2002 REAP Award Winners
Center for Rural Affairs Entrepreneur
Marlene Van Diest, Sandhills Pottery, Dunning, NE
Marlene Van Diest, Dunning, is owner and manager of
Sandhills Pottery, an established thriving pottery
business selling over a broad area. Her business is a
symbol of excellent craftsmanship from a small Nebraska
firm, which provides her a good income and is a quality
business bolstering a rural community. Marlene won the
“REAP Business of the Year” award in 1997 and has a long
history with REAP.
Dedicated to helping her rural community and others
survive and indeed, thrive, Marlene is involved in a
wide range of economic development efforts. She is
currently serving as chairperson of the SSBA, a REAP
association based in Dunning, Nebraska.
Marlene is very active in rural economic development
activities including civic and business development in
Dunning. She helped lead a SSBA-sponsored local scrap
metal collection, with proceeds going for equipment for
the Dunning rescue squad. Dunning was also rid of some
old junk cars at the same time.
Marlene worked on a museum project for the village. She
has also been involved in economic development projects
with the Sandhills RC&D and tourism development
involving the Scenic Highways and Byways project.
Marlene was instrumental in recruiting enrollment for a
successful WBC E-Commerce workshop held in Dunning last
year. She has always been a strong supporter of REAP and
Center for Rural Affairs and has been the source of many
of the handcrafted awards REAP and the Center have
REAP Officer of the Year 2002
Michelle Truax, Around the World Tanning, Inc.,
Michelle Truax of the Saunders County Independent
Business Network (SCIBN) has been selected as the REAP
2002 Officer of the Year. Michelle has been a member of
the SCIBN association since June of 2000. She opened
Around the World Tanning Salon in Wahoo in December
2000, with the assistance of REAP.
Michelle became Secretary/Treasurer of SCIBN in February
2001. She has been instrumental in recruiting new
members. Her fundraising efforts have sparked all
members to participate to rebuild their Loan Loss
Reserve fund and to build up their Special Uses Account.
Michelle has started a monthly Newsletter that reports
the Association’s activities and highlights members.
REAP Small Business of the Year 2002
Paul & Sherri Laverack, Great Plains Stone and Epoxy,
Paul is a charter member of the South Central Business
Development Association (SCBDA) at Holdrege, NE.
Starting from absolute scratch, Paul and Sherri have
developed a very successful business.
With barely enough savings and collateral, Paul quit his
job and started Great Plains Stone and Epoxy. His
company sells and installs a decorative stone chip and
epoxy surface treatment to beautify and/or restore hard
surfaces and also sells and installs Flo-crete, a
flowable cement surfacing agent.
Paul and Sherri worked with the Central/Southwest REAP
Business Specialist to do basic business planning and to
successfully apply for a REAP peer loan. Using that loan
for inventory, and using their business plan as a
checklist to set priorities and outline his business
needs, Paul subsequently applied for a second peer loan,
using it to stock additional inventory.
He now has a profitable and rapidly growing business
based in Holdrege and serving the surrounding area
including Kearney. Paul and Sherri are solid members of
their local business community in Holdrege and are
always ready to support REAP and the cause of
microenterprise in NE.
Paul has also taken time to accept a REAP Advisory Board
member from the Central/Southwest region and is already
doing an excellent job. He is a past chairperson of the
REAP Friend of the Year 2002
Gaila Gilliland, Director of Economic & Community
Development, South Sioux City, NE
Gaila was instrumental in forming the Siouxland Area
Small Business Association (SASBA) two years ago. She
has continued to be very active and supportive to that
group and to REAP.
Mentoring small business owners by being an Independent
Fashion Coordinator of Weekenders women’s wear called
“Gaila & Friends” as well as in her position as Economic
& Community Development Director is another important
Gaila’s belief and advocating of micro enterprise
development is what makes South Sioux and SASBA continue
to be successful. She has great community contact and
supports REAP at various meetings and when talking to
Small Business owners.
REAP Extra Mile Awards 2002
Jim Frager, Jefferson County Economic Development
Jim has helped in a big way to keep REAP busy and known
in Jefferson County this past year. Through his office,
REAP received approximately 18 new contacts. Jim’s work
is an example of how economic development efforts in
rural communities and the REAP program go hand-in-hand.
Neil Van Boening, Treasurer at SGSBN, Wymore, NE
Neil was a charter member of the Southern Gage Small
Business Network and has served as treasurer of the
group since 1997. He’s continued to be a supportive
member, trying to promote small business success in the
Wymore – Blue Springs community. He believes in REAP’s
purpose and wants to see the Southern Gage Small
Business Network grow.
Mark Werthmann, Development Consultant, Nebraska
Department of Economic Development
Mark has demonstrated his belief in small business
development many times over. Before taking his current
position at the Nebraska Department of Economic
Development, Mark was the Economic Developer for
Mark saw a need for REAP and served as the community
contact person in establishing an association based in
Fairbury. He has continued being very supportive of
microenterprise development in his current position at
the Department of Economic Development.
Mark’s innovative and effective administering of CDBG
funding has been critical for programs like REAP. Mark’s
continued support and enthusiasm has been tremendous.