Each year, the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce (GWACC) nominates community members for its Person of the Year honor, a recognition of an individual chamber member who has given back to the community. “This is a great way for us to lift up some of our terrific chamber members who have gone above and beyond,” says Becky Pierson, chamber president. The person of the year is selected from nominations by fellow chamber members, which are reviewed by the board of directors, who make the final decision.
The 2016 recipient was Ellen Timmerman-Borer. Timmerman-Borer has worked in the community for over 30 years at Hammer Residences, which serves adults and children with special needs.
“Not only is she so passionate about the work she does at Hammer, but she has done so much for the chamber,” says Pierson. “She’s so much fun to be around. Her personality and the sparkle she has in everything she does is a huge attribute of hers that was fun to celebrate.”
Timmerman-Borer began working at Hammer in 1982, and over the years she has worked in all aspects of the organization, from the program side as direct care staff to management to working as a lifeguard and coach and a director of group homes.
“I fell in love with the mission at Hammer. People really all have gifts that they can bring to this world, and we all have a place in this community,” says Timmerman-Borer.
In the late 1990s, she moved into fundraising, which she has been doing for 16 years. Hammer Residences will raise $1 million this year through events like Reach for Ralph in July, which includes a dinner and auction to help people with disabilities.
“We are moved by and encouraged by the people that we serve and to make their lives as good as they can be,” Timmerman-Borer says.
She started volunteering for the Wayzata Art Experience years ago, and served on the chamber board and as volunteer chair of the board during a time of transition. “This western suburban community has been so generous, and we feel it’s important to give back,” she says. “We try to move outside the walls of the chamber, because it’s useful to our organization and to the people we serve.”
Although she commutes from Brooklyn Park to Wayzata, Timmerman-Borer says she always feels welcome. “When you get to hang out in a community with people who are a lot of fun and have as much conviction and integrity as you do, it’s easy to keep saying yes,” she adds.
Timmerman-Borer was honored at the Person of the Year luncheon in October, which always features several speakers who represent a cross-section of the recipient's life.
One of the speakers, Heidi, has a very special relationship with Timmerman-Borer. As a resident of Hammer, Heidi has known Timmerman-Borer since her first days on the job. They have been attending Rod Stewart concerts together for the last 33 years, where Timmerman-Borer says Heidi is able to find freedom from her daily challenges with communication, as she sings along with every word.
“I say the top five things that have happened in my life: my marriage, my three kids, and Rod Stewart with Heidi,” says Timmerman-Borer. “It’s miraculous.” In fact, Timmerman-Borer will be headed with Heidi to see Rod Stewart in Las Vegas this month. At the luncheon, she was also honored by her husband of 36 years, Kevin, and her kids: daughter Allie, son Riley and daughter-in-law Abby.
She says the experience of receiving the award has opened her eyes to the power of gratitude. She’s even paying the compliments forward and has committed to sending cards to friends and acquaintances to tell them how much they mean to her. Person of the year indeed.