January 2003      Vol. 12, No. 1  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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2002 REAP Award Winners

Center for Rural Affairs Entrepreneur Award
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 given.

REAP Officer of the Year 2002
Michelle Truax, Around the World Tanning, Inc., Wahoo, NE

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, Holdrege, NE

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 SCBDA.

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 contribution.

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 Director
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 Jefferson County.

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.

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