“If you build it, people will come” is a sentiment from the 1989 film, Field of Dreams. Peoples State Bank sees the building of the Hodag Sports Complex as the perfect opportunity to impact the greater Rhinelander community. The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to announce the donation of $100,000 from Rhinelander’s Peoples State Bank. The donation comes in the form of a pledge, designated for improvements to the Hodag athletic multi-purpose complex.
“The project will benefit our youth, student athletes, their families, and citizens in Rhinelander by promoting health and wellness, team building, and social responsibility,” notes Craig Lau, Northern Market President of Peoples State Bank. He continued, “The facility will be viewed by neighboring communities as an excellent cooperative venture, raising the bar for athletic competition for all Rhinelander athletes. Additionally, the economic impact to Rhinelander and the surrounding communities will be felt for decades to come. When teams and athletes travel to Rhinelander, those athletes and families will eat at our restaurants, stay at our hotels, and shop in our stores, providing an economic boost that is not just felt by those businesses but felt by the employees who work at those businesses.”
Peoples looks for ways to give back to the communities where they have bank locations. Founded in 1962 in Wausau, their first northern branch was located in Rhinelander’s Trig’s Grocery store within the Trig’s Mall in 1998. In 2002, Peoples opened at its current location at 8 East Anderson Street. They believe in hiring and retaining many people who grew up in Rhinelander. “Brandon Karaba, RHS Class of 2001, is a perfect example of the type of employee we love having on our staff,” says Lau, “because he devotes his own time to give back to the community in which he grew up.”
Peoples takes pride in the community service and non-profit work of their employees. In 2018, employees donated more than 8,000 hours to non-profits, churches, schools, and other community organizations. Volunteering is part of Peoples culture. As a community bank, they feel customers are also friends and neighbors and work together to make communities better places to live and work. Volunteering so important that in 2019, Peoples provided 20 hours of volunteer time off for every employee to use during their workday to give back to their communities.
“When you work for a company that supports the growth and prosperity of the community you love, it’s easy to be passionate about your job. . .,” notes Brandon Karaba, Assistant Vice President and Mortgage Lender at Peoples. “As a local business, we’re only successful when our customers and communities are successful. One of the reasons we stepped up to help with this project is the impact it will have not only just on our school’s student athletes, but also on the community in general. From an exercise and fitness standpoint, having a sports complex that will be available when weather doesn’t cooperate, means more people staying fit and improving their health.”
“Our bank believes in always seeing potential in building a community,” comments Peoples State Bank President and CEO Scott Cattanach. “That is why we know people will come to Rhinelander when we help build the Hodag Sports Complex. Peoples State Bank is proud to be part of the project.”
Brian Paulson, HSF Board member and Activities Director for the School District of Rhinelander (SDR), states, “Anyone who has competed in school athletics, intramurals, or other sporting events knows how important practice is to perfect the skills to compete at a high level. Unfortunately, in our northern climate, it’s not always easy to stay on top of those skills in the middle of winter. That’s why this donation is so important to all Rhinelander athletes. Our athletes will be able to practice rain or shine, day or night, and winter cold. We sincerely thank Peoples State Bank for supporting this project.” SDR Board member Duane Frey echoes that gratitude, “The school district is most appreciative of the donation from Peoples State Bank. It is gratifying to have the backing of this local business and the incredible impact it will have on our students and community.”
The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to announce the donation of $100,000 from
Rhinelander Auto Center (Rhinelander GM and Toyota). The donation comes in the form of a pledge
over five years, designated for improvements to the Hodag athletic multi-purpose complex, specifically
the Hodag Dome.
“We feel business owners have a responsibility to the communities where they operate. It's
important to give back and be involved,” acknowledges Dan Towne owner of Rhinelander Auto Center.
Towne who was an entry-level salesman at Rhinelander Auto Center in early 2000, worked his way to
the top of the company over the course of 15 years. A proud Rhinelander native, he credits his start in
the car business to his father-in-law, who worked at a local dealership and encouraged him to apply.
After assisting with the purchase and successful growth of a sister store, Durango Motor Company in
Colorado, Towne returned to Rhinelander in 2016, overseeing Rhinelander Auto Center’s day-to-day
operations as general manager. He became owner in March 2019 and Towne remains committed to the
“Sports and recreation is not only about winning, it’s about helping build stronger, healthier,
happier, and safer communities,” continues Towne. “Communities that participate in sports, recreation,
and wellness activities develop strong social bonds, are safer places, and their residents are generally
healthier and happier. Physical activity enhances cognitive function improving memory, behavior,
concentration, and academic achievement. We here at Rhinelander Auto Center believe sports activities
are a great way for children to learn essential skills such as teamwork and cooperation that will serve
them later in life.”
He goes on to say, “This dome will be versatile so it won’t only cater to our community of Hodag
athletes, but will be useful for Rhinelander High School students and departments like physical education
and band. Additionally, it will give our community a chance to host activities and events such as
tournaments and fundraisers.”
Rhinelander Auto Center believes improving outdoor facilities benefits the community by
bringing people together and providing opportunities for social interaction and networking. They agree
that facilities of this type create positive alternatives for youth, provide a vehicle for inclusion, and bring
people of different backgrounds together, promoting volunteering. “Sports and recreation clubs are the
hub of community life, especially in small rural locations like Rhinelander and its surrounding areas,”
continues Towne. “It balances work and life, fostering community pride.”
Rhinelander Auto Center trusts that building this complex will help grow the athletic department
of the schools and community which in turn will attract future business leaders and their families.
Towne sums up the reason to support this project by saying, “One of our values includes being good
community citizens. We give willingly to and are actively involved in the support of our local communities
because they provide us our success. Donating to local organizations also fosters good will. It shows that
we care about the future of Rhinelander and the youth that will shape it. It’s not about adding to or
growing our bottom line, but about shaping future generations to be proud of where they grew up.
Hopefully, they will see the value in that and want to continue that tradition - to continue building
Rhinelander into a great community.”
Jonna Jewell, an HSF Board member and 1971 graduate of Rhinelander High School, applauds
the coming changes, “Instead of practicing in congested hallways, Rhinelander students will be able to
train in a safe, comfortable place. HSF is fortunate to have the support of local businesses such as
Rhinelander Auto Center.”
“The improvements in these Rhinelander facilities will change Rhinelander, benefiting students,
the community, and businesses, completely differentiating Rhinelander from its neighbor,” says
Rhinelander School Board member David Holperin. “The District thanks Rhinelander Auto Center for its
Brian Wendt graduated from Rhinelander High School in 1989. Thirty years later as president of Superior Diesel, Inc., he and his company have a history of positive impacts on his school district. During the last building improvement project, their donation named the tiered classroom at RHS. Now they have extended those positive effects with another contribution.
The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to announce the donation of $100,000 from Superior Diesel, Inc. through the Rhinelander Community Foundation. The donation comes in the form of a pledge over several years, designated for improvements for the Hodag Sports Complex. The impact to the overall community and business was a major factor in the decision to present such a generous gift. Brian notes, “We have a lot to be proud of living in Rhinelander. Our company is fortunate to be located here where people bring a positive attitude and creativity into the workplace. Northern Wisconsin has a lot to offer, but if we are going to recruit and retain talent for businesses like ours, we need to continue to invest in our youth and infrastructure.”
Wendt and his company believe the permanent Dome and outdoor facility improvements will dramatically help Rhinelander. “This project has the potential to provide a great deal for our community by improving our indoor and outdoor facilities. It builds on what our school system and community have to offer. Students will now be able to condition and practice 365 days a year, without having to work around congested schedules, allowing ample time to focus on their academics. Families will look at Rhinelander as a place where their children can get a valuable education as well as a means to meet their physical and athletic goals.” Wendt continued, “There will also be opportunities for various organizational partnerships to provide new programs and initiatives unavailable before because we didn’t have the facilities or infrastructure to support them.”
As a Board Member of the Rhinelander Community Foundation, Wendt understands that the ability to promote giving through the Foundation is important for the future. “We thank the Rhinelander School Board (SDR) and the HSF and all involved for working tirelessly to promote the design [of the sports complex] and hope this gift further inspires other donations for our schools and community.”
“It just made sense to support this initiative and others that enhance the way of life in the Rhinelander area,” Wendt continued. “I am proud to be a Hodag.”
Sue Makris, Vice-President of HSF stated, “We are so thankful for Superior Diesel and Brian’s continued support and gift for Rhinelander. These multiple donations are significant and HSF applauds the company’s determination to help our community and our students.” Judy Conlin, Vice-President of the School Board noted, “We appreciate the on-going support for our educational system from Superior Diesel, enhancing our school district.”
As a child Mary Lewandowski and her family spent summers with her grandfather who lived in the Rhinelander area. Little did she realize then that as an adult, she would have a major impact on the same area.
Mary has “great memories” of her summer visits with her grandfather, even taking the train from southern Wisconsin to go “Up North” to the lake and woods. After Mary finished her schooling, she taught health and physical education at the high school and college levels both in Wisconsin and Oregon. When presented with an opportunity to return the Rhinelander area and build her house on the same land her grandfather loved, Mary became a permanent part of the community.
As a life-long sports and outdoor enthusiast, Mary embraces the UW-LaCrosse motto “mind and body.” So when Mary heard about Dr. Lee Swank’s donation to the Hodag Schools Foundation, (HSF) which focused on a possible indoor practice facility, Mary knew that she wanted to support the mission of HSF specifically that indoor facilities project. “As an educator, seeing the vision of HSF gave me clarity for donating,” says Mary. “When you see possibilities from the beginning, it leads others to contribute.”
Hodag Schools Foundation is pleased to accept a significant donation from Mary. Supporting the dome project from its early stages, Mary sees it as the future and an integral part of giving back to her community. Mary believes that both the schools and the entire area will benefit, stating, “This project will offer additional professional, and business opportunities, providing a venue for a variety of community events. I wanted to pay it forward, and so paying it forward supports the place I will always call home.”
Julie Bronson, Secretary/Treasurer of the Hodag Schools Foundation stated, “HSF is very thankful to all our donors and much appreciates Mary’s donation. As a person that values the mind-body connection, Mary recognizes how an indoor facility can improve the physical and mental health of students and senior citizens in the community as well as keep and attract families. It will change Rhinelander, making facilities here different from anywhere in the area.”
School District of Rhinelander Board President Ron Counter said, “We so appreciate Mary’s donation and look forward to providing these new facilities to our community.” If you are interested in supporting this project, donate on the HSF website at hodagschoolsfnd.org or send a check to HSF, PO Box 1522, Rhinelander, WI 54501.
Rhinelander, WI (7/28/19) - Where will you likely find RHS/RUHS graduates spanning 9 decades and living in at least 19 states? At the 6th Annual Hodag All-Class Reunion!
Downtown Rhinelander will come alive with music and Hodag alumni, friends, family and community members on Saturday August 10th from noon to 11 pm.
This year the free event, hosted by Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF), will again live up to the name Hodags Take Downtown as the CIty of Rhinelander approved closing Brown Street from Anderston to Rives. Davenport from Stevens to Anderston and Rives from Stevens to Anderston for the event. Open container will be allowed in those designated areas allowing food and beverages to be purchased at local businesses and brought out to the party area which will be centered at the intersection of Brown and Davenport Streets.
Live music will begin on stage at noon with Rat River Band opening the party. The Kingfish Band takes the stage at 3pm and featured performers Living the Dream playing from 7pm to 11pm.
This will be the six year for the event and the 2nd year closing much of the downtown area to vehicle traffic. According to HSF Board Member Sue Makris closing the streets and moving the event to a centralized downtown area allowed attendance to explode to an estimated 1500 Hodag friends and alumni. This year, after many requests to allow for easier travel, we’ve moved the event to Saturday and extended the hours to allow our guests to enjoy the downtown businesses and other area attractions while still connecting with friends and classmates.
HSF representatives are working with businesses in the downtown area to benefit both the event and the businesses.” They’ll continue to reach out, with specifics, over the next two weeks. “It seems everyone’s excited and many businesses plan to offer specials to welcome alumni home.”
“This event is really all about reconnecting alumni with one another, their community and thanking everyone for their support of HSF”, said Makris. “HSF has now exceeded three million dollars in funds donated to The School District of Rhinelander. Our supporters should take great pride in that – it would not be possible without them.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TO: LOCAL AREA MEDIA
FROM: HODAG SCHOOLS FOUNDATION
RE: HSF RECOGNIZES HAUG FAMILY DONATION
The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to announce the donation of $250,000 from Rhinelander’s Tony and Lori Haug family. The donation comes in the form of a pledge over several years, designated for improvements to the Hodag athletic multi-purpose complex. The Haug family, who has lived in Rhinelander for 21 years, is pleased to further invest in the Rhinelander School District. Lori Haug noted, “We are thankful for our three children’s educational experience and have been blessed with wonderful friends, educators and coaches who have inspired our children. We have always believed that Rhinelander needs to move forward to keep pace and stay attractive to the labor force and professionals. And improvements to the school facilities can help make this happen.”
The Haug family has supported the Rhinelander community for many years. Tony, the recently retired President of ABX, successfully led that manufacturing company, creating over 60 jobs. Lori served on the Rhinelander Schools Education Foundation and Hodag Schools Foundation Board of Directors for many years and volunteered at numerous community events. Tony and Lori raised three children who attended public schools, all graduating from Rhinelander High School. Each played spring and fall sports but struggled with weather issues during those seasons. Tony Haug stated, “We always believed that it was important to keep our children engaged in extracurricular activities, as it lends itself to higher educational achievement. Moreover, the indoor dome will help provide exercise opportunities for our community, which we believe leads to a healthier environment.” He further commented, “We are so thankful for all of the hard work that our employees at ABX contributed to our company, and are so excited and look forward to giving back to their families and their young children who will grow up in the District and benefit from these improvements. Our manufacturing based community needs a strong labor force and good health care for our young families. Rhinelander needs to attract young families to continue to sustain a vibrant community. In addition, we need to attract physicians and other professionals that want to come and remain here in Rhinelander. We believe that the entire community will benefit from the indoor and outdoor improvements for exercise potential due to our short summer season.”
This impact to the overall community was a key contributor in the Haug family’s decision to provide the substantial donation. Lori stated, “We are so thankful that our school board has been fiscally responsible over the years and also has identified this facility as a need in our community. They should be applauded for supporting this collaboration, made possible by Dr. Swank’s initial donation, and the tireless efforts of HSF.” Lori further noted, “It is important to take pride in our schools and facilities and create a positive impression for those touring our area for potential employment. In addition, we believe that this investment will allow our school district to host many tournaments and trade shows that will financially benefit the community as well as the District. All of our children are so excited that we have decided to contribute to the future Hodags and their new indoor facility. The upgrading of the outdoor softball fields, which needed improvement for many years, is also very important to us.”
Mike Roberts, member of Rhinelander School Board and Hodag Schools Foundation noted, “The Haug family recognizes the importance of how improved facilities can benefit the entire community. The School District and HSF is very thankful to all donors.” Dave Heck, President of the Hodag Schools Foundation stated, “HSF sincerely appreciates the Haug donation and how it can improve the physical and mental health of our community, senior citizens, as well as keep and attract families. The improvements in these Rhinelander facilities will change Rhinelander, benefiting students, the community, businesses, and completely differentiating Rhinelander from its neighbors. We are still in process of raising money for these improvements and appreciate the community and alumni support.” HSF and the School District sincerely thank and applaud the Tony and Lori Haug Family objective to help improve the community and benefit all Rhinelander students.
About the Hodag Schools Foundation: The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is a volunteer run, non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to providing financial support for quality programs and facilities benefiting students and promoting excellence in the School District of Rhinelander and the entire community. HSF envisions innovative programming and strong, safe facilities, which meet the long-term needs of the School District of Rhinelander and the community. HSF supports the well-being of youth and adults alike, strengthening ties to Hodag alumni and providing opportunities comparable to other communities. Over the last 16 years, HSF has raised and pledged over $3 million dollars to benefit the School District, expanded our mission and stayed true to our goals of developing objectives that maintain the primary focus on the needs of the students and keep our vision on the future.
Last summer Hodags gathered in downtown Rhinelander to celebrate their mutual connection at our All Class Reunion, a free event made possible through a special restricted donation. An estimated 1500 Rhinelander alumni, friends and family members listened to great music, sampled food and beverages from Rhinelander businesses, laughed and hugged friends long absent, eagerly re-living their common Hodag memories.
With this positive community event now part of our annual events, the Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) celebrates the completion of another school year, excited to support innovative and inspiring programming in Rhinelander schools. Last year, thanks to generous donations, HSF was able to provide over $51,000 in grants. But we want to do more! We need your help funding programs and equipment such as:
Your gift, in any amount, will help us do more. It provides resources to ensure HSF achieves its goal of funding innovative programs that promote student success and create positive memories in safe and efficient facilities. Every contribution will help students get the best education possible and help the finest and most innovative teachers continue to pursue their passions and challenge their students.
Please take a moment and fill out the enclosed reply envelope. Your gift will help create the positive memories on display at the All Class Reunion. Your donation is extremely important to keep this legacy alive and will continue to generate excellence, impacting the success of Rhinelander students. Thank you!
The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is pleased to announce the donation of $500,000 from Rhinelander’s Dr. Lee Swank, making it the Foundation’s largest donation to date. The donation comes in the form of a pledge over several years designated towards a goal of indoor activity facility improvements. Like HSF, Dr. Swank believes that schools are a crucial part of any community, and he is passionate about giving Rhinelander students and the community more indoor activity space. “With Rhinelander’s unpredictable spring weather,” Dr. Swank noted, “An indoor facility here would help teams get off to a great start. In addition, this kind of facility could be an asset to the community, helping draw new families to the area and providing a space for senior citizens and the community to use year-round due to the inclement weather during the winter.”
The Rhinelander Board of Education approved the agreement with Dr. Swank on Monday January 21, 2019. Multiple facility options are being explored as HSF and the School District Administration review potential upgrades to best accommodate year-round needs; as well as what other donations HSF might facilitate to help in the improvements.
Dr. Swank, a long-time physician at Ascension, and his wife Judy moved to Rhinelander in the 1980’s. Small town values and outdoor living were priorities in the move. Dr. Swank noted, “We looked at many places in Wisconsin, in the southern and central part of the state, but my wife kept saying we had to have a place up North. We were familiar with the community. We were familiar with all the communities around the area, but because of what Rhinelander had to offer, we chose Rhinelander."
Dr. Swank noted the strong school system as a major reason to move to Rhinelander and in his decision to give back. He commented, "It was fantastic for my son. He got a tremendous education and had great teachers. My wife was very involved. She coached junior high track for a while, and for about 15 years, she coached cross-country skiing. She enjoyed the kids. She always told them, it is not how good a skier you are, it is how good a person you are. I think the kids remembered that."
The Swank Family was very involved in activities and saw the success of the cross-country team with both their son and the state team being inducted in the Hodag Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Dr. Swank lost his wife Judy to cancer in 2009 but Dr. Swank continued their family mission to be active and involved. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast known for biking, skiing, and enjoying the outdoors. However, his passion to make this donation did not come from what he saw outdoors, but what he did not see indoors. Dr. Swank commented, "I've always felt that the most important thing we can do is educate our kids, and I was concerned by the fact that the kids did not have a place to do spring activities. I read in the paper that the kids were practicing in the hallways, the gym, and classrooms due to the short spring. I know that other communities in the area have indoor facilities; I thought that Rhinelander should have one too."
Dave Heck, President of the Hodag Schools Foundation stated, “HSF thanks all of our donors and supporters and is thrilled and appreciative of the Swank Family and their donation. It provides options for year-round activities, which are often limited by the weather in Northern Wisconsin. There have been so many disruptions for fall/winter/spring activities: field problems, students practicing until late at night, which affects grades and family life, all due to lack of space and year round facilities. This donation helps provide a great start to facility improvements and benefits the entire community.” Heck further commented, “We have had interest from other donors to help, our goal is to work with the School District on options and raise more money to help provide options for year-round multi-purpose space.“
HSF and the School District sincerely thank the Swank Family and applaud Dr. Swank’s objective to help the community and the Rhinelander students.
The Hodag Schools Foundation is sponsoring a special event "Hodags Take Downtown". The all alumni event is scheduled for Friday, August 10th, from 4pm to 11pm. The party will include dancing and live music, with performances by 5 Card Studs and Platinum. The Rhinelander City Council approved expanding the street closure for the event to include 3 blocks of Brown Street plus Davenport and Rives Street from Stevens to Anderson Street. Join the fun!