodge Center and the surrounding area has likely seen Chris Pluto. Often working behind the scenes, Pluto is an active member of the community.
That involvement was recognized this week as Pluto was honored as the Dodge Center Lions Club as its Citizen of the Year.
Originally from Austin, he and his wife, Lisa, moved to Dodge Center 15 years ago. A graduate of Gustavus and St. Cloud State, the Pluto’s had lived in the Twin Cities where he was in property management and his wife a lawyer.
When Lisa Pluto took a job in Rochester the couple decided to settle in the Rochester area, Pluto said, and he sold the properties he owned in the cities and ultimately settled in to Dodge Center as a stay-at-home dad and active member of Dodge Center and the Triton school family.
The couple decided they did not want to live in another bigger city like Rochester and decided Dodge Center would be a good fit.
“I just like the small town atmosphere,” he said. “You walk down the street and say ‘hi.’”
“One day many years ago a stay-at-home dad came into the Community Education office with two very cute, very active little girls to enroll them in some of our classes,” said Carol Johnson, who worked in Community Ed at the time. “We could tell that these girls meant everything to him. From then on, Chris was a frequent visitor to our school and that continues to this day.”
Johnson went on to say that soon after that first visit he returned to the office with a big box of batting helmets he had purchased and asked if the summer recreation ball teams could use them. She added that she was amazed that someone would donate so many new helmets since some of them even had a hole in the back so little girls could pull their ponytails through and be comfortable.
“That was only the beginning of the generosity that Chris and Lisa have shown to so many youth,” she said.
That generosity has continued as his family has grown and changed. Daughter Morgan is now a senior at Triton, daughter Sydney is a sophomore and son Graham is in sixth grade. Lisa died in 2017.
Reluctant to talk about himself, Pluto said he has been involved with the Lions Club and as of this week has begun his term as president of the organization. He also explained he works with Triton youth sports activities, was a part of TEAM when Graham was in elementary school, has organized bingo fundraisers and been involved with the Mantorville Restoration group.
According to those who submitted his name for consideration as Citizen of the Year, his activities go deeper than that.
Those activities listed include organizing bingo to support girls softball and the ninth grade Washington DC trip, helping with the Lions Youth Peace Poster contest, running a food concession stand for Venom softball, securing donations for a handicapped swing and benches for the new Lions Park, supporting Santa Anonymous by convincing the Dodge Center Country Club to have a tree with ornaments listing what a child would like for Christmas, taking over the Lions mints project and helping with the Lions Halloween party.
He is also an officer in the Triton Booster Club and active with a variety of youth activities at Faith Lutheran Church in Dodge Center.
“Chris is a fabulous community leader,” said Triton Superintendent Brett Joyce. “It is a well-deserved honor. He does many things for the community. Chris cares deeply about education and volunteers his time.”
“He goes above and beyond for any kid he sees in need,” added Tessa Ogren, an education assistant at Triton. He boosts Triton, is involved and doesn’t shy away from anything, she said, adding, he “loves to fundraise.”