News: Neillsville - Chamber Awards (2016)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Mabie, Boon, Kaczor, Smith, Davis, Schmitz, Anderegg, Heiman, Opelt, Schmidt, Thompson, Wilsmann, Bennett, Clough, Hoppa, Kujawa, Sebesta, Breneman, Weirauch, Boon, Hanson, Gesche, Brekke, Pekol, Georgas, Vertin, Reineck, Barta, Corcoran, Glisczinski, Mathis, Chadwick

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 2/03/2016

Chamber Presents Awards (Banquet Recognitions - 2016)

Neillsville Chamber Presents Awards at Annual Recognition Banquet

By Todd Schmidt

The Neillsville Area Chamber of Commerce (NACC) recognized the stars of the community during its annual recognition banquet held Saturday evening at American Legion Post 73.

Mayor Steve Mabie emceed the program that featured the presentation of numerous business and individual awards and recognition of eight businesses with significant anniversaries.

The Clark County Male Chorus provided a number of fine selections between dinner and the start of the awards program. The Male Chorus, which was formed in 1964, was recognized for the many annual performances it conducts in the area. Northern Indoor Comfort Systems sponsored the chorus’ performance at the NACC banquet.

The group took a moment to lead a special golden birthday salute to Kristine Boon. Roni Kaczor-Smith was thanked for utilizing her decorating talents to transform the banquet hall.

NACC president Dr. Bruce Davis greeted the crowd, stating the NACC was grateful for the support of the community. He introduced new executive director Jana Schmitz, who has hit the ground running since her hiring the first week of January.

“The NACC supports business issues and coordinates marketing campaigns,” Davis said. “We are proud of the cooperation we have with many public and private entities.”

Davis introduced the NACC leadership team. Members of the board of directors are: Cheryl Anderegg (Memorial Medical Center (MMC)), Deanna Heiman (Northern Indoor Comfort Systems), Roni Kaczor-Smith (Optimist Club of Neillsville), Connie Opelt (Excel Plumbing), Kris Schmidt (Citizens Accounting), Brian Thompson (Norm & Ann’s Campground), Sharon Wilsmann (Citizens State Bank of Loyal), Mayor Mabie (City of Neillsville) and Davis (Davis Chiropractic).

Members of the ambassadors group are: Julie Bennett (First Weber Realty), Dan Clough (The Thirsty Bookworm), Karen Hoppa (American Legion Auxiliary), Jenny Kujawa (Unity Bank), Jeff Opelt (Excel Plumbing), Tom Opelt (Memorial Medical Center) and Regina Sebesta (Sunrise Realty).

Connie Opelt and Heiman coordinated the awards program.

Cummins Filtration received the Business of the Year Award. With its corporate headquarters in Columbus, IN, Cummins Filtration embraces innovation and holds over 200 active global patents for product technology. At the Neillsville Cummins plant, they utilize this technology in manufacturing a broad range of air and fluid filtration products.

They also happen to hold the title of the largest employer in Clark County. As a corporation, Cummins has engrained a tradition of community service into its culture.

At the Neillsville plant, they instituted an Every Employee Every Community involvement program where Cummins pays their employees’ salaries for up to four hours of community service per year. In 2015, 89 percent of the employees participated, which was the highest level in plant history.

As a special project, the plant’s Community Involvement Team was awarded a grant from the Cummins Foundation to build a learning Resource Center at a transitional shelter in Marshfield, where Cummins employees cook and serve a meal to the residents monthly.

For a number of years, the plant has assisted with the local Backpacks for Kids program, which provides packages of food for children over the weekend who may not have adequate food at home. Cummins has also been an active supporter of The Highground for many years by working on projects, participating in Diversity Days, securing a grant for a building project and supporting fall and spring clean-up days.

This past year, Cummins provided new uniforms to the Neillsville Little League team and served as a sponsor for the MMC Foundation Mingle. The plant has expanded its staff in the last 18 months and continues to hire for both production and professional positions.

Plant manager Todd Breneman accepted the Business of the Year award for Cummins Filtration.

“We have a new management team at Cummins,” Breneman said. “This award is very meaningful to us. Cummins has 50,000 employees across the globe. Our values include community involvement. We look forward to expanding our community involvement in the Neillsville area. Our three-to-five year plan will challenge many of the bigger issues facing the community.”

Kay Weirauch was presented with a Spotlight award. Weirauch has dedicated her life to the needs of others. It would be a false statement to say that Kay Weirauch retired from her longtime position as a second-grade teacher at the Neillsville School District.

Weirauch continues to make a positive, lasting impression on the youth in Neillsville and beyond, even participating in a mission at St. Mary’s to support school children in Uganda, Africa.

She volunteers her time through the Junior achievement program and teaches incarcerated adults at the local jail to read. With a love for animals, she spends a significant amount of time at the Clark County Humane Society and teaches kids to be responsible by taking them along to care for the critters.

If you stop by the MMC Gift Shop, you will witness Weirauch’s organizational talents and flair for style, as serves as the assistant manager there. Her love of children is unconditional, her kindness is immeasurable and her positive impact on this community is indelible.

“Receiving this award is very humbling,” Weirauch said. “I must recognize the many helpers at the hospital gift shop. We all work together to make it successful.”

Duane and Brenda Boon and Brad and Kristine Boon received the Agri-Business of the Year award. Boon Farms LLC hosted the 2015 Neillsville Dairy Breakfast.

Duane Boon started farming in high school with the purchase of 14 heifer calves. He and his wife, Brenda, eventually grew the milking herd from those calves, purchasing very few cows to supplement their herd over the course of 40 years.

Today, Boon Farms has grown to over 1,000 owned and rented acres, 300 cows, 300 young heifers and seven employees. Duane and Brad, along with their team of dedicated employees, carry out the various daily tasks of the dairy, not to mention the fieldwork that comes with growing nearly all of their own feed. The farm produces over eight million pounds of raw milk annually.

Their top priorities are ensuring comfort, as well as being great stewards of the land.

Duane and Brenda have three grown children: Stacy, Erick, and Brad. Brad joined the family farm operation after he left the military in 2010.

In 2014, Duane and Brenda partnered with Brad and his wife, Kristine, to form Boon Farms, LLC. Brad and Kristine have three children.

“We thank the NACC for this award,” Brad said. “We feel much honored.”

Next up was the Special Business Salute award, given to Excel Plumbing, LLC. In accepting the award, co-owner Wayne Opelt explained his transition from faming to working for an established plumber in 2001. He and his wife, Connie, purchased the business in 2005.

Excel Plumbing was founded on professionalism, teamwork and community service. In 2015, Wayne and Connie Opelt celebrated Excel Plumbing’s 10-year anniversary.

They credit their longevity to the collective efforts of the entire Excel Plumbing crew. With daughter, Krista, and son, Jeffrey, on staff, this is a true family business.

Wayne and Connie, life-long Neillsville residents, are well known for their involvement in community organizations, and they have extended this concept of giving back through their business. One recent example involved an elderly woman who returned home following an extended medical leave only to find that her residence had been completely trashed and was uninhabitable.

After receiving the call, Wayne and Connie jumped into action, calling additional; subcontractors and local support services to assist in the plan to give this woman her life back. Connie is quick to point out that every Excel Plumbing employee is instrumental in these efforts and their entire team is dedicated to serving the public.

Wayne thanked the NACC for bestowing the honor on the family-owned company. He relished in the opportunity while at the podium to share a few plumbing jokes.

The Above and Beyond the Call of Duty award was presented to Todd Schmidt, editor of The Clark County Press. This award is reserved for an individual who is exceptionally dedicated to their profession and community.

Many of you may be surprised to learn that Schmidt actually resides in Colby, because he seems to attend every area meeting and event. Now that is dedication.

He and his lovely wife, Kelly, have been married for 15 years, and between them they have eight children and 16 grandchildren.

For 15 years they have operated a business, Embroidery Express, out of their home. Schmidt has been in the newspaper business for 15 years, including editor of The Clark County Press since August 2013.

He also has been employed as a bus driver for eight years, with three of those years driving for the Neillsville School District. For the past 40 years, Schmidt has been a WIAA sports official in softball, baseball, basketball and volleyball.

In his spare time he serves as president of the Colby City Council and is a member of both the Neillsville Lions Club and the Neillsville Optimist Club.

Regardless of which hat he is wearing, rest assured Schmidt would get the job done with intelligence and integrity.

“I am truly humbled by this award,” Schmidt said. “I ‘retired’ once from the newspaper business in 2007, after suffering a little burnout. The folks from The Clark County Press contacted me early in 2012 to discuss a return. I have truly enjoyed my time in this job and the relationships I have built.

“Dee, Margie and Nancy are great staff people to work with. There are many awesome things happening in Neillsville, and I am excited to continue sharing coverage of these events, with the community.

Roni Kaczor-Smith was honored with the Volunteer of the Year award.

Kaczor-Smith is a lifelong educator. After 38 years in the classroom, she continues to take on substitute teaching positions of various school districts.

Although she will fondly be remembered by some for her dedication to students and colorful, creative classroom projects, there are countless organizations that owe Kaczor-Smith a debt of gratitude for her service.

The first organization on that list is the NACC. Roni is a long-term board member. She has volunteered at many events and has displayed her decorating expertise many times for the NACC annual banquet.

Kaczor-Smith serves as the secretary for many organizations, including the Wisconsin Good Sam Club, the local and district Optimist Clubs, MMC Partners, the Legion Auxiliary, two Wisconsin-based camping groups and the Jackson County area educators.

Music plays an important role in Kaczor Smith’s life. She serves at the Good Sam State Music director and UCC hand bell choir director.

She is a member of the Clark County Choraliers and participates in the Marshfield Palm Sunday Chorus. She is a member of the World Day of Prayer Committee, as well as a volunteer at the House of the Dove and the American Legion.

Regardless of how busy Kaczor-Smith is with all of these activities, it doesn’t prevent her from spending time with her three granddaughters. She was honored for her willingness to serve, her kindness and compassion and the selfless sharing of her time and talents.

“Many hands make light work,” Kaczor-Smith said. “I have a lot of ideas, but it takes many others to help out. Actually, at times I don’t feel like I do much of anything.”

Attention turned to honoring eight business and organization for significant anniversaries for being in existence.

Built in 1915, Reed School served as a one-room country school through 1951. It provided a 1st through 8th grade education with only one teacher. The school is typical of the more than 6,000 one-room schools that dotted the landscape of rural Wisconsin.

Gordon Smith attended first grade at Reed School in 1939. His memories were the catalyst that led to its restoration and reopening as the Wisconsin Historical Society’s tenth historic site in 2007.

Through the generosity of the Gordon and Helen Smith Foundation, Reed School is once again an educational institution where today’s students can experience a day in the life of a rural 1939 pupil.

Director Alan Hanson accepted the plaque recognizing Reed School for its 100th anniversary.

“We are thrilled to have a historic site in Neillsville,” Hanson said. “It is one of only 12 designated historic sites throughout the state. We invite everyone to come and see what life was like in 1939 in a one-room schoolhouse.”

Kwik Trip was recognized for its 50th anniversary in business.

Kwik Trip opened its very first store in Eau Claire in 1965. As a family-owned company, it has shaped its mission statement and core values around providing a positive experience for Kwik Trip customers.

Today, Kwik Trip employs over 14,000 people in over 475 Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Heart Platter, and Tobacco Outlet Plus stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

From the top down the company encourages local involvement for all of its stores and provides a charitable program and fundraising opportunities to support surrounding communities. As for the Neillsville location, manager Carrie Converse and her crew have been very active in this community and supportive of local organizations and events.

Lowell Gesche, Tim Brekke and Lori Pekol accepted a recognition plaque commemorating the 40th anniversary of Gesche Funeral Home.

In 1975, Lowell Gesche purchased the Georgas Funeral Home from Elmer Georgas and changed the name to Gesche Funeral Home. For many years, area families were served out of the facility located on E. 4th Street, in Neillsville. In late 1988, Lowell sold his controlling interest in the funeral home to the Vertin Family, a third generation funeral service family whose focus is on preserving and promoting funeral services in rural communities.

Soon after, the Vertin family reinvested in the community by building a beautiful new funeral home at the intersection of USH 10 and STH 73. The single-level building allows for complete handicap accessibility and operational efficiency.

Although time changes many things, Gesche Funeral Home was recognized for its dedication to providing the very best in caring and professional service to every family it serves.

Since 1980, Randy and Julie Reineck have dedicated countless hours each year to operating the Central Wisconsin Horse Sale as part of their business Double R Horse Company and Auction Service.

In fact, the event had grown to become Wisconsin’s largest four-day horse sale. Each year, hundreds of people would flock to Neillsville to attend either the spring event in April or the fall event in September, which featured not only animals, but also machinery and equipment.

This past year Randy and Julie made the decision to sell the Central Wisconsin Horse Sale. They will, however, continue their business as Double R Horse Company and Auction Service. With Randy as a state-certified auctioneer, they are able to provide full service for all types of auctions.

In accepting the recognition plaque for their 35th anniversary, Randy reminded the gathering what the horse sale brings to the community.

“It’s been a good run,” Randy said. “It doesn’t seem like 35 years have gone by. It’s been a lot of work. We would like to thank you folks for being here and acknowledging us.”

The Christine Center was founded in 1980 as a place for people of all spiritual paths to come for medication and deep transformative spiritual work. Sister Virginia mary Barta of the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters, arranged for the purchase of a 251-acre farm with a barn, house and several sheds.

Friends and neighbors helped to clean and remodel and two years later the barn was transformed into a meditation hall, program area and library. The silo became the chapel.

The first hermitages were completed and over the next few years, additional hermitages were built for the spiritual seekers who came to live, work, and meditate. The center flourished in the 90s, resulting in the construction of a new main facility and renovation of existing hermitages.

In 2010, another wing was added. Programs at the center continue to evolve and expand with facilitators and guests coming from around the country and abroad.

The focus remains on the contemplative life with programs that offer wisdom from the world’s religious traditions. Sister Cecilia Corcoran accepted the plaque recognizing the Christine Center on its 35th anniversary.

“Our success depends on our visitors and friends,” Corcoran said. “Guests come from far and wide. Our cooks prepare exquisite meals. We have a great team of employees, many of whom live in Clark County.”

Norm & Ann’s Campground was honored for 30 years in business. The campground is located on WSH 10 just three miles west of The Highground.

Brian Thompson is the campground’s second-generation owner, taking over from his father 12 years ago. Over the past nine years, Brian has expanded the facility to include 11 full hook-up sites, four on-site rental campers, a cabin, plus bedrooms for rent. The site also has sheltered meeting areas available at no charge.

Norm & Ann’s, is conveniently located next to the ATV trail system, which draws many visitors. In 2013, in an effort to honor those serving the country, Brian created a program to offer discounts to member of the military.

“This is a constantly changing business,” Thomson said. “I have met many different people. It has been a fantastic journey.”

The Clark County Economic Development and Tourism Bureau (CCEDCTB) received a recognition award for its 25th anniversary.

Programs administered by the CCEDCTB are designed to support and promote economic development within the county and its communities, primarily by attracting new industries; assisting in the development, retention, and expansion of businesses; and assisting communities in preparing for economic development opportunities.

The agency also serves as the county’s tourism center. It is responsible for promoting all of Clark County, its communities, and its many recreational activities and events. Its mission statement is: “To achieve an environment of economic vitality for Clark County residents, businesses and municipalities by increasing employment and expanding the county’s tax base.”

CCEDCTB treasurer Greg Glisczinski accepted the recognition award.

“We thank you for the recognition and look forward to continued participation and cooperation with the city of Neillsville,” Glisczinski said.

The final award was presented to the Optimist Club of Neillsville on its 25th anniversary.

Optimist International is a worldwide volunteer organization. There are more than 2,500 local clubs. Its mission statement is: “By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in kids.”

The purposes of the Optimists are: “to develop optimism as a philosophy of life utilizing the tenet of the optimist Creed; to promote an active interest in good government and civic affairs; to inspire respect for the law; to promote patriotism and work for international accord and friendship among all people; to aid and encourage the development of youth, at the belief that the giving of one’s self in service to others will advance the well-being of humankind, community life and the world.”

The Optimist Club of Neillsville is a very active organization that does great things for the kids in the community.

President Kathy Mathis accepted the anniversary award on behalf of the Optimist Club. “I am proud to be an Optimist,” Mathis said. “We do many events to benefit the children of our community. On behalf of all the Optimists, I thank you.”

Schmitz noted that in 2015 the community said goodbye to Ned Schmidt, someone who was very dear to the NACC and the community.

“Ned was a genuine person who lived his life for family, faith and service to the community,” Schmitz said. “Whether he was volunteering for the Chamber, the FFA Alumni, or the Knights of Columbus or just taking care of the Chamber lady’s low tire pressure, he was always lending a hand. We should all aspire to be more like Ned.”

Schmitz said in honor of Ned and all he did for the NACC, the board of directors decided to rename the annual golf outing the Ned Schmidt Memorial Golf Tourney. The four-person scramble event will be held June 25 at the Neillsville Country

In closing, Mayor Mabie reminded everyone the Winter Carnival was just around the corner, Feb. 26-28.

He listed examples of progress in Neillsville, including Dollar General opening Super Bowl Sunday, the adult care center being developed by John and Jenny Chadwick at the former Sunburst site and the “monumental task” of turning the former United Methodist Church and parsonage into a cultural art center.

The enthusiasm for these projects is very cool,” Mabie said. “They are all good for this area. I am proud to be your mayor.”

* * * * * * * *

(Please Note: There were 12 photos of this event in the paper, but far too many to cut and scan to put with the article. They were all very nice, photographed by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press.)



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