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Wadena wins

Photo Provided by Adventure Studios Representatives of Wadena pose with the award sculpture. From left, city council member Jeanette Baymler, Long Term Recovery chair Del Moen, Fire Chief Dean Uselman, City Administrator Brad Swenson, Mayor Wayne Wolden, school board chair Ann Pate and council member Don Niles.1 / 5
Photo by Rachelle Klemme Mayor Wayne Wolden accepts the award sculpture from Kathy Gaalswyk.2 / 5
Mayor Wayne Wolden was one of four people giving acceptance speeches, along with Ann Pate, Don Niles and the Rev. Del Moen, at the Initiative Awards ceremony.3 / 5
Carmen Sandiego meets James Bond as people socialize in the suggested festive red attire to go with the event's theme, "InspiRed."4 / 5
Jena Osberg, Erik Osberg, Shanna Van Bruggen and Matthew Van Bruggen were four of the dozens of Wadena area attendees at the 2011 Initiative Awards ceremony.5 / 5

Ten years after receiving the Outstanding Community Award from the Initiative Foundation, the community of Wadena won again - this time, in honor of recovery from a tornado.

Wadena received the 2011 Outstanding Community Award at the Initiative Awards ceremony held Friday, Oct. 28 at the Grand View Lodge in Nisswa.

Wadena had also won the Outstanding Community Award in 2001 with the Wadena Revitalization project.

Several tables of eight Wadena area residents attended the 2011 ceremony, preceded by a banquet and social hour.

Red was the suggested attire for the evening to go with the event's theme, "InspiRed."

The award, which includes a $1,000 grant, was presented by Kathy Gaalswyck of the Initiative Foundation, Dr. Earl Potter III and Dan Tonder of Minnesota Power.

"In nature, red seems to be the color of inspiration. For our final award winner, nature took a much different form on June 17, 2010. Red was the color of danger," Potter said.

Tonder said that there were two employees of Minnesota Power who had connections to Wadena.

Mike Harrison, who lives in Wadena and commutes to Little Falls, collected supplies and donations from fellow employees and would return home in the evenings to the recovery efforts.

"Mike's determination, energy and commitment was the impetus of a Minnesota Power matching grant and collaboration with the Initiative Foundation. It raised thousands of dollars for the recovery effort in Wadena," Tonder said.

Tim Schwartz is a lineman from the Park Rapids office and brother of Rick Schwartz from the Wadena Electric Group.

Tonder said Tim Schwartz also spent many hours offering time and expertise.

A video showed footage of the tornado aftermath, audio archives and interviews with Ann Pate, Wayne Wolden and the Rev. Del Moen retelling the events of the day and the recovery.

The video can be seen at

Mayor Wayne Wolden thanked individual community members who put in long hours of work into a variety of tornado recovery efforts.

School Board Chair Ann Pate talked about the effect of the tornado on the school system, and how they were able to start the next school year on time and move ahead.

"We started that school year with kids who weren't sleeping in their own beds," she said.

Moen talked about the efforts of the Long Term Recovery Committee.

"At its high point, we had $1,600,000 in unmet need," he said, adding that it was projected to be down to about $20,000 by the second-year anniversary in June 2012.

Don Niles, chairman of Wadena 2.0, talked about the agencies, organizations, businesses and individuals who pitched in to aid Wadena.

"There are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people who helped us be where we are today," he said.

The speakers thanked the Initiative Foundation for its role in the recovery efforts.

Other award winners were Stearns-Benton Employment and Training Council of St. Cloud for Outstanding Nonprofit in helping people get back to work during the recession, Larson Boats of Little Falls for Outstanding Enterprise in weathering the recession and reviving itself as a major employer in the area, and Jack and Betty Thomas of Hackensack for Outstanding Generosity for starting the Paws and Claws Animal Shelter to be constructed in Cass County.

Julia Palmer of Mid-Central Federal Savings Bank said she confirmed with the Initiative Foundation that there were about 400 attendees.

"I've always been impressed with Wadena," she said. "I felt honored to be there that evening."