On Thursday, Jan. 24, the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce awarded the business, educator and volunteer of the year for 2018.
The annual meeting and awards was held at the Hidden Greens Event Venue.
The Business of the Year award was given to Millner Chiropractic, the Educator of the Year to Kari Jaeger and Volunteer of the Year to Ellie Lundquist. The first ever winner of the Legacy award was former mayor Paul Hicks.
"To be recognized for my years of service to the Hastings community as mayor and on the council and to be recognized for a lot of the good things we did in Hastings was very humbling. I am very appreciative of it," Hicks said.
Get to know the winners:
Business of the Year
All it took was two signs for the Millner's to set up their chiropractic clinic in 1998.
The first sign came when Melissa and Scott Millner bought second-hand reception room chairs that had been donated to Salvation Army by the Mayo Clinic. After the chairs were purchased, the couple were approached with an offer to buy the space that was Walker Chiropractic - everything included, except the reception room chairs.
The second sign came when the president at Norwest Bank, where Melissa had worked as a teller through high school and college, was relocated to Hastings. The Millner's were having trouble securing a loan for their new business because of their student loan debt.
"Because she knew my work ethic and knew my family, she was willing to give us the loan to move forward," Melissa said. Millner Family Chiropractic had a home in Hastings.
Not too long after opening, the Millner's started thinking of the great idea that would become the Health Solutions Center, a one-stop shop of natural care.
"We saw the benefit of having multiple practitioners working together, Often we refer to a massage therapist or an acupuncturist. We started thinking pretty quickly on how great it would be to have that all under one roof, and have more options for people to pick and choose what kind of providers they felt most comfortable with," Melissa said.
Scott added that the medicine and surgical procedures today are great, but it isn't always what people need.
"This is a place where they can look and see if there is something in the building that can help them first, before they go down that route," Scott said.
One of the joys of their work, the Millners said, is helping people, whether it be through making them feel better or giving them hope.
"There are a lot of people who come in here that have totally lost hope in where their health is going. Being told the story and being able to understand how their body works and that it's meant to heal gives them hope again. It's a lot of fun. I wouldn't want to do anything else," Melissa said.
Educator of the Year
Growing up, Kari Jaeger always wanted to be a teacher - minus the short period in junior high when she wanted to be an undercover cop because 21 Jump Street was the hot show at the time.
"I thought it was interesting, but I would have been terrible at that," Jaeger laughed.
Jaeger officially started teaching at Hastings High School in 1998, having done her student teaching there prior to her graduation from the University of Minnesota-Morris.
"I love learning. I always tell my students that if I could just go to college forever and get degree, after degree, after degree I would do that," Jaeger said.
Currently, Jaeger teaches language arts to ninth- and 12th-graders. Although she enjoys the mix, Jaeger admits that teaching ninth-graders is her favorite.
"They are young adults but they are still kids. If I recommend a book to my freshmen, guaranteed in the next couple of weeks someone will come to me and say 'Look! Look! I checked it out. I'm reading it. It's so good.' Seniors - they might go check it out but they probably aren't going to tell me," Jaeger said.
However, the mix is great, Jaeger said, because many of the students she sees as seniors were also her students as freshmen. As the "bookends," Jaeger said, she gets to see the students grow in their thinking, reading and writing.
In the past few years, Jaeger has focused on changing her curriculum to be more inclusive of different voices.
"I just really love teaching literature and opening up my students to different perspectives," Jaeger said. "Voices of women, women of color, men of color. My students learn from it and they love it."
Jaeger also acts as the advisor for the school newspaper, the advisor of the Feminism Club and the coordinator for Hastings Reads.
In addition to these extra curriculars, Jaeger is also a part of a professional learning community at the high school that is looking into the climate of Hastings High School, inspired by the school district and the city's proclamation on diversity and inclusion.
"We put together a group of students that represent diverse voices at Hastings High School, and asked them how things were going. Are we inclusive? How are you feeling," Jaeger said. "Our students actually have a lot of concerns and a lot of ideas of what needs to improve."
As of now, Jaeger said, the plan is to bring these students to the Respect Retreat that is put on in the spring for ninth-graders, and incorporate diversity and inclusion into the program.
"I think that will just continue to grow," Jaeger said of the diversity initiative. "It fuels what I am doing with my curriculum, looking at adding more diversity to what I teach."
Volunteer of the Year
After retiring in 2012 from being a registered nurse at Regina Hospital for 23 years, Ellie Lundquist just couldn't stay away. A little over a year later, she was doing work as a volunteer at the hospital.
Now in her sixth year of volunteering, Lundquist does "a little bit of everything" to help out. From escorting patients to appointments to helping set up orientation for new employees, Lundquist does what she can for anyone in the hospital, patient or staff.
"I just love being able to assist in any way that I can. I love the smiles. Everybody is so open and helpful. We joke and we laugh, and we get a lot done," Lundquist said.
Her drive to spend her time volunteering at the hospital comes from the passion that she has for the patients she works with, Lundquist said.
"Sometimes patients come in nervous or scared. I enjoy being able to give them some support and helping them get where they need to go," Lundquist said.
Lundquist, who stated that she is the only early bird in the family, wakes up to get ready as early as 3 a.m., a time at which many would turn off their alarm and go back to bed. As a resident of Red Wing, Lundquist is out the door by 4 a.m. to be at the hospital in time to prepare for escorting patients at 5 a.m.
"In all honesty, I don't think I have a favorite part, because I love it all. I love working with everyone, no matter what it is I'm doing. It's a lot of fun. I like keeping busy," Lundquist said.
To win the Volunteer of the Year award from the chamber was an honor, Lundquist said. It was unexpected and overwhelming.
"I am a behind the curtain kind of person," Lundquist said. "I don't do what I do for any reason other than it's what I love to do."