“Individual who has consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to advance the vitality and well-being of the community throughout the years.”
This year’s Cornerstone Award Winner could have received this honor years ago. Many of us have needed Scott Tinney’s tire expertise and automotive assistance over the years. He also has provided nearly 25 years of volunteer time to keeping the Osceola Fair running smoothly. Current President of the Osceola Fair Board, Scott and his team’s goal is to see the completion of a badly needed new fair building.
In addition to all his fair time, Scott participates in the St. Croix Valley Connection group, is a former president of the Osceola Snowgoers and is a former Osceola Lions Club member.
Scott joined the chamber a few years ago and finds it important to belong to help keep the town growing and active and also strive to keep people in the area.
Scott was born and raised in Osceola. He graduated from Osceola High School in 1982 and currently lives on his grandparent’s family farmland. He established Scott’s Tire in 1993. His customers have become family over the years. He enjoys picking up or dropping off people’s cars during his busy work day. He was awarded a Customer Service Award this year from the chamber as well. Scott himself says he can’t go anywhere without someone knowing him – it can often take him 2 hours just to go get milk!
Scott has fond memories of growing up in Osceola. He worked at Zorn Auto (where Mr. Deals is now), Charlie’s Standard Station (where Noah Insurance building sits) and the original Osceola Auto Body where he washed cars. He says the best part of the washing cars was when he had finished washing a car, his dad would take him for a pop at Cascade Bar. They would let the car run so the doors didn’t freeze shut.
We sincerely thank you, Scott, for your commitment to Osceola over the years. Thank you for so many happy years of memories at the Osceola Free Fair!
Business of the Year
“Nominees in this category will have conducted their business in such a way as to distinguish him or herself in an extraordinary way and to have made through his or her business a significant contribution to the community.”
RiverWood Canoes: Kevin Carlson, Joel Carlson, Andrew Carlson, Owners
This year’s Business of the Year winner is truly a lesson in local business collaboration.
The Carlson family LOVES canoeing. They all love it so much they decided to go into partnership and “launch” their canoe rental business in 2011. Beginning on July 4th weekend of that year, the guys agreed to transport ARC (Association Retreat Center) canoeing guests in exchange for use of the ARC’s minibus, trailer and 15 canoes.
They had canoes rented over that busy weekend but there were NO reservations on the schedule for the following two weeks. They were doing Facebook ads, signage on Hwy 243, and canoes were stored at Kevin’s home, very visible to passing traffic. They needed to get more exposure. They decided to offer a Groupon ad for three days over the July 4th weekend and immediately sold out their available rentals for the rest of that summer. This campaign instantly put them on the digital map and suddenly they had customers – many who would return many times and tell their friends about their experience.
They had another great idea: take a picture of every guest as they come off the river and post it on Riverwood’s Facebook wall the same day. It was an incredible success. Lots of posts and people talking about this fantastic St. Croix River experience. Riverwood continues to offer this to their guests and the guests love it.
2012 offered another business partnership: Andrew began working at St. Croix River Inn. The inn’s owner, Ben Bruno wanted to offer a canoe rental package to his guests. Andrew would accommodate the inn’s guests in exchange for using the inn as Riverwood’s headquarters. Now the guys had a physical location with high visibility for their business. Plus, it’s a great amenity for the inn’s guests.
More connections: Riverwood plans Bending Branches’ company picnic and canoe outing each year in exchange for canoe paddles. Lucky Panda and Brickfire Pizza partner with Riverwood for coupons for good food and canoes. Riverwood needs to work closely and be accredited with both the National Park and Interstate Park. The parks are cared for and want more people to use them; Riverwood is here to help make that happen.
Their growth has been steady: they went from 15 canoes in 2011 to a total of 100 boats (15 tandem kayaks, 45 solo kayaks, 5 stand up paddle boards and 35 canoes) in 2017.
They expect 5,000 visitors from May-October. Weekends sell out but there is lots of room to grow the business during weekdays. Their rentals are also river condition dependent – flooding or even closing the river like last year. Riverwood caters to the fun, casual day-tripper.
The three partners each has their own idea of how to grow the business: Andrew wants to increase their tandem kayak rentals (no one else offers that in our area); Joel wants to expand trip options (they would then need more workers) and Kevin is eager to organize and promote overnight camping along the river.
Says Andrew, “I love the simplicity of this business. It’s a great river and we at Riverwood Canoe get to have a good time helping other people have a good time. It doesn’t feel like hard work at all.”
Andrew truly has the community spirit to support Osceola’s businesses and planned growth. He has stepped up into a leadership role for the Chamber as the new Tourism Committee Chair. We appreciate Andrew!
Stay tuned! Riverwood Canoe & Kayak will continue to be a business to watch.
Non-Profit of the Year Award
"Organization that has shown outstanding support to the Greater Osceola area through contributions and support of the community."
In 1991, new Osceola resident Roseanne Anderson organized a gift program called Blessing Baskets that helped needy families have food and gifts during the Christmas season.
Roseanne quickly realized that there were hungry people around Osceola all year long so in 1993 a group of concerned citizens started the Open Cupboard. Open Cupboard, also known as our Osceola area food shelf began operation in a small area behind Dr. Harry Beck’s optometry office on 3rd Ave in February of that year. There were obstacles to overcome – the largest being the belief from residents that there was no need for a food shelf in our town. Roseanne knew better however. In 1997, the food shelf was forced to relocate. Osceola Lumber Yard owner Wendell Viebrock allowed the food shelf to operate rent-free out of his building for the next 18 years. When the building sold in 2015 to begin the expansion of Dick’s, Wendell donated the necessary property (near previous building location) and donations from three community members provided the funding to build a new building. Open Cupboard began operation in their beautiful new structure (which has been designed for their use) in 2016.
Roseanne is the face of Open Cupboard but she is the first to admit that she could not have done what she has been able to do without her volunteers. There have been many key people over the years with the present volunteer count at eight (besides Roseanne).
Their mission statement reads: “To provide the community with guidance and supportive services with those in need including food, clothing, household items, school supplies, winter gear, financial aid for rent and utilities and other needed essentials.”
Roseanne is quoted as saying, “Without community this wouldn’t be here. What we have no other food shelf has and that’s because of this community.”
Many thanks to Open Cupboard’s past and present volunteers:
Sue Dougherty Sherry Williams Rhonda Haley Kathy Monroe
Anne Hennessy Char Bottolfson Norma Fish Myrna Bucki
Bev Medvec Fran Griffin Judy Weiss Sherry Hanson
Karen Wynveen Mary Clare Huberty Rosanne Anderson
Community Partner of the Year
"An Osceola Area Chamber business or organization that demonstrates excellence in collaboration to improve the economic vitality of the community through leadership, sponsorships, volunteerism, and partnering with other organizations and/or businesses."
Royal Credit Union – Osceola Branch
Royal Credit Union's core purpose is to create a positive impact in the lives they touch. Founded in 1964 to serve just 100 employees of Uniroyal Tire Plant in Eau Claire, WI, Royal has grown to more than 160,000 Members across WI and MN. They are driven to do the right thing for their Members and make a difference in their lives. As one example, they have eliminated 69 fees and saved Members over $15.3 million in the last few years. Royal is also a certified Community Development Financial Institution, working to improve our local economies and Members’ lives by providing greater access to financial services—like home and auto loans—and financial education. Through their foundation, they are committed to support organizations and initiatives in communities where Royal operates and have awarded over $2.3 million. The foundation recently made grants to two significant Osceola projects: Osceola Discovery Center and Royal Credit Union Sport Court at Osceola Medical Center.
The Chamber wants to take the opportunity to thank RCU for encouraging their employees over the years to be so engaged in the Chamber. Sherry Soderquist, Joe Johnston, Pam Talmadge and Shannon Jacobson (to name a few) come to mind. Thank you RCU and your valuable employees!
Rising Star Business of the Year
"Relatively new "up and coming" small businesses with a unique blend of vision, energy and skill. It is for ventures who have had a strong start with the potential for growing into a prosperous enterprise and have demonstrated a strong contribution to the future of the community."
Uptown Gifts – Donna Carpenter, Owner
Since moving to Osceola over 17 years ago, Donna has grown to really love Osceola and its wonderful people.
Donna owns and operates Uptown Gifts. She focuses on gifts, home décor and now clothing, Donna’s vision for opening Uptown Gifts was to create a unique and uplifting place to visit that would be an asset to the community. Uptown Gifts recently moved and she shares a space along with Expressions Coffeehouse. Donna has taken the new model of business- combining retail and a place to gather and creatively added a new dimension to Osceola’s downtown vibrancy. Donna has also stepped up to a leadership role in the Chamber by co-leading the Retail Team along with Gwen Minnick Wright. Donna looks forward to being a part of Osceola’s bright future. Thank you, Donna!
Excellence in Customer Service Award
"An individual or business with outstanding customer service based on -first impressions, attitude, helpfulness, excelling above and beyond service expectations and promoting other businesses in the area."
Accepting award: Cindy and family
Cindy and her family have grown up in the restaurant industry. She moved to the United States from China seventeen years ago, with her dad who currently owns and operates a restaurant in New York. Cindy has worked in restaurants in Florida, South Caroline and Delaware. In 2009, a friend of Cindy’s convinced the family to move to Osceola and purchase his established restaurant, Lucky Panda. Cindy and her husband, Danny and their two daughters can be found working at the restaurant nearly every day. Always friendly and greeting you with a smile, Cindy and her whole family’s customer service is of the highest level. Cindy gets to know her customers and you can often see her sitting with one of her customers that may be eating alone or is new to the community.
Cindy said Osceola reminds her of her own small village in China. She said the people are really nice here. We are so pleased to honor your business, Panda King with this year’s Excellence in Customer Service. Many thanks for taking such good care of us, Zheng family!
Building of the Year
“Nominees in this category will be the physical building that house successful businesses. The criteria in this category will be new construction as well as buildings which have undergone remodeling or refurbishment in 2016 to the extent that the building becomes an attribute to the community.”
The RiverGroup Financial Advisors (First Baptist Church of Osceola)
Accepting Jeanine Sandberg
The First Baptist Church of Osceola, Harry Wild Jones, architect, was built in 1910 and continued as the Baptists’ place of worship until 2006. At that time, Glyn and Cindy Thorman purchased the building and utilized the building as an event center and retail/small office space. Under their ownership, Thormans did extensive work to preserve the building, known then as Cornerstone Square.
The RiverGroup Financial Advisors purchased the building in 2016 and began extensive renovations. Work included architectural design work; demolition, support and renovation to the original structures; construction of six internal offices, conference room, bathroom, work room and kitchen prep space; restoration of the original woodwork, stucco repair, new ceilings and furnishings and exterior repair to the original stone and masonry work, repair of the bell tower and new paint, shingles and landscaping. Original stained glass windows were repurposed as decorative elements. The beautifully designed interior woodwork and attention to craftsmanship detail makes this building truly an Osceola showcase of renovation and pride in our architectural history.
Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year Award
"Individual who stays active in our community after reaching the age of 70 with volunteerism and outstanding commitment to community service."
Many of us know that Wendell owned Osceola Lumber for many years. But there are many things about Wendell that most of us do not know and his generosity is legendary.
Some of the other activities Wendell has been involved with over the years: providing jobs for teenagers and adults through his many businesses; he and his wife, Marcella were foster parents for eight children; he provided free trucking to local businesses; he transported picnic tables as needed; he cut grass at his church; he buys a county fair animal every year; he purchases Christmas gifts to families in need; and he donates large raffle prizes at benefits every year to help raise money for scholarships for Osceola kids.
And we can’t forget his major contribution with his support of the Open Cupboard. He provided a free building for the food shelf for 18 years when they needed a new location, he donated a portion of land where the new food shelf was built last year. Without his generosity, we may not have had a food shelf.
Wendell continues to be a huge asset and unsung hero in our community. Thank you, Wendell!
Educator of the Year Award
"Recognizing the contributions our schools make to our community; this honor goes to an educator who demonstrates outstanding contributions to education and the community."
Peg (aka Crafty) Medcraft and her husband and family moved to Osceola 25 years ago. Peg started teaching at Osceola High School 21 years ago. She is a favorite teacher to every one of her students.
Peg’s contributions to our community are exemplary. She launched the Osceola Empty Bowls in 2000. Students make all the bowls and accept donations and then serve a meal from those bowls. The students have raised over $120,000 for Osceola Open Cupboard and Heifer International (a program that helps families purchase their own livestock). For her efforts, Peg was honored by the CEO of Heifer International last year through a video.
Peg also won WI teacher of the year in 2005 from Phi Delta Kappa and was awarded $10,000 from Wal-Mart and has also received a Kohl Teacher Fellowship. True to her passion for her students, she spent that money the very next day on pottery equipment for the high school.
Peg is presently President of the St. Croix ArtBarn and has been on the programming board for over 10 years.
Peg says her family is the best family in the whole world. They support all her wild ideas and half-finished projects.
Thanks for adopting us as your town, Peg!
Volunteer of the Year
"Individual who has demonstrated outstanding participation and leadership in the Osceola Area Chamber and/or the Osceola Community with selfless contribution of time and effort."
We recognize and show our gratitude to Deb tonight for her work for the Osceola Area Chamber and Main Street on the Osceola Rivertown Trails Coalition members and a Grow Osceola volunteer. The Falls Bluff Loop Trailhead Project would not have gotten completed without Deb. She organized and coordinated over 1500 hours of volunteer time with Boy Scouts, Eagle Scouts and the Trails Coalition Members. The Chamber understands how important our quality of life is in attracting people to our town and volunteers helping to develop these trails that are becoming an important asset for Osceola’s future.
However, Deb is also known for her work in other areas: working with special needs children with Crystal Ball Farms and River Valley Therapeutic Riding Center; serving on the Holiday Gala Committee for many years and teaching others as an infant massage instructor.
Under her leadership, Deb and the Osceola Rivertown Trails Coalition were honored with the Wisconsin State Main Street Award in Volunteer Engagement for 2015.
We sure are thankful you moved here from Baltimore, Deb. Thank you!
Team of authors contribute. Germaine Ross, Chamber Director, Nancy Beck, Board Member.