RIVER FALLS -- Nonprofits, community members and businesses large and small were honored at the annual River Falls Chamber Awards on Thursday, March 11, hosted virtually this year.
Nonprofit of the Year
The River Falls Community Food Pantry earned the nonprofit of the year award for 2020. The pantry worked to address increased food insecurity during the pandemic.
Executive Director Candice Anderson thanked the community for recognizing the pantry and stepping up to support it this past year.
“It has definitely been a challenging year but the community has been very generous with donations and our volunteers have really stepped up to place for some of the volunteers that had to leave due to COVID fears,” she said.
Anderson said the support has helped the pantry continue to provide food to everyone in need in the community.
Small Business of the Year
Smokey Treats BBQ was recognized as the small business of the year for 2020.
Owner Matt Beranek said he was over the moon at receiving the award.
“I just really want to thank everyone in the community, it certainly couldn’t have happened without you guys. I know it’s been a rough year for everyone. I couldn’t do it without my team here at Smokey Treats, my family and all my friends and everybody that’s helped me out,” he said.
Large Business of the Year
UW - River Falls was named the large business of the year for 2020. Interim Chancellor Connie Foster said it has been a challenging year for the university, community and state, and UW - River Falls was grateful to be able to step in and help where possible. The university hosted a community surge testing site, testing more than 10,000 individuals for COVID-19.
“Like all the other UW campuses we were wanting to contribute with what’s been called the Wisconsin idea. When the state has a problem, the university steps in to solve it. When your community has problems, we jump in to help figure it out,”
Citizen of the Year
Todd Gilbertson was honored as the 2020 citizen of the year. Roberts was honored for his community involvement, including his donation to the bike project at the River Falls elementary level. Gilbertson’s donation allowed for a classroom set of bikes and helmets for students.
Gilbertson said it’s an honor to win the award, and he has enjoyed helping out kids in the community.
“You’ve got to get their dreams and imagination going, and riding a little Strider bike will help that out, get them off the computers a little bit and boogie down the road,” he said.
Pierce County Public Health Director AZ Snyder was named the 2020 Chamber Champion. The award recognizes a person or group who has gone above and beyond to support the chamber. Snyder helped develop COVID-19 safety protocols to support businesses while protecting staff and customers and focused on education on how to keep selves and others safe.
Snyder said the award was great validation of the work done by the Pierce County Health Department over the past year.
“When my husband and I moved to River Falls three years ago it felt like coming home. My parents have lived here for many years,” she said. “We absolutely love living in the city. Pierce County Public Health is really glad to support the city of River Falls and all the businesses and residents.”