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An awarding night

Submitted photos The Perham Area Chamber of Commerce held its 2013 Leadership and Hall of Fame Awards banquet last week to recognize outstanding citizens and volunteers in the community. Award winners included: Jill Shipman, Jeff Morris (with members of the cross country team), Linette Grismer and Catherine Drahmann. Not pictured is the 17-member grandstand committee, which was also honored with an award.

“We are what we are because they are who they are.”

The “we” refers to the community of Perham. “They” are the winners of the 2013 Perham Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership and Hall of Fame Awards.

“They” include Hall of Fame Award winner, Jill Shipman; Volunteer of the Year award winners, Linette Grismer and Catherine Drahmann; and Leadership Award winners, Jeff Morris and the 17 members of the Tuffy’s Stadium grandstand committee.

The winners were honored at a special awards ceremony at SteVelly’s last Thursday evening.

“We are what we are because they are who they are,” was a statement made by Perham City Councilor James Johnson in his opening prayer during the ceremony. He added that “they” are a distinguished group of people who help make the community successful.

“They’re all special people who deserve recognition for their accomplishments,” said the evening’s emcee, Jeff Tweeton.

Jill Shipman, for example, won the Hall of Fame Award for her multitude of community involvements. Her name is synonymous with the local Kinship Program, which matches area kids with mentors, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Shipman’s service to Perham.

Shipman has been instrumental in bringing many new programs, events and fundraisers to town. Her ideas and work triggered the local Boys and Girls Club, Re-Use It Thrift Store, United Way food drops, Reading Buddies, Girls Are Powerful and Boys R Always Gifted afterschool programs, Freezin’ For a Reason, Stuff the Bus, Wacky Quacky Ducky Derby, Women Who Wine, Coats for Kids, Tuffy’s Dog Expo and more.

Shipman is also an active member of Perham Lions, the East Otter Tail Child Protection Team, Calvary Lutheran Church, Turtle Fest and countless other committees and community groups.

At the ceremony, Hall of Fame Award presenter Sue Huebsch described Shipman as the kind of person who recognizes when something more could be done, and then works hard to make that ‘something’ happen.

“Jill’s got a heart of gold and a brain that never stops thinking,” said Huebsch. “She always gives over and above.”

Accepting her award, an emotional Shipman said she felt humbled and overwhelmed.

She said she doesn’t think of the things she does as “volunteering” – rather, “it’s a passion.”

That sentiment was shared earlier in the ceremony by Volunteer of the Year award winners Linette Grismer and Catherine Drahmann.

Praised for her “selfless dedication” by award presenter Lina Belar, Grismer has spent her life helping others. She began volunteering in high school, cleaning and passing out trays to patients at St. James Hospital in Perham, and continued to volunteer and work at local hospitals until retiring in 1993.

As a member of the East Otter Tail Historical Society, Grismer has spent countless hours contributing to the history museum’s success. She has coordinated volunteers, maintained records, taken care of the collection and helped behind-the-scenes of many exhibits and events.

“I’ve always loved doing things,” she said, accepting her award.

Drahmann, who is 90 years old, could not be at the ceremony in person, but according to presenter Dennis Happel, she joked on the phone that she was “getting a big head” over her award, then asked with a chuckle, “Is there any money involved?”

Drahmann, a Perham native, became a volunteer at the Perham Public Library at the age of 12, and later sat on the library’s board of directors. She played a key role in getting the city to contribute financially to the library, helping it grow into what it is today. The library existed solely on volunteers for 56 years, and Drahmann volunteered for 43 of those; in 1978, she became the first paid librarian.

Drahmann has also been an active volunteer with the local history museum and historical society, and was significantly involved in the publication of two books about East Otter Tail County history.

Leadership Award winner Jeff Morris may not have such a long history in Perham, but it didn’t take him long to make an impression.

Since moving to town 11 years ago, Morris has developed a cross country program powerhouse in Perham. The nation took notice in 2012, ranking Perham High School as the number one boys Division II cross country team in the United States, and naming Morris as the National High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year.

Presenter Sandra Wieser-Matthews described Morris as “the essence of persistence,” and, as a special surprise, brought his students in to the ceremony to offer him their thoughts and congratulations. Each student held up an iPad with an affectionate word or short statement about Morris, such as “enthusiastic,” “energetic,” “phenomenal,” “mentor,” and even “a little odd.”

Perham High School students of Jeff Morris surprised their award-winning teacher at a banquet last Thursday. Marie Nitke/FOCUS

Morris said his message to students is, “Hard work is really hard… not everybody wants to do it.” But the only time he’s had regrets in life, he said, were the times he didn’t work hard enough, so he pushes his students “to get out there and do something.”

Hard work is something Morris’ fellow Leadership Award winners know a lot about.

In an incredibly short span of just seven months, the grandstand committee took care of the demolition, and then the rebuilding, of the grandstands at Al Krueger Field. They also raised more than $400,000, from more than 120 donors and 12 contractors.

It was “an impossible project in an impossible amount of time,” as Jim Johnson put it at the awards ceremony – but it got done, and it got done well.

Bob Schepper, who received the award on behalf of the committee, said “we had a wide and diverse group of people” on the committee, which meant there was always someone there to help who fit a needed niche, such as an artist for drawing, or a construction worker for building. The group did “a fantastic job,” Schepper said.

The first game was played at the newly named Tuffy’s Stadium on July 4, 2012.

Committee members included Schepper along with Al Stigman, Bucky Burgau, Brian Mort, Tony Stoll, Shane Hendrickson, Ed Stoll, Bob Wilkowski, Kelcey Klemm, Chuck Johnson, Joe Doll, Ryan Stigman, Russ Winkels, John George, Larry Mollins, Greg Schmid and Fred Sailer.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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