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January 27, 2020

12/7/2019 7:30:00 AM
Peoples State Bank donates $100,000 to sports complex project
River News Staff

A local business has stepped forward to make a major contribution to the School District of Rhinelander's indoor sports complex project. The Hodag Schools Foundation, the non-profit organization coordinating the private fundraising for the project, announced Thursday that the Rhinelander branch of Peoples State Bank has committed to contributing $100,000 to the effort.

"Peoples State Bank sees the building of the Hodag Sports Complex as the perfect opportunity to impact the greater Rhinelander community," HSF officials said in a press release announcing the gift. "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," noted Craig Lau, Northern Market President of Peoples State Bank. "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, the release notes. 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 its current location at 8 East Anderson Street. Peoples also believes in hiring and retaining many people who grew up in Rhinelander, the release states.

"Brandon Karaba, RHS Class of 2001, is a perfect example of the type of employee we love having on our staff, because he devotes his own time to give back to the community in which he grew up," Lau said.

"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," the release notes. "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 is 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. . .," Karaba, an assistant vice president and mortgage lender at Peoples, asserted. "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," said 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, an HSF board member and Activities Director for the School District of Rhinelander (SDR), has said the new complex will be a game changer for Rhinelander.

"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," Paulson said. "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."

School board member Duane Frey echoed that sentiment. "The school district is most appreciative of the donation from Peoples State Bank," he said. "It is gratifying to have the backing of this local business and the incredible impact it will have on our students and community."

The sports complex project was jump-started in early 2019 by a $500,000 donation from Dr. Lee Swank and family who were looking for a way to help local student athletes whose practice schedules are often hampered by cold weather.

In June, the school board voted to spend up to $5.7 million, on top of $1.2 million in private donations, to build an air-supported dome for indoor practices, competitions and other community uses. The sports complex project has already cleared a number of hurdles, including gaining approval this week from the city of Rhinelander planning commission.

The full City Council is expected to review, and potentially approve, the site plan Monday evening.

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