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Coach Dave Cresap accepts his award at the ceremony. Behind him are Perham boys basketball players, past and present. Marie Nitke/FOCUS

Community leaders recognized at Perham Chamber Awards night

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"One of the great things we do in Perham is celebrate the success of others."

This statement, made by Fred Sailer at the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce's annual Leadership and Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony last Thursday, was validated that very night.

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Designed to honor those who make great contributions to the community and possess extraordinary leadership abilities, the 2012 awards were presented to two individuals and one group: Pastor Tom Mitchell, who earned the Hall of Fame Award; boys basketball coach Dave Cresap, who received the Leadership Award; and the department directors at Perham Health, who also received the Leadership Award.

"Tonight we recognize three distinct styles of leadership," stated Sailer in his introductory speech. "We have the consistent, calming presence that is Tom (Mitchell), who brought everybody together after Zach Gabbard's collapse. When there seemed to be no answers, Tom had answers. And people came together and started to heal.

"In Dave (Cresap), we see a laser-like focus. He absolutely outworks his contemporaries... he's tireless. He brings passion to the classroom and to the court.

"At the hospital, we see the value in success and what can happen when many people take ownership in a gutsy, futuristic plan. The leadership team at Perham Health was faceless - a lot of people doing the right things for the right reasons."

Tom Mitchell

Hall of Fame Award

Tom Mitchell has lived in Perham since 1994, when he moved here with his family from Montana to become pastor of Perham Community Church. The move was risky, as the church was new and still quite small. But, under his leadership, membership in the church increased to the point where the congregation outgrew its building.

"He's done a great job at leading the church community," said Dr. Vince Pankonen, a friend of Mitchell's who introduced him at the ceremony. He said Mitchell is always one of the first people called in times of tragedy or crises.

"People call him approachable, knowledgeable and comfortable to be around," Pankonen said. "He just really brings people together in that way."

Mitchell has been actively involved in Perham Rotary, the Angel of Hope board, local schools, the East Otter Tail Child Protective Team, and others. He started New Hope Counseling, and started and was the first director of the Perham Kinship program. He is also an active member of Perham Ministerial.

"I've really enjoyed being a part of the community," Mitchell said after accepting his award. "You have invited me in and I'm probably one of the most ardent Perham supporters now. Since coming here, my wife and I have both said what a wonderful community this is to be a part of."

Mitchell plans to retire this June after 42 years in ministry.

Dave Cresap

Leadership Award

In what was a highlight of the evening, a group of coach Cresap's biggest supporters made a surprise appearance: Members of the boys basketball team - some past and present. Lining up behind Cresap as he accepted the award, the players listened and applauded as he gave an emotional and heartfelt acceptance speech.

Thanking his assistant coaches, Activities Director Fred Sailer, the players, parents and others, Cresap said, "I have the best people around me, and that's why we have been successful... This leadership award is presented to me, but a lot of the credit belongs to them."

Brian Schwanz, a friend and coworker of Cresap's, called the coach, "relentless... his motor never ends." He credited Cresap with turning the school district's basketball program around and getting kids excited about the sport from an early age. The success of the program shows - this year, the combined grades 7-12 basketball program celebrated 103 wins and just 10 losses.

But Cresap is, "not only a great coach, he's a rock star in the classroom," Schwanz said of the middle school teacher. "He makes learning a lot of fun."

"This award means more to all of us than you'll ever know," said Cresap, speaking for himself and his coaching team. "We'll cherish this forever. We'll talk about it 30 years from now when we get together. We'll do our best to continue leading in the right way, in a positive way."

Perham Health Directors

Leadership Award

Perham Health CEO Chuck Hofius, who introduced the award winners on Thursday, told the audience, "Tonight you're going to hear the real secret of why the hospital is so successful."

The team of more than 20 department heads and directors spent three years researching and touring other hospitals, and helped to design the new Perham facility. They then spent another two years overseeing parts of the construction process, and planning the move from the former building - an enormous undertaking that Hofius said kept them all exceptionally busy.

According to Hofius, the directors, "really didn't get much sleep this past year."

Katie Lundmark, who led the move over to the new facility, and Sue Sailer, director of social services, accepted the award on behalf of all the directors.

"The most amazing thing about this team is that I did not ever once see a negative attitude (throughout the whole moving process)," said Lundmark. "Everybody pitched in to help wherever they could."

"This community and our team should feel very proud," said Sailer.

Directors include: Jill Carlson, Dave Dahl, Mari Elliot, Nora Heinecke, Chuck Hofius, Bonnie Johnson, Kathy Kowitz, Diane Krumwiede, Karla Kupfer, Katie Lundmark, Pam Mather, Mary Mayer, Karen Meyer, Vince Pankonen, Jim Rieber, Sue Von Ruden, Sue Sailer, Jeff Siebels, Pat Sjolie, LaDonna Tellinghuisen, Beth Ulschmid, Duane Wallace and Brad Wurgler.

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