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Two people were named honorary Paul Harris Fellows Saturday evening as part of Hudson's annual Rotary fundraiser. Cindy Mitchell, a Hudson School District STRIVE teacher, left front, and Rev. Van Bredeson, right front, were recognized. Mitchell was honored for her tireless day-to-day work with local youth and Van Bredeson, for providing Hudson's Daybreak Rotarians with the information and inspiration 10-plus years ago that resulted in many new opportunities for local youth. Presenting the award to Mitche...

Mitchell, Bredeson honored as Paul Harris Fellows during annual Rotary gala

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events River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
Hudson Star Observer
Mitchell, Bredeson honored as Paul Harris Fellows during annual Rotary gala
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A pair of Hudson Rotarians and two individuals who have contributed heavily to helping youth in the community were honored Saturday evening, Feb. 11 as part of Rotary's 30th annual fundraising gala.


Some 220 people attended the function, which included dinner, silent and live auctions and entertainment by Comedy Sportz, a Twin Cities acting troupe.

Rotarians Shelli Erck and John Knutson each received their club's "Service Above Self" award for an individual who exemplifies the ideals of Rotary, contributes through leadership and resources to Rotary and the community and who is passionate about service.

Erck, a 10-year member of Hudson's noon club, was lauded by club president Dan Martens for her work with the annual rose sale fundraiser, for organizing monthly meals for the Salvation Army's Grace Place shelter at Somerset, mentoring youth, club and district leadership and generous contributions from her business, Hudson Floral.

Knutson was singled out for his leadership at the club and district levels, for his Rotary Foundation fundraising work, for increasing the visibility of the Shelterbox project for disaster relief, numerous community service projects, his passion for community and Rotary causes.

"John epitomizes Service Above Self as he is involved in some fashion with nearly every non-profit agency in the community as well as making sure Rotarians and other community leaders are connected with the local non-profit agencies. John, like most community leaders, has a flaw; when asked to serve, he can't say no," said Daybreak Rotary president Annette Cook in presenting the award.

Two non-Rotarians were presented with honorary Paul Harris Fellow awards Saturday evening. The award, named after Rotary's founder, means at least $1,000 was contributed to the Foundation in their names.

Recipient Cindy Mitchell, a Hudson School District teacher and coordinator for the district's STRIVE program, was lauded as "a dedicated educator who has exemplified the attributes of the Paul Harris award as a champion of program development for high school students who are at risk for dropping out of school," said presenter Garth Christenson. "She and her team have studied the best practices and written grants to help sustain the program in Hudson.

"Cindy herself has been an inspirational leader drawing others into the effort of developing programming and curricular materials for students. Her efforts and those of her team are integral to Hudson maintaining the high graduation rates that have been achieved over the years."

STRIVE is an acronym formed from "socialization, transition, reflection, innovation, vocation and education." The program addresses many issues faced by young adults including improving fundamental academic skills, developing leadership potential, improving economic opportunities through continuing education, enhancing or upgrading work skills, integrating literary and social skills into occupational/vocational opportunities, fostering career opportunities through education and training, and promoting peer support for parents and siblings of this young population.

Pastor Van Bredeson was the second citizen recognized. In making the award, Rotarian Steve Wilcox said it was Van Bredeson's 1995 presentation about Minneapolis-based Search Institute's Developmental Assets survey that stimulated our club and many members still active today to take action. The Daybreak Rotary's involvement spiraled into community meetings, a survey of community assets, youth focus groups and compilation of youth needs. As a result, seven volleyball courts were built in city parks, an Interact Youth Service Club was formed at the high school, a new STRIVE program for "at-risk" students was begun, a coaches mentorship program formed, the Royalty Wheel Park was conceived and built, a teen center was developed at the Hudson YMCA, Junior Achievement was initiated in local schools and the organization now known as Youth Action Hudson was created.

Van Bredeson's inspiration has also resulted in youth scholarships at the high school, a bicycle "round-up," a school mentorship program, park benches around the community and more.

"The Power of One is often talked about as a catalyst of initiation that, like the rain drop on the sheet of water, starts the ripple of activity outlined above. During my tenure in Rotary of 33 years your presentation stands out as that catalyzing moment where many of us looked at one another and decided we could collectively make a big difference with our Hudson youth," Wilcox said.

Award recipient John Knutson later returned to the podium to pick up a diamond, valued at $1,000, which he won as a participant in a raffle fundraiser.