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Central MArket received the business United Way Community Spirit Award at Thursday's Celebration of Heroes. Accepting the award from 2009 United Way president Denise Eggebraaten

United Way awards its Everyday Heroes

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Making the world a better place to live might seem like a lofty ambition, but it is an ambition realized by the hundreds of volunteers who work tirelessly to organize and implement community service projects and special events.

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Often, those volunteers go quietly about their business, unknown and unrecognized. But at Thursday's Celebration of Heroes in Detroit Lakes, the spotlight was on them.

Hosted by the United Way of Becker County, the celebration included recognition of the area's volunteer firefighters, law enforcement, military servicemen and women, veterans and rescue workers.

But there were also a pair of awards presented to honor the "everyday heroes" of the community.

The Everyday Hero Youth Award for 2010 was presented to Detroit Lakes High School student Matt Padrta.

Padrta first began volunteering at Emmanuel Community as part of a classroom project.

"He has a natural talent; a sensitivity to understand what other people want or need and the willingness and ability to give it to them," said Brenda Houts, 2010 United Way president, reading from Padrta's nomination form. "Many of Emmanuel's residents cherish their time with this young man," Houts continued. "One wrote, 'I watch as the young people get off the school bus and then I see him. Out he bounds with his carefree, happy smile. And I smile."

The Everyday Hero Adult Award for 2010 went to Michele Baker.

Reading an excerpt from her nomination form, Houts said, "An Everyday Hero makes a difference in people's lives. She serves others as a tireless volunteer. I do not personally know anyone who has given more back to our community. She has made a difference."

A past United Way board member, Baker has worked with or contributed to their residential, payroll and business drives. She also works as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, is a member of the St. Mary's Innovis Health Foundation Board and the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, and has served as treasurer for the Becker County Salvation Army for the past 11 years, chairing its Red Kettle Campaign.

"The list of her accomplishments is only half her story," said Houts. "She is a dedicated mom to her sons -- Matt, Brandon and Nathan -- and has spent many hours attending and volunteering at their events over the years. I imagine there are many members of this community who have worked with her on some project, event, committee or board and experienced her giving spirit, and discovered you can always count on her to get the job done."

In introducing the winner of the Bob & Michelle Harris Memorial Award, United Way Executive Director LuAnn Porter said she had to "lie, lie, lie" to get him to the ceremony while still keeping the award a secret.

"She did that," laughed Mike Herzog as he accepted the award, but added that he was "very humbled" by the recognition.

"The United Way is one of the most rewarding organizations I've ever been a part of," Herzog added, noting that the late Bob and Michelle Harris were "just marvelous examples for young businessmen" when it came to community service.

Porter, in announcing this year's Harris Award recipient, said Herzog was "a living example" of the traits that Bob and Michelle Harris were all about -- "commitment to community, compassion and service combined with extraordinary leadership."

She noted that Herzog had been responsible for creating both the Harris Memorial and Everyday Hero awards during his tenure as United Way president in 2002.

In addition to his work with the United Way, Herzog has also volunteered as a member of the board of directors for Bremer Bank, the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center and the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation.

He is also a past board member of the Detroit Country Club, and his company, Herzog Roofing, has provided in kind service for a variety of school projects, including the new concession stand, bleachers, dugouts, ticket office and more.

Also at Thursday's celebration, Community Spirit awards were given to Marlo Oistad (individual) and Central Market (business).

Retiring United Way board members Sue Braun and John Flatt were honored, and a special "Better Halves Award" was also presented to Bob Porter and Gerald Schumacher, the spouses of LuAnn Porter and Sue Braun, for their work on behalf of their wives' various United Way projects.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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