2016 Making a Difference Award Winners

The 2016 Making a Difference Awards have been announced. Judges for the awards report many deserving candidates throughout the six categories.

Earning the “Best Face Forward Award” this year is Quail Run Golf Links. This first-time award recognizes a business or commercial property owner that has improved the appearance of their building or property in their community – thus putting their “Best Face Forward”. The successful nominator said that the Quail Run “property has been restored replacing the deck and painting and revitalizing the building exterior as well as interior. The owners have taken a business that is vital in attracting people to our area, as golf is important if you review recreation requests for new personnel looking to relocate”.

The 2016 “Business of the Year Award” will be presented to Eagle Cave. This award recognizes a business that has made a deep impact on the community through its work, employee impact, volunteerism, or leadership to create growth and a true sense of community. Eagle Cave's nominator said that Wes and Michelle Hanke are the second generation in the Hanke family to operate the attraction in southern Richland County. In addition to the regular activities associated with the cave and campground, the Hankes have used their business to host the annual Haunted Cave Tours each fall to reinvest over $25,000 into a host of worthwhile community projects that benefit many in the community, county, and Riverdale School District.

Being honored with this year's “Civic Leadership Award” will be Barb Kennedy. This award goes to an employee of the city, county, state or other governmental agency who goes above and beyond the call of duty to enhance Richland County. The successful nomination said that Barb Kennedy has been an Adult Education Instructor at the Southwest Tech Outreach site in Richland Center for nearly 40 years. She is also a longtime member of the Richland County Literacy Council and the Wisconsin State Literacy Council. Barb primarily works with an underserved population in the community. Students are met with a warm, welcoming approach to those who may be going through a difficult time in their lives such as the loss of a job or a domestic problem. Barb has made a difference by selflessly committing her career to the advancement of others.

The “Non-Profit of the Year” Award will be presented to the Richland Community Food Pantry. It honors a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the betterment of the community. The nomination stated that the Richland Community Food Pantry has been serving Richland County families since 1992, providing basic food supplies to families who have a food emergency. The Pantry is operated entirely by volunteers. Each Tuesday 35 to 40 volunteers gather to set-up and operate the Pantry. In 2015 alone, it served 8,572 individuals. About half of which were adults, 14% seniors, and 37% children.

The 2016 “Outstanding Organization Award” goes to the 4 Seasons of Fun. This is an

organization that has made a deep impact on the community through its work, vision, volunteerism, or leadership to create a caring, compassionate community. Receiving multiple nominations for the award, one of the nominators stated that the 4 Seasons of Fun group “continues to enjoy working with local volunteers to bring thousands of people to our community. The organization is well run and employs many other organizations to provide a great fundraising opportunity for many of these area nonprofits which might otherwise struggle to survive. In addition, the efforts have generated many great improvements at the local fairgrounds and brought economic stimulus to our community.

Finally, the “Community Stewardship Award” in 2016 will be presented to Carletta Heidi. This award honors an individual who has truly 'made a difference' in our community, providing inspiration and vision, by touching the lives of Richland County residents. Their impact and dedication does make Richland County 'the Center of it all'. The nominator stated that “from her many years of working with students in the Richland School District before her retirement, to staying active in the Richland School District Foundation, to her diligent work each year at the Richland County Fair with her work in recognizing Richland County's rich history, Carletta Heidi touches the lives of Richland County's youngest to oldest residents. Carletta also has a passion for the four legged type that live in Richland County as well with her work in the Ocooch Mountain Humane Society. She always has a smile on her face as she serves up your hot dog or brat while working in the Animal House Food Stand. And, it wouldn't be Christmas if Carletta wasn't at the grocery store representing the Richland County Dairy Promotion Board. There isn't an area in Richland County that hasn't been touched in some way by Carletta”.

Also to be honored during the annual banquet will be the “Emergency Responder Award” recipient. This individual is chosen from among local EMT’s, firefighters or police officers for their selfless service to our county throughout the year. This year's honoree is Sergeant Dane Kanable and K-9 officer Titan of the Richland County Sheriff's Department. Additionally there will be recognition given this year to the Feeding Families RC Style winner.

Tickets are now on sale for the 2016 “Making a Difference” Banquet on Sunday, January 31st. The event begins at 6:30 PM with a cash bar opening at 5:30 PM that evening. Tickets are priced at $20 each and may be purchased at Gordy’s Market, The Frame Corner & Gallery, or at the Ameriprise Financial office in the Richland County Performing Arts Center in downtown Richland Center.