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Familiar Grounds voted Business of the Year

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The School District of New London won a Mayor's Community Enhancement Award. Pictured are, from left, Melissa Porath, Laurie Schmidt, Jennifer Bruce, Gretchen Sasse, Sarah Pagel, Kirk Delwichen, Ann Pinch and Joey Chancellor. Scott Bellile photo

New London chamber hands out awards

By Scott Bellile

Familiar Grounds Coffee Shop won the 2019 Business of the Year Award at the New London Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet on Thursday, April 4.

Founded by Beth and Jeremy Hutchison in 1997 and purchased by Jennifer and Chris Heideman last May, the coffee shop beat out a crowded field of 13 nominees for the top people’s choice award.

“Chris and I took over a little less than a year ago,” Jennifer Heideman said. “Our goal was to make our business an extension of your home. We wanted you to feel welcome at any time and to feel safe. We wanted you to be able to come and just be yourself, and I really hope that we have accomplished that for people here in New London.”

Voters cited the coffee shop’s successful transition in ownership, its recent implementation of live music events and strong social media presence as qualifications for the award.

Recently Familiar Grounds won Business of the Year in 2014, the Excellence in Innovation Award in 2015 and the Beautification Award in 2017, when the Hutchisons gave the building’s exterior a makeover.

Jennifer Heideman took home a second award that night, Ambassador of the Year.


MOHH changing lives of homeless

The Mission of Hope House received the Community Service Award.

The 21-bed homeless resource shelter opened in February after several years of fundraising and volunteer-led remodeling of the building.

In a tearful speech, MOHH co-founder Lori Prahl read remarks prepared by her homeless clients.

They described MOHH as a “priceless,” judgment-free location where they have felt loved and safe for the first time. They described the MOHH staff as “angels in disguise” sent by God.

“Having a home environment gave us a goal to strive for,” Prahl read aloud from the comments. “It inspired us to practice self-love. The people I’ve met [feel] loved by everyone no matter what. It has given us a chance to find a home, help us feel loved and wanted.

“We have access to food to nourish our bodies anytime we need to,” Prahl read. “That is a true blessing. Nothing feels more like a home than being able to feed yourself or your family when we need to.”

Prahl accepted the award on the entire community’s behalf, saying it would not have been possible without the public’s support of the shelter.

MOHH previously landed the Quality of Life Award in 2016 and the Beautification Award in 2018.


Rawhide saves girls’ therapy program

CHAPS Equine-Assisted Services, a therapeutic horse-riding program in Shiocton for at-risk girls, won the Excellence in Innovation Award.

Established in 2004, CHAPS Academy was acquired by Rawhide Inc. in March 2018 after the service announced that January it was going to close.

Rawhide CEO Alan Loux said because CHAPS Academy had served in its history 3,200 girls, many of whom had “suicidal ideation.”

If the program dissolved, people in the area might have driven more than two hours to continue therapy, Loux said.

“So two weeks later the [Rawhide] organization made the decision to take them over,” Loux said. “And I can tell you that it’s really impacting the lives of our youth in our communities in a unique way.”


Other chamber award recipients

  • Quality of Life Award: Longevity Nutrition. The smoothie and juice bar also won New Business of the Year in 2018.
  • Chamber Service Award: Karen Duch of Wolf River Community Bank.
  • New Business of the Year Award: Tractor Supply Co. The big-box store geared toward farmers, gardeners and pet owners opened last November in a longtime-vacant hardware store building.
  • Beautification Award: St. Joseph Residence. The skilled nursing facility completed a 22,000-square foot expansion last year that included a memory care unit and private rooms with private restrooms.


Mayor’s Community Enhancement Awards

Mayor Gary Henke issued four of his own Mayor’s Community Enhancement Awards:

  • Wohlt Creamery: Following the death of Wohlt Creamery owner Marilynn Taylor, Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery acquired the dairy company and retained its 60-some employees, ensuring production continues in New London, Henke said.
  • School District of New London: New London students receive quality career exploration opportunities, the district meets with local stakeholders to determine community marketing strategies, and students now serve on the New London Economic Development Committee, Henke said.
  • BNH Lighting: The Hortonville business run by Jeremy Bellile has helped local businesses save almost $200,000 in Focus on Energy rebates through energy-efficiency upgrades. The School District of New London is set to save up to $70,000 in annual energy costs with Bellile’s help.
  • Kent Hager: City Administrator Kent Hager’s accomplishments in his nearly 20-year career include overseeing additions to the industrial park, local job creation and the demolition of the decrepit Simmons Juvenile Products factory; establishing a hotel room tax to fund tourism promotion; and helping the population grow by almost 400 people. Hager will retire in June.
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