Eighteen heart-warming nominations were received. They were reviewed by an independent selection committee of residents from around the county.
We honor those nominees and to recognize three runners up and three special finalists. Those three finalists were able to direct up to $1,000 in grants from the Rusk County Community Foundation to a Rusk County non-profit organization(s) of their choice.
Arlene received many nominations for the Heart of Gold recognition. Her resume includes being an active member of the Bruce Kiwanis, Bruce Garden Club, Rusk Area Arts Alliance, Publicity Chair of the Partners of Rusk County Memorial Hospital, a volunteer at the Rusk County Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home, a volunteer for Westlake fundraisers, the Sno Ball Dance, the Bruce School Holiday Store, is a Master Gardener and many others. "In every area she demonstrates inspiration, a kind demeanor, all culminating in an exceptional outcome. She is the epitome of the word ‘volunteer'." Even though Arlene is a relative new-comer to our area, she's made her mark. She is part of the Arlene and Arien (her husband) team, who are dedicated to making our area a better place to live. "Arlene is kind, friendly, hard working and always there to lend a helping hand. She's a very capable, helpful, unassuming, dependable person in our community and if anyone deserves the Heart of Gold Award, it's definitely Arlene."
Don and Judy Soyring
Don and Judy have been active volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, Kinship, the Time Out Shelter, Hope Lutheran's Carpenter's Kin, helped prepare and serve Manna Meals and have worked at the Wildlife Restoration Banquets to name a few. Their nominator said "If I had the ability to design a town, I would fill it with people like Judy and Don. Then it would be the most caring, enterprising and peaceful town to live in." Through Judy's involvement with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, she's instrumental in doing the behind the scene work that allows for matching grants, making fundraisers more powerful. They work both as a team and separately in their random acts of kindness. When the water needed to be drained on Lake Flambeau, many people were out of water for many months. Through Don's ingenuity, he helped fashion water systems that provided neighbors with water. They share their time and energy for the benefit of others.
LaVonne had a long career in public health. That job exposed her to the many needs of Rusk County residents and it turned into a big part of her life to make a difference. She became involved in foster care, often taking in older children who can be more difficult to place in homes. While working in public health, she helped young mothers with child care and breastfeeding classes. To this day, she gets calls from old clients needing "motherly advice" and they are never turned away. She's been known to give away the last package of meat in her freezer so that a young family would not go hungry.
LaVonne saw a need in Rusk County to support cancer victims, and she was one of the founders of Women With Courage, a foundation that provides stipends to Rusk County citizens facing cancer treatment, helping with expenses beyond what insurance covers. Despite her own troublesome health, she continues to lend a hand whether that's providing help to an ailing friend or neighbor, cooking meals for the needy and helping with many other organizations like 4-H, Red Cross and Care Net Pregnancy Resources' Walk for Life to name a few.
She's not only given her time, talent and money, but she's inspired many others to do the same, including her children who are actively involved in the community, making volunteerism a family affair.
"She is just what you would call a true good soul. I don't know of anyone with a more giving heart than her."
Bob and Barb Lorkowski
For years, Bob and Barb have hosted fundraisers at their home for Boy Scouts of America, Westlake Enterprises and the food pantries located in Rusk County, raising tens of thousands of dollars for these worthwhile organizations. Bob leads the district Boy Scouts of America, is a director of the Rusk County Waters Alliance and other organizations. Barb volunteers at the Resale Store in Bruce and is a member of the Westlake Enterprises Board.
Maxine purchases and mails boxes of food and supplies to our service men and women serving overseas. She researches the needs, actively seeks names of military personnel and then inspires others to get involved, often youth in our community. "She has taught our community's youth about service to country and volunteerism. I feel Maxine does this as her sense of duty to her country and out of the goodness of her heart." This summer she spoke at "Operation Military Kids Camp" where they taught children in military families what to send and how to package shipments to soldiers. In addition, she's baked hundreds of cookies over the years for Environmental Day at the Ladysmith Middle School, for events at the Historical Museum and other events.
Finalist Non-Profit Recipients
Our other nominees, presented in alphabetical order.
John originated the Annual Spring Talent Show in Bruce and is still instrumental in it after 30 years. He gives students in grades 3-12 an opportunity to perform and build confidence. He compliments and encourages all acts and inspires about 10 other volunteers who are needed to run the show.
Pat is a long time member of the Hawkins Lion's Club and has played an active role in the fall festival, is active in her church and has influenced area youth through her leadership. "Mrs. Filipiak is an individual whom I admire and who motivates me to try to share community needs." She is a consistent and positive member in her small community.
"Dick is a very generous person in all he says and does. Every opportunity is an opportunity for a gesture of kindness or just a kind word." Despite experiencing personal losses and having health struggles, Dick remains a very giving man who always has words of encouragement for others. Walt Herrmann Walt has been a dedicated Rusk County Fair volunteer long after his own kids and grandkids were involved. During recent negativity regarding the fair, he has continued his support and has kept on volunteering. "Anyone working or volunteering with Walt knows that he leads by example. Who wants to quit when an 80+ year old is out-working you??"
Tom spends hours volunteering to care for the trees and flowerbeds he was instrumental in planting in front of the Bruce School. Even though retired, he's continued as an adviser for the area FFA. He also volunteers at the Rusk County Fair and shares his talent of harp playing at various functions in the area.
Sandy is President of the Quilts from the Heart group, a prayer shawl ministry that she originated. Its goal was to give back to the people in the community who need love, prayer, care and support. She regularly visits elderly and shut in people in her community and is a willing volunteer for town projects.
Lou Ann saw the need for a food pantry in the Hawkins area and once a place was secured, helped to ready it and volunteers to distribute food. "She's a dedicated leader of the community," and a key person in the organization of the food stand at the annual Hawkins Harvest Festival. She's active in the Lion's Club, Library, Auxiliary and Bethel Lutheran Church to name a few.
Ori-Anne moved to the area in 2006. She's an avid supporter of Rusk County's many charms, including the arts and crafts available in the region. She has inspired many Rusk Area Arts Alliance members to participate in various projects and is "deeply committed to promoting the great talent scattered throughout our rural area." Several art galleries exist in our community because of Ori-Anne's enthusiasm to promote the arts.
Jean spends many hours in volunteer work including at the Hope Lutheran Food Pantry, the funeral committee and as an officer in the Hope Lutheran Church Women's organization. Her neighbors know they can depend on her help when they need it. Steve Snyder Steve regularly plays spiritual music for the enjoyment of the residents of the Rusk County Nursing Home. He recognizes that the nursing home residents need and enjoy this activity.
Jenn has been involved in foster care for the past seven years. She goes out of her way to help each child placed in her home, researching each case so as to have the correct impact on each child. In doing so, she has inspired others to provide foster care. "She does an excellent job of listening, hugging…whatever it takes to heal the heart of a child."
Diane van Doorn
Diane is always cheerful and has a positive attitude and is always willing to work above and beyond in her acts of volunteering. "She is an inspiration, sees what needs to get done, jumps in and always follows through!" She's a 4-H leader, a chaperone for various trips and is very involved at her church.