LORI AMERMAN Community Involvement
VIRGINIA ANDERSON People’s Choice
JEANI AMACHER Customer Service
KELSI HEER Customer Service
SHARON TISHER Community Involvement
Seven Heart Of Dakota Winners
Seven area residents will be recognized Monday as winners of the 21st annual Heart of Dakota Awards.
The awards are sponsored by the Britton Area Foundation and Marshall County Publishing, publishers of The Britton Journal and Langford Bugle. A panel of area judges voted on the nominees to make the selections.
For the first time there was a three-way tie for the Community Involvement Award – Lori Amerman of Britton, Richard and Jill Johnson of Brampton, ND, and Sharon Tisher of Amherst. Virginia Anderson of Britton was chosen as the People’s Choice Award winner, and Jeani Amacher and Kelsi Heer of Dizzy Blondz in Britton were selected for the Customer Service Award.
The public is invited to a reception for the Heart of Dakota winners on Monday at the Britton Country Club. Honorees will be recognized in conjunction with the Britton Area Chamber of Commerce Fall Social. Hors d’oeuvres will be served beginning at 5:30 p.m. with the presentation of the Heart of Dakota Awards set for 6:30 p.m.
Community service takes on a bit of a different form for Lori Amerman – she’s the one that people don’t really want to see but are very thankful for when they do.
Amerman has been an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and served on the Marshall County Ambulance since 2006. She has been one of a few that have formed the nucleus of that vital public service that is so important in times of need.
“Lori’s love for being an EMT and helping those in need is astounding,” wrote her nominator. “She is always willing to cover calls whenever there is a shortage, has always lent ways lent a helping hand, and always knows the right things to say to patients and their families to make the scary situation feel a little easier.”
Amerman had seen the Marshall County Ambulance help both her Mom and Dad, and she decided she wanted to return the favor.
“My Mom and Dad needed the ambulance several times, and I decided maybe it was time to give back to my community,” said Amerman, a 1982 Britton High School graduate who has worked at Southside Equipment for the past 19 years. “But I had no idea what I was getting into.”
Amerman remembers going to that first class when she found out that it was actually a six-month commitment.
“I had no idea. But my aunt, Eileen Damgaard, a very knowledgeable nurse, was the one that inspired me to keep going. I would be very disappointed, knowing what I know now, if I had given up. I really, really enjoy it, and it almost feels like a calling. We’re never called because somebody wants to visit with us.
They are in a bad situation and need our help. It just makes the heart feel good that we can help somebody.”
Amerman said there is also a sense of camaraderie among the crew that is special.
“Pam Bard was my teacher, and I’ve always kind of looked up to her. And when I joined the crew everybody was really good and eager to help. It’s hard in a small town because everybody has a fulltime job somewhere, but Marshall County should be very proud of its’ ambulance service. There are some pretty dedicated people that have hung in there a long time.”
Being from a small town also means that Amerman knows just about everyone she helps.
“I’ve had to haul my uncles, my Dad, my grandma, and many of my relatives, but it doesn’t bother me. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it was so nice when somebody comes and they know who they are. It all goes back to being in a small town, and it makes it easier for people to open up when they know us.”
Amerman is also always on the lookout for people to become members of the ambulance crew. In fact, she inspired her niece, Megan Morris, to become an EMT, just as her aunt had done for her.
“My aunt was the one that kept pushing me and pushing me to finish my EMT training, so I tried to do the same thing for Megan.”
But the bottom line is Amerman has a sincere desire to help others.
“You can always count on Lori to be there, lend a helping hand, or be your advocate,” concluded her nominator. “She is always striving to do what is best for her patients.”
Richard and Jill Johnson
Richard (Dick) and Jill Johnson epitomize the Heart of Dakota spirit – they contribute to their community of Brampton, ND, and the area because “it’s just what you do.”
“There are so many things to do in these small communities and organizations,” said the Johnsons. “There are not that many people but all the same responsibilities, and volunteering is just the name of the game. You do it because it needs to be done and at the same time you get to work with your friends and neighbors.”
Dick is a 1965 Sargent Central graduate, and Jill graduated from the same school in 1967. After a stint in the U.S. Army when he served two years in Vietnam, Dick earned a civil engineering degree from NDSU, while Jill was a NDSU physical education major. When Dick landed an engineering job in Westminster, CO, the couple moved west and spent seven years there.
When Jill’s father passed away the Johnsons decided to come back to North Dakota and farmed with Jill’s brother until 1995. Dick then worked at Bobcat until retiring in 2010.
In the process, the couple became immersed in the community, a value Dick said was instilled into him by his mother, Marian Johnson.
“My Mom was pretty community-minded,” said Dick, who lost his mother unexpectedly last month. “She was always doing something.”
Dick has served on the Dakota Valley Electric Board, the museum board, treasurer of the Brampton Cemetery, member of the Legion, and served on church council. He is also always ready to fix items for those who need it as he likes working with wood and repairing. Jill served as a 4-H leader for many years with the Brampton Eagles club and has been a member of the church council..
However, much of the Johnson’s spare time is spent working together on various projects. They successfully raised $20,000 for the Service Dogs for America program to sponsor a dog for a PTSD veteran. They garden together with a High Tunnel on the farm, a green house with no artificial heat or cooling, and “anybody can come and get vegetables whether we’re here or not, and we make almost weekly trips with vegetables for the assisted living center in Forman.”
For 17 years the Johnsons have served as volunteers at the Sodbusters Weekend held in July and September at Fort Ransom. They once handcranked 28 batches of homemade ice cream in one day. They also spent three summers as part of the volunteer program at Medora, ND.
“We just enjoy being involved and enjoy helping do the things that need to be done,” concluded the Johnsons. “You can make some pretty rotten jobs fun if you do it with the right people and have the right state of mind. There are countless places to volunteer and make a difference.
“That’s the important thing – making a difference – and that makes you feel good at the end of the day.”
“Just glad to do it.”
Those are words frequently heard from Sharon Tisher in response to the hours of volunteer time she spends helping out in her church and the Britton and Amherst communities.
“Sharon is a wonderful example of what a lot of us would like to be like,” wrote her nominator. “She serves because that is who she is, not one to desire praise or acclaim. And perhaps her best attribute is that she sees the best in everyone and every situation. She is never one to be negative to a person or a situation, which is refreshing in today’s environment.”
Tisher learned the importance of being involved in the community at a young age while growing up on a farm west of Agar. Her father “served on the school board forever,” and her mother was a school teacher. She attended South Dakota State University, majoring in home economics, and there she met her future husband, Don Tisher.
She taught for a year in Agar before getting married and moving to the Amherst area. Tisher also taught in Langford for a short time after getting her full teaching degree from Northern State University before opting to stay home with her two kids.
Tisher was always active in her church growing up, and she worked for 25 years as secretary at the Presbyterian Church in Britton. Other roles she has filled along the way include Sunday School teacher, Bible Study leader, member of the church choir, church Circle leader, helps with many bridal and baby showers, and served as the Presbyterian Women’s chairperson.
She is currently a state officer with Eastern Star, belongs to a Community Club in Amherst that takes care of the Amherst cemetery where she serves as a contact person for those wishing to contribute or be buried there, and she helps out at the post office when needed.
All of that from somebody who admits to being somewhat shy.
“I’ve always thought I was sort of a shy person, but I also feel bad if people are uncomfortable. I try to push myself forward sometimes to make people feel more at ease.”
“When asked to serve, rarely will she turn you down, always helping where she can,” noted her nominator. And oftentimes, Sharon is the first visit or phone call you will get if there is an illness or emergency in the community.”
Tisher has a philosophy that if you belong to something there is a certain responsibility that goes along with it.
“If I’m going to belong to something I always feel responsible for helping where I can. Being involved is also about the only way to really get to know people. I’m just happy to share whatever talents I can provide in whatever organization. The world wouldn’t go too far without people that are willing to help out.”
Virginia Anderson thinks of herself as just part of the crowd, but she also has a strong commitment to doing what she can to help make her community a better place.
“Outstanding is not a word that Virginia Anderson would like to hear used to describe her since she tries hard to never stand out,” wrote her nominator, “but through her caring efforts and support, hundreds of students and adults have benefitted.”
Anderson came to Britton at age 22 after graduating from Valley City as an English teacher. Her parents said, ‘You can try it for a year or two. It couldn’t be that bad.’ That turned into marrying her husband, David Anderson, and spending 37 years as a teacher in Britton.
It also meant that Anderson’s commitment to being involved with community would take a variety of forms. She became part of the church choir and every special community choir, joined the Britton Community Theater, was a member of the Britton Library Board, wrote her church’s 125th anniversary book, is a member of the Legion Auxiliary and was chosen Legionette of 2017, was the featured speaker at the Britton Veterans Day program, and was chosen Teacher of the Year twice by her students.
“The importance of being involved comes from my Dad who was my first role model,” said Anderson. “He was a troop trainer and on Omaha Beach on Day 3 in World War II, right in the thick of things. When he came home he farmed and was on the township board, elevator board, and election board. If there was an MC to be had or a story to be written, it was my Dad.
“I also knew lots of strong women starting with my Mom who farmed right alongside my Dad. When I came to Britton my first role models were Jean Ann Auwater, Doris Rabenberg, and Mavis Haverly. Like my mother, they taught me everything I became.”
But Anderson is quick to point out it is always a team effort.
“If something needs to be done, maybe I can do it. I like to be involved, but I’m not the one that pushes her way up to the front. It just takes everybody – money, elbow grease, or an idea – it just takes everybody.”
She is quick to credit those who have forged ahead in the past, and at the same time points to young people as holding the key to the future.
“All you have to do to see the importance of community involvement is to look around,” said Anderson. “We still have Britton because we have people that weren’t afraid to go out on a limb. There is always give and take, but we need people who are not afraid to take the plunge. Good examples are the swimming pool, the Event Center, the hospital, the golf course, the library, and the school. Those are all things we have because people were willing to do that.”
Anderson also said that type of thinking must continue.
“If our young people want a place for their kids to come home to, they need to be involved. We can’t think about what Britton is like today but what we want it to be like in 10 years or 20 years. We’re not building for today. You can’t look at it that way. Time goes by in a blink.
“This award belongs to all the people that help do all the things that we do here,” concluded Anderson. “For everybody who had gotten this award there are dozens of others who deserve it. That’s what makes us who we are.”
It was never really planned, but Dizzy Blondz, established in 2006, has become part of the foundation of Britton’s Main Street, and customer service has always been its top priority.
“Customer service has always been very important for us,” said Jeani Amacher, who operates the business with her daughter, Kelsi Heer. “I think it’s easier to do in a small town because you know lots of your customers.”
“We try to bend over backwards to make sure the customer always comes first,” echoed Kelsi.
But for Dizzy Blondz that service is much more than just greeting their customers and helping them find what they are looking for. Customers are regularly treated to fun promotional things or fun things to do in the store to give them a good shopping experience. Special events have included fashion shows, food and drink tasting, and Ladies’ Night Out. Gift wrapping is provided, and the store always tries to look for new and different things to offer.
“This fun, trendy store is a marvel of merchandise that would be a gem in any large city, but it’s here, in Britton, and it is a catalyst for tourism, a magnet for shoppers from two to 102, and a source of pride for residents,” wrote Dizzy Blondz’ nominator. “Dizzy’s is a destination, and Jeani and Kelsi bring their special brand of kindness and friendliness to everyone who walks in their door. And with employees Sharon Fredrickson, Kris Christenson, Bonnie Hendricks, and Jenny Fosness they bring a mix of salesmanship, friendship, and joy to the shopping experience.”
It all began when Jeani was selling banners and jewelry on E-Bay and needed a place to go. She also was teaching drill teams and aerobic classes out of the building, but when those classes ended she was faced with a decision.
“I don’t think I ever really had any plans but we decided to try something in the building and just kept moving those office walls back,” recalled Jeani. “I think of how my family came here really early in the 1880’s and were businessmen here. It’s kind of fun to think we are on the same street and continuing the Miles business tradition even if it wasn’t planned that way.”
That tradition continues to center around service that makes customers want to return.
“If you have been a customer once, you will return,” stated the nomination letter. “The experience is just fun.”
A second nomination letter for the business maybe put it best: “Customer Service is their middle name!”
At the same time Jeani is quick to point out that Dizzy Blondz is just a part of a vibrant community.
“We have a great little town, and people comment on that and so do the reps who come in to sell us stuff,” stressed Jeani. “Another thing that’s really wonderful in our town is that all the stores are complimentary of each other and send customers down to the other stores.”
Kelsi most enjoys buying and shopping for her customers, and she hopes that feeling is contagious.
“We would hope that our customers feel like they are greeted and wanted in our store, that they have fun looking around, and walk out smiling.”
Heat, ma’am! it was so
dreadful here, that
I found there was
nothing left for it but
to take off my flesh and sit in
my bones. ~Sydney Smith