Year in Review: 2020 Silver Linings
The true meaning of serving others
By Shawn Becker
Wood County Sheriff
One of my favorite moments this year was in October. It involved Malcolm McGregor. Malcolm is 12 years old, suffering from cancer and had just returned home from treatment. Portage County Deputy Robert Krummel asked me if our department would be interested in making Malcolm an honorary deputy/officer for our departments. I told Deputy Krummel we would be happy to participate.
On Oct. 12, representatives from Portage and Wood County Sheriff’s Department, Grand Rapids Police Department, Grand Rapids Fire Department, and Wood County Rescue all participated in this wonderful event. Malcolm was escorted from his home to the Grand Rapids Fire Department with multiple emergency vehicles.
Once he arrived, Sheriff Mike Lukas, Chief Mel Pedersen, and myself swore Malcolm in as an honorary deputy/officer with each of our departments. After the ceremony, Malcolm participated in a K-9 scenario and spoke to those in attendance. He was so happy, and enjoyed playing the part of a law enforcement officer. We had a uniform and personalized badge for him. Check out the video on our Facebook page.
During the past several months, our community has requested our department to participate in special events and birthday party parades due to effects of the pandemic. As a department, we have been happy and proud to participate in them. Many local law enforcement agencies and fire departments, in true teamwork fashion, have worked together to make these parades happen.
Going through this pandemic has been hard on everyone. However, it has given our department and all first responders an opportunity to serve our communities in a very different and positive way. It has given everyone involved a “feel good” moment, a chance to be appreciated, and to be grateful for each other, all of which are needed in these most unusual times. It has also reminded me of the true meaning and value of serving others, helping those in need and making our community stronger, together.
By Shane Blaser
Wisconsin Rapids Mayor
Surprisingly, when I look back at 2020, I am reminded of several happy moments and small victories – both personal and professional.
Top of mind today is the Emergency COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program. In the spring, shortly after I took office, the “Safer at Home” order took effect, closing many “non-essential” businesses.
Working with city staff and the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce to create this grant program exclusively for small businesses in the city of Wisconsin Rapids who were impacted by the “Safer at Home” order was exciting and a favorite memory of mine from 2020. And, when our common council voted in favor of granting up to $100,000 to eligible businesses, it felt like a victory during a very challenging time.
In total, we provided 61 grants to small businesses and awarded a total of $78,019.55.
I strongly support local business, especially since I’ve been a small business owner for much of my life, and I can really appreciate their value. I am thankful for this opportunity to have provided some support to these 61 small businesses, and I look forward to further encouraging businesses to operate and thrive in our city throughout my tenure as your mayor.
Coming out better on the other side
By Craig G. Broeren
Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools Superintendent
Although the hardships of 2020 have been both plentiful and unique, there have been many instances of significant successes and achievements. An extremely positive aspect of 2020 from my perspective, is how our kids have risen to the challenges of this year and highlighted their ability to advocate for themselves and one another, to come together to help ensure that we, as a school district and community, could outlay our best attempts at some normalcy during this time.
Specifically, our kids highlighted the fact that the vast majority of them want to be in school, with their peers and teachers, doing the things they love to do and they, the kids, have taken action to ensure that this is possible. It is quite clear to me that although there is significant involvement, sacrifice, and work on the part of our staff, our kids must be an integral part of this and they have exceeded expectations in every regard.
As a parent myself, I fully realize the numerous issues with our current approach and the hardships our kids, parents, and our staff have endured, but as a result of my understanding of where we came from, where we are, and where we are going, I am fully confident in saying that we will come out better on the other side of these issues. This would not be possible if it wasn’t for our kids.
Additionally, the hardships of 2020 have caused numerous community groups and organizations to collaborate and work together more than ever before. I sincerely hope we are able to continue this collaborative approach among organizations; there was collaboration before the pandemic, however not at the current level. This significant collaboration allows our district to be a meaningful part of our community at-large in more ways than just the services we provide.
Being part of a team
By Tari Jahns
United Way of South Wood & Adams Counties CEO
A few of the best things about 2020 for me.
The overwhelming supportfor United Way of South Wood & Adams Counties COVID-19 Response Fund. Nearly $50,000 from individuals, businesses, and foundations was raised and allocated to support local programs that continued to offer services to those with the greatest needthroughout the Safer at Home order and COVID-19 pandemic. Being able to invest these funds locally and help to enhance the great work being done is a testament to the amazing people who help our community thrive.
Our United Way team did not miss a beat in 2020. The ability to be adaptable was key; from working remotely and converting our communication style to be mostly online was remarkable. Our local 211 Resource Specialists have handled a record number of calls connecting people with the services and resources they need during this challenging pandemic, including mask distribution and information regarding COVID-19 testing. I am proud to be part of a team that has worked tirelessly in the last year to make our community a better place.
Personally, I have appreciated the additional time at home with those I love and care about most. While we missed a lot of sporting events and activities as a family this year, we have enjoyed more quality time together which I will always treasure.
Wishing you a blessed new year.
Nothing but the best
By Angel Whitehead
Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce president
Despite this year not looking how it typically does, we were given an opportunity to build deeper connections and support locally. There is always a positive that comes from any situation and I believe the community time and time again proves that we are here for each other.
Businesses have been more creative, innovative, and determined. Beyond their own business, these business owners have supported each other. We should all be proud of the business community that strives for nothing but the best. We have seen how adversity affects our business owners, investors, and community members and have been able to cater specifically to what the Heart of Wisconsin needs–resources, facts, support, and positivity.
The best part of 2020, for us, has been the ability to offer safe experiences and provide resources that bring back a little bit of normalcy in such unprecedented times. Small Businesses Saturday, Chamber Charity Drive, Coffee with the Chamber, and more directly promoted and support local businesses. This past year, however it goes down in history, has been a powerful year that not only allowed us to grow our community but to flex our local strength which will ultimately sustain the future of our economy.
It hasn’t been easy this year, but we are proud and grateful to be fully present for you all this year and for many years to come.