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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • August 2017
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Looking for Compassionate Employers!

What makes some employers stand out? One thing that exceptional employers do is treat their employees well, especially when those individuals experience a medical crisis and can’t work the way they have in the past.

New North B2B Magazine and Community Benefit Tree, Inc. (CBT) initiated the Compassionate Employer Award in 2014 to recognize employers who go above and beyond to help employees facing an emergency. Sean Fitzgerald, editor of B2B, said, “We hope other employers in northeast Wisconsin will hear these personal stories and borrow from the examples that have been set. The loyalty these employees have for their employers is simply amazing.”

Employees who nominated winning businesses in the past feel loyalty is natural, considering all the employers have done for them. Melissa Gerrits nominated Matthews Tire, one of the winners last year, after they went out of their way to help when her daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury. Gerrits said, “When you work for a smaller, family-owned business, they’re more hands on. They know more about what’s going on with their employees. I consider these people part of my own family. I know the owners personally.”

Her nomination took Trevor Rezner, president of the company, by surprise. “It’s just what we do,” he said. “We take care of our employees as we would if they were our own family members, and help them the best way we can.”

Last year was the first year that the founders gave two Compassionate Employer awards. Matthews Tire won for companies with under 25 employees. Winning the award for companies of 25 or more employees was St. Paul Elder Services of Kaukauna.

Sondra Norder, President and CEO of St. Paul, said the company had been nominated the previous year by another employee. Still, she was surprised when Corinne Sieker nominated them. She didn’t even work for the organization anymore, having resigned when she felt she couldn’t be effective in her job while helping to care for her sister, a cancer patient.

The impression St. Paul Elder Services made on Sieker’s family was profound. Heidi Frederickson, Executive Director of CBT, a nonprofit established to offer financial, emotional and spiritual support to individuals and families facing a medical crisis, has noticed that having a compassionate employer makes the struggle less intimidating.

When she and Sean Fitzgerald established the award, they wanted to encourage employers to be part of the solution instead of the problem. She’s heard horror stories about people being let go when they most need a job — when they’re facing an expensive illness and struggling to keep working despite that illness. Employers who are prepared ahead of time to deal with medical crises are more likely to retain employees and keep them engaged, saving money in the long run, Frederickson believes.

Employees who have received exceptional support from an employer in Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca or Winnebago counties may nominate that employer for the Compassionate Employer Award by visiting The nomination form, due by Sept. 1, is available at the home page. Click on Apply and in the drop-down select Nominate Compassionate Employer.

The purpose of the Compassionate Employer Award goes beyond recognizing employers and best practices. It also is meant to encourage other employers to follow these practices when a valued employee suddenly comes face to face with a medical crisis. One way to encourage those compassionate behaviors is to nominate your own employer if they show you understanding and help in practical ways.

Winners in both categories will be announced at Community Benefit Tree’s annual LIFE Celebration November 14 at The Grand Meridian in Appleton. 

Kathi Bloy

The Community Benefit Tree Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization governed by Christian values. Our mission is to help individuals and families struggling with a medical crisis financially, emotionally, spiritually and with practical resources. We celebrate people’s lives and support by helping family, friends or co-workers plan a Celebration of Support event for their loved one. In the last 10 years, these one-day events have helped more than 500 families with funds for living and medical expenses. Community Benefit Tree also provides education, support, resources and financial assistance for families. For more information, visit or contact CBT staff at 920-422-1919.

Kathi Bloy is a freelance writer from Appleton.

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