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Schumacher, Patterson and Generals to receive the Foundation’s Making Fort Special award

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

The Fort Atkinson Community Foundation is pleased to announce that Mabel Schumacher, Erin Patterson and the Fort Atkinson Generals Baseball Team are the 2023 recipients of the Foundation’s Making Fort Special award. The three recipients will be honored at a special awards reception at Jones Park on Thursday, September 14th from 5 to 7 p.m., with an award presentation at 5:30 p.m. The Generals cash-only concession stand will be open for the purchase of food and beverages, and the Foundation will be providing complementary cake for dessert. The public is encouraged to attend and, by their presence, add their thanks to the recipients.

The purpose of the Foundation’s Making Fort Special awards, first presented in 2017, is to draw attention to those people in our community who have championed a project or conducted activities that have helped make Fort Atkinson a special place to live.

“We are so proud to have people like Mabel, Erin, and the Generals board members in our community,” noted Foundation Chairman Sue Johnson. “They are – to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt – the people in the arena, the ones willing to take on new projects, to get involved, to see how they could make things better for our community and then step forward to make them happen. We are grateful for all they do and we are so happy to present them with these wonderful awards.”

Mabel Schumacher

Mabel Schumacher has worked tirelessly to make Fort Atkinson a more pet-friendly and welcoming place. Her work on the dog statues and pet drinking fountains on the Bike Trail in 2011, the War Dog Memorial at McCoy Park in 2016-2017, and the "Puppy Serenade" project at Rock River Park in 2020-2021 have all added unique features to our urban landscape.

Jan Holewinski of the Fort Atkinson Kennel Club has witnessed Mabel making a difference for decades crediting her and her efforts for getting March 13th declared K9 Veterans Day in Wisconsin. Jan went on to say, “Mabel has for many years been the heart and soul of the Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson. She was the driving force behind the club’s two sculpture/fountain projects as well as the K9 Veterans memorial statue in McCoy Park.”

Fort Atkinson Parks & Rec Director Brooke Franseen echoed Jan’s sentiments and elaborated on Mabel’s impact on Fort Atkinson sharing, “Mabel hosts "MabelFest" every year, where she expresses her gratitude to City employees who contribute to the projects she champions by treating them to lunch. Mabel's generosity and community spirit make her an asset to our community.”

Mabel's magical ability to fundraise, to rally people to join her, her dedication and passion have set an example for others in our community to follow. In addition, her generosity has extended to the Police Department’s K9 unit and establishing the Terry Beck Protective Services Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation.

In so many ways, Mabel has made Fort Atkinson special.

Erin Patterson

In addition to owning and operating a popular neighborhood pub, Erin Patterson has managed to find time to begin and operate the local dog rescue Paddy’s Paws, open a second tavern business, head up the Chamber Retail Committee where she actively and creatively supports locally-owned businesses, organize fundraisers for those in need, working to open a third downtown business – all while raising two young children.

Kari Johnson, Luther Elementary ELL teacher and long-time Paddy's Paws volunteer noted, “Erin goes above and beyond to make our community a special place. She is generous and has a heart of gold. Through her own business, she supports other small local businesses and is always willing and happy to say “yes” to non-profit organizations and schools that need help with fundraising or donations. Erin has also helped bring awareness to dog adoption and responsible pet ownership through her rescue, Paddy’s Paws. Many families in the Fort Atkinson area have loving dogs in their homes because of Erin’s tireless dedication to volunteering her time to help connect rescue dogs with their forever families. Erin is an advocate for those who need a voice, and she is a great model of how to spread kindness throughout the community.”

Former City Council member Megan Hartwick agreed, adding “I have noticed one of the most special things about Erin is that regardless of how you might interact with her, she is 100% authentically herself at all times - what you see is what you get. And what Fort Atkinson gets is a person whose generosity knows no bounds; a person who never stops asking "what else can I do?” or "how can I help?"; a person whose desire to strengthen and support Fort Atkison is at the core of most decisions she makes; a person who welcomes all into her businesses; a person who does not know anything other than going above and beyond. And a person who expects and requests no credit for any of it.”

In all these ways, Erin has made Fort Atkinson special.

Fort Atkinson Generals

The Fort Atkinson Generals have become so much more than a baseball team in our community, they are a vital civic organization. Former Fort Atkinson Parks & Recreation Director Scott Lastusky shared how that came about explaining, “twenty years ago the volunteer board of Fort’s adult baseball team didn’t want to lose the carnival rides and the fun at Jones Park when the community’s largest festival collapsed. Little did the Generals baseball board realize its decision transitioned them into becoming an exceptional civic organization. Beyond donating over $100,000 to improvements to all areas of Jones Park, the Generals also support Police & Fire efforts, a high school scholarship program, youth sports groups, autism awareness, provide awards and tally countless volunteer hours to improve the lives of Southern Wisconsin’s Special Olympic athletes, and so many other community needs.”

Scott also noted that the Generals have given Fort Atkinson many hours of baseball entertainment, and their commitment to $1 beers got our city featured in Sports Illustrated magazine while their heavily buttered popcorn and tens of thousands of brats & burgers on the grill have put smiles on countless ballpark connoisseurs. All thanks to the real stars of the organization – the Generals' board members.

Jude Hartwick, president of the Fort Atkinson Beautification Council, described how the Generals gladly give other non-profits the chance to piggyback onto their success by allowing them to work the concession stand, advertise their work, and take home all the tips, which always includes an extra-large tip from the Generals themselves. “The Generals are awesome,” declared Hartwick. “They have gone out of their way to help lots of nonprofits including the Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson, Rock River Community Clinic, and our Beautification Council. The Generals are one of those organizations that loves to think of others, but also to have fun doing so. It's always a pleasure to work the concession stand and help raise money for a good cause.”

In all these ways, the Generals organization has made Fort Atkinson special.

For more information about the Making Fort Special awards, the upcoming celebration on September 14th, or the community foundation, contact the Community Foundation's Executive Director, Sue Hartwick, at (920) 563-3210 or via email at

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