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Foundation selects its 2011 winners

The Initiative Foundation will honor four winners at its 2011 Initiative Awards Oct. 28 at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa. Since 2000, the awards event has recognized outstanding leadership and community service in central Minnesota.

Outstanding Community — Wadena.

The foundation chose Wadena to receive its Outstanding Community Award, sponsored by the Minnesota Power Foundation. The city was selected because of its community development work and recovery and rebuilding efforts after a June 2010 tornado. 

Outstanding Enterprise — Larson Boats, Little Falls.

Larson Boats, a boat manufacturer in Little Falls, will receive the foundation’s Outstanding Enterprise Award, sponsored by Schlenner Wenner & Co. Founded in 1916, Larson Boats started by manufacturing small wooden boats. It has since survived the economic recession, while retaining 170 jobs, and has established itself as an internationally-known company.  

Outstanding Generosity — Jack and Betty Thomas, Hackensack.

Jack and Betty Thomas will be the recipients of the foundation’s Outstanding Generosity Award, sponsored by Bremer Bank. The couple started Mann Lake Ltd in 1983 and has set up a real estate gift so proceeds will help build the first modern animal shelter and training facility in Cass County.

Outstanding Nonprofit — Stearns-Benton Employment and Training Council, St. Cloud.

The foundation selected Stearns-Benton Employment and Training Council for its Outstanding Nonprofit Award, sponsored by Xcel Energy. This organization coordinates education and training for dislocated workers while working with local employers to address critical workforce needs.

“In tough economic times, our award winners represent what is possible to achieve with urgency, passion, power and inspiration,” Kathy Gaalswyk, Initiative Foundation president said in a news release. “We’re proud to bring their accomplishments to light.”

Winners were selected based on their leadership, innovation and community impact. Each will receive a recycled glass sculpture by artist, Michael Tonder, and $1,000 for the charity of their choice. The recipients will also be featured in a video revealed during the Oct. 28 event. 

The foundation’s red-themed awards event, “inspiRED,” is scheduled for 5 p.m., Oct. 28 at the Grand View Lodge in Nisswa. More information about tickets ($50) and sponsorships ($200-550) is available online at or by contacting Katie Riitters at or call (877) 632-9255.