LITTLE FALLS - Continuing its tradition of honoring outstanding community service in central Minnesota, the Initiative Foundation has announced the winners of its 2007 Initiative Awards.
The awards will be presented at a red-carpet event on Oct. 26 at Madden's Resort in Brainerd. The award winners are:
Outstanding Community - Cold Spring. After participating in the foundation's Healthy Communities Partnership program in 2003, a volunteer leadership team recruited hundreds of volunteers to address downtown revitalization, transportation planning, tourism marketing and welcoming new Latino residents. Other projects included a new visitor center, historical society, park improvements, trail system, community big band, sledding hill and services for seniors
Outstanding Green Venture - Etoc Development/Grand View Lodge of Nisswa. When it designed its Fawn Ridge neighborhood along the shores of Fawn and Edna Lakes in Nisswa, Etoc abandoned the traditional cookie-cutter approach to land development. Instead, 16 future property owners with smaller lots will enjoy large areas of shared land with undeveloped shoreline and forests. This new design strategy holds the promise of accommodating future population growth while preserving natural resources.
Outstanding Nonprofit Organization - Pine River-Backus Family Center. With 20 staff members and 350 volunteers, the Pine River-Backus Family Center provides programs in drug prevention and education, early childhood and youth development, parent education, home visitation and basic family support. By establishing a thrift store and serving as a one-stop shop for social services, the center has constantly adapted to meet the needs of families and those facing poverty and crisis situations.
Outstanding Enterprise - MINPACK Inc., Pine City. In 2005, corporate downsizing threatened 100 jobs in a community of just more than 3,000. The high-tech manufacturer of microfilm cards is a key supplier to 3M, NASA and Boeing. With financing from the Initiative Foundation, Bob Thompson assumed local ownership with a renewed commitment to community service and quality jobs that pay living wages. Since then, MINPACK has grown by more than 30 percent.
Outstanding Volunteer: the late Mark Wood Little Falls.
After pioneering a mentorship program for children with special needs at Lincoln Elementary School, Wood was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Upon his death in 2005, he donated his entire estate to form the Mark Wood Foundation to continue his volunteer efforts for current and future generations. Today, thanks to his final act of generosity, the Little Falls mentoring program has grown to 19 volunteer mentors.
Outstanding Youth: Rochelle Olson and Christy Trettel, Little Falls. After learning about the dangers of methamphetamine, Olson and Trettel joined the Morrison County Meth Coalition and decided to raise awareness among their peers. During their junior year, the teens planned a "meth awareness week" that included radio shows, interactive forums and school promotions. Teachers modified classes to cover the meth epidemic from all angles.
Winners were selected based on their leadership, innovation and community impact. Foundation staff nominated up to three finalists for each category, and volunteer selection committees decided the winners. Foundation President Kathy Gaalswyk said the awards are intended to thank servant leaders as well as inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
"If you look behind the greatest accomplishments of Minnesota hometowns, you will always find outstanding leaders and volunteers," Gaalswyk said in a news release. "Many of them go unnoticed, and that's a shame. Our goal is to shine the brightest spotlight on their efforts - to thank them, to reenergize them, and to hold them up as role-models so others can take us even farther."
Thanks to 37 sponsors, award winners will receive a specially commissioned sculpture by glass-recycling artist, Michael Tonder, and $1,000 for the charity of their choice. They will also be featured in IQ Magazine and honored at the awards event titled, "The Winners of Oz."
Banquet reservations are $45 and may be purchased online at www.ifound.org/awards. Web users can read award winners' stories and post congratulations at www.iqmag.org.
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