2021 Community Spirit annual awards selected

Since 2004, the Jensen Community Center and the Jensen Community Spirit have selected and celebrated members of the community who exhibit exemplary community spirit. Every year, we receive many worthy contenders, and this year was no exception, with multiple nominees in all three categories.

We are happy to announce the 2021 Persons of the Year, Business of the Year, and Junior Person of the Year. Thank you to all of you for making the Tomorrow River area such a wonderful place to live.

Award recipients will be feted at our annual Appreciation Breakfast on Friday, October 22, at the Jensen Center.

Without further ado, we’re pleased to announce:

2021 Persons of the Year:

Bob and Chris Lane

Nominated by Joanne Zapchenk

Bob and Chris Lane moved to Amherst in 1976. Bob was hired as principal for grades 7-12 for the Tomorrow River Schools until his retirement in 1995. Chris taught grades 2 and 3 in the Almond School District for 20 years.

Both Bob and Chris have been active in the Tomorrow River Area Community Theater for many years. Chris was musical director for Fiddler on the Roof and worked behind the scenes as a stagehand, doing lighting, and helping with costumes for several plays. Bob was a big part of the development of the theater at the Jensen Center, and he acted, directed, ran lights, produced, and built sets for many plays. They enjoy supporting theater and believe it is good for the community.

Both are active in the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society. Bob organized and directed the construction of more than 3,500 bluebird houses and is a board member. Chris helped monitor 30 birdhouses weekly for eight years. Information gathered is used by the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin. Both find it rewarding to see a vulnerable songbird increase in population as a result of local efforts.

Chris was active in presenting the BABES (Beginning Awareness Basic Education Studies) program and led the activity in the Almond and Amherst areas for eight years. The goal is prevention from substance abuse. Chris said, “If I only help one child to be successful, it makes it worthwhile.”

Bob has been involved with the Amherst Boy Scouts for 41 years, serving as Troop Committee Chair and was Scoutmaster for a brief time. He has led more than 40 whitewater canoe trips and has led the wreath sale fundraiser for more than 35 years. Bob said, “Scouting has such solid values to teach youth.” He feels the canoe trips expose youth to the outdoors. “If we are going to save the environment, we have to have people spend time in it so they can fall in love with it.”

Bob and Chris are active in the United Methodist Church. Bob has been chair of the Administrative Council for many years, and Chris has been on and/or chaired the Worship Committee and UM Women. Chris has also played piano and organ for more than 30 years.

They went to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and have worked at the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) Center in Louisiana for many years, Bob for 20 and Chris for 10, assembling relief materials and Bob doing home repair. Bob led several trips to Appalachia through Appalachia Service Project (ASP), helping Amherst area teenagers repair homes. Chris and Bob agree that, “To be of service to people is rewarding and a real learning experience.”

Bob and Chris have served their community through their line of work, organizations, and their church. There are so many things they do on a daily basis to help their family, friends, and the community. I find them to be talented and generous with their time.

2021 Business of the Year:

Judah Studios

Nominated by Sarah Wilke

Walking into Judah Studios, nestled in the heart of Nelsonville, one is greeted with a warm smile by owner Jen Haas. Jen has more than 40 years of experience in the arts and design field.

The Studio showcases a large variety of local artisans of all ages by selling their beautiful art, jewelry, woodworking, home furnishings, and decor, along with local “food artisans” such as Bird and the Bees Honey, Jay’s Hilltop Maple Syrup, Ruby Coffee, and more.

A variety of workshops and classes are also offered each month, such as painting, wool felting, basket weaving, and cooking. People of all ages come from nearby towns to participate in the creativity and fun.

In addition, Jen offers in-home decor consultations, helping homeowners re-ignite their “love of what they have.” She loves hearing each family’s stories, providing fresh ideas to help weave those special memories into their home design and decor.

I feel Judah Studios deserves this award, because of all they offer to our Tomorrow River community, plus helping our local artisans “shine” brightly. Jen has wonderful ideas and is extremely generous and giving of her time.

“Come, Be Inspired!” is the theme at Judah Studios/Alchemy Concrete. Thank you!

2021 Junior Person of the Year:

JoJo Peplinski

[Editor’s note: JoJo Peplinski, a 2021 graduate of Amherst High School, received a pair of nominations for this year’s Junior Person of the Year.]

Nominated by Jolynn Wucherer

JoJo has made her school and community a better place from her involvement and leadership in various areas of the school. Her honors and awards include:

  • WSMA State Honors Band participant fall 2020
  • John Philip Sousa Band Award
  • National Choral Award
  • Qualified for National Forensics competition
  • Class of 2021 Co-Valedictorian
  • Captain on soccer team, even though out with an ACL injury
  • Four-year member of Chamber Singers
  • State WSMA Solo & Ensemble for numerous years and events
  • Volunteered this summer with the 2021 children’s musical, The Rockin’ Tale of Snow White

Nominated by Janet Glodowski

JoJo gives her time and talent for her community. The latest project she worked on with me was for the children’s musical The Rockin’ Tale of Snow White held at the Jensen Center. She donated many, many hours to help prepare backstage props, mics, and taught the younger students what it takes to be backstage during a performance. She would always show up at least 30 minutes prior to practice to organize and remain after for 30 minutes to prepare for the next day. Anything I asked her to do, she immediately answered “Yes.” JoJo was such an asset to the production, and she gave countless hours to help the community have the chance to enjoy a performance by area K-8th grade students. JoJo is always willing to help the community without compensation.

Congratulations to our award recipients. If you would like to nominate a deserving party for the 2022 awards, a form is available on our website at jensencenter.org. Click on the “News” tab and then select “Award Nominations.” Nominations can be submitted at any time and will be considered in the next round of selections next September.

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