First-ever Mower County Distinguished Citizens Dinner to recognize community leaders

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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The inaugural Mower County Distinguished Citizens Dinner will honor individuals who live or work in Mower County for their commitment and contributions both professionally and personally to scouting.

Graphic Provided

Two individuals will be honored in this first year: Austin Public Schools’ Sheila Berger and the United Way of Mower County’s Karem Ramirez.

The Boy Scouts’ Twin Valley Council will host the dinner, which is open to the public, at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Austin. The presenting sponsor for the event is the Fraternal Order of Eagles Arie No. 703. A buffet will be served and a cash bar will be available. The first drink will be provided by the event sponsor. Tickets are required for the event and are on sale now at through Oct. 12.

Sheila Berger. Photo provided

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Tickets are $40 per seat or a table of six for $240. Ad sponsors are also being sought for $370 which includes a half-page ad in the printed program, recognition at the event, and a reserved table of six.

Berger was nominated for and selected to receive the Elbert K. Fretwell Outstanding Educator Award. This award is presented to those who improve students’ lives by proactively modeling and teaching scouting values.

The award may be presented to teachers, educational support staff, and school administrators who stand out from their professional peers in instilling scouting values for students. Berger currently serves as the coordinator of K-4 curriculum and EL services for APS, but when nominated she was serving as the principal at Sumner Elementary School.

Ramirez was nominated for and selected to receive the Whitney Young Jr. Service Award. This national award is designed to recognize those individuals and corporations who have been instrumental in the development of scouting for rural, urban and suburban youth who often face challenging barriers.

Karem Ramirez

This award recognizes “unsung heroes,” those who do exceptional service for disadvantaged youth. Ramirez currently serves as the Community ​Impact coordinator for the United Way of Mower County.

A featured speaker for the evening will be Lydia Drees, of Austin. Drees is the first female Eagle Scout in Mower County and the second female Eagle Scout in all of the 15 counties of the Twin Valley Council in southern Minnesota.

The Eagle rank is the highest award in scouting for youth, which only about 4% of youth in scouting attain. Lydia joined the Scouts in 2019 when the Boy Scouts of America opened the program to girls in separate gender troops. She is an active member of Troop 1069 and currently serves as their Senior Patrol Leader, which is the top youth position in a troop.

“We are very excited to be putting on this event and bringing the community together to help recognize both Shelia Berger and Karem Ramirez,” said Erik Karre, District Director for the Twin Valley Council. “I’ve known and worked with both Sheila and Karem since I started serving Mower County back in 2018 as a part of my service area. Both of them are very deserving of the awards they are being honored for. I’m also very excited to hear Lydia speak. I knew Lydia even before she was a Scout and it has been amazing to see her growth in the program.”

Lydia Drees

The Mower County Distinguished Citizens dinner provides the Twin Valley Council with the opportunity to honor the leaders around us and to demonstrate to younger generations the qualities great leaders possess, all while raising funds to directly support the Council’s outreach programs in Mower County.

These programs include STEM programming, training of Scouting leaders, camperships to send scouts to camp, local unit and program support, outreach to underserved populations, camping operations, and more.

For questions about the event or to become a sponsor, contact either Erik Karre at 308.440.2641,