Century Hall in Wauzeka was the site for the presentation of the 6th annual Crawford County Leadership Awards, hosted by the Crawford County Community Fund. Dr. Jason Wood, president of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, was the keynote speaker. Camille Smith served as emcee, Sharon Murphy provided an update on activities of the Crawford County Community Fund and Bob Van Hoesen presented the awards. Music was provided by a flute ensemble from North Crawford School and Star Valley Flowers contributed the floral decorations.
Event sponsors included BAPI; the Crawford County Economic Development Corporation; Howe Printing Company and the Courier Press; the Gays Mills Orchard Ridge Association; the Kickapoo Culinary Center; the Marketplace; Peoples State Bank; River Bank; Royal Bank; Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative; and JB Shrimp Farm.
The Community Leadership and Service Award, honoring public service that enhances the economic, cultural, or social well-being of the Crawford County community, was presented to the “Come for Supper” initiative, hosted by St Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church. This event builds community through a monthly meal offered free of charge to any and all. Chefs volunteer their expertise in preparing the meal; civic organizations and community groups are the source of the volunteers that ‘crew’ the meal. During its 7-year history, it has grown from serving less than 50 people, monthly, to providing an experience for upwards of 250 folks.
The Tourism Award, recognizing a commitment to the enhancement of Crawford County tourism development and promotion, was presented to the Gays Mills Orchard Ridge Association. The Association has brought together the growers and related businesses in a united marketing effort. They have joined together to help each other grow and thrive while promoting the ‘Gays Mills apple experience’ to folks well beyond Crawford County.
The Educational Leadership Award recognized Russell Gilbert, a retired teacher who continues to teach and mentor kids in the Soldiers Grove area. A 1990 awardee of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, Gilbert continues to be known for his emphasis on experiential education. An active community leader, his teaching continues as he works with the Soldiers Grove Library Board and Lions Club, the Driftless Area Art Festival, and the Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice program.
The Youth Leadership Award was presented to Jadyn Sander, a senior in the Wauzeka Schools. Sander has been very involved in the Peer Assistance and Learning (PAL) program, working with disadvantaged elementary students to build self-esteem and academic skills. Additionally, she has helped to revitalize the FFA program at Wauzeka into the most active club in the school and was the “chief organizer” of the petting zoo at the 2015 Crawford County fair. Sander is a talented athlete and assists with the school yearbook. She is also active with her church.
There were two Above and Beyond Awards presented. Craig and Julie Bell were recognized for their selfless act of love in providing a unique opportunity for disabled children to attend a Green Bay Packers game. Their efforts – known as ‘Wheel of Todd’ are in memory of their son, who succumbed to muscular dystrophy. The Bells have worked tirelessly to give families of those with a terminal disease a memory to last a lifetime.
The Kickapoo Cultural Exchange, a 501(c)(3) organization that undertakes cultural and educational activities in the Gays Mills area, was also recognized with an Above and Beyond Award. KCE been a sponsor for a number of community groups/organizations in the county that seek private support for the projects they undertake. KCE sponsorship enables these groups to receive tax-deductible contributions. The current sponsored groups include the Folk Festival of Music and Dance, Village Stewards, the Lower Kickapoo Initiative, Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice, Viroqua Community Theater, the Kickapoo Community Art Fund, Threshold Care Circle, Save Copper Creek, the Kickapoo Guatemala Accompaniment Project and the Gays Mills Urban Tree project.
The Business Development Award recognizes an individual, business, or organization that has demonstrated a spirit of community involvement toward the improvement of business and economic development in Crawford County. Two awards were presented. Robert McDonald, Prairie du Chien, was recognized for his 30-year involvement as a volunteer with the Prairie du Chien Economic Development Corporation. Over the years, McDonald has been very involved in bringing businesses to the region. Most recently he provided the leadership in raising funds to open and staff an actual office for the PDC-EDC as well as the ‘muscle’ to clean, paint, and outfit the office.
Driftless Organics was also recognized with a Business Development Award. An organic vegetable farm in the Soldiers Grove area, this business was started in 1993 by Josh and Noah Engel when they planted a quarter acre of potatoes. Today, the Engel brothers along with Mike Lind farm more than 100 acres and sell vegetables, fruits and sunflower oil through farmers’ markets, grocery stores and to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers through five local sites, five sites in Madison, and seven in the Twin Cities. Driftless Organics is a major player in developing the reputation for organic foods in this area.
The Crawford County Community Fund has presented Leadership Awards since 2011. Nominations are solicited, county-wide, in the first quarter of the year with the annual recognition event held in April. The Crawford County Community Fund, a component of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, Inc, is a tax-exempt public charity. The mission of the Crawford County Community Fund is to create stronger communities by matching generosity with economic need. That mission is accomplished by building an endowment to fund a grants program, through the continuation of the Crawford Markets Care initiative, and through this recognition program.
For more information, contact Sharon Murphy, Crawford County Community Fund chairperson, at (608) 624-3409, [email protected], or Barb Daus, donor services representative with the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, at (608)778-3344, [email protected]