It's common to hear workers complain about paying taxes. But for Willmar resident Neil Hughes, paying taxes again is a goal he's striving to achieve. A stroke survivor, Hughes is on his way to reaching his goal, as this year's Judd Jacobson Memorial Award recipient.
Established in 1992, the award, administered by Courage Center, recognizes the pursuit or achievement in a business entrepreneurial endeavor by a person with a physical disability or sensory impairment.
Hughes, 51, was a farmer until a massive stroke in 1993 caused left side paralysis. Today, he walks with a cane and walker, and is employed part-time with West Central Industries of Willmar. His goal is to start a nut roasting business - a franchise of the Nutty Bavarian Company - at the Kandi Mall in Willmar. The money from the Jacobson Award will go toward the purchase of a nut roaster, start up inventory, mall rental, insurance and an adaptive jig which will help him fill the nut cups. He also hopes to make a down payment on a portable arena cart, to sell his products, which includes home made chocolates, at local festivals.
"Since my accident I have aspired to become financially independent and free of government assistance. I feel I will be able to be self-sufficient and give back to the community by donating a percentage of my income to war veterans. I would like to become a taxpayer again," said Hughes.
Hughes' nominators mentioned the research he has done, including cost and profit evaluations, checking with the mall about hours and scheduling, and marketing techniques. He even conducted taste tests, all while being realistic in sales projections.
"Neil has a strong desire to develop his own business and become more self-sufficient," said nominator Alisa Savelkoul, an employment adviser with West Central Industries Joblink of Willmar. "Neil worked as a greeter at the local Walmart and I was able to observe ... his wit and gregarious personality. The combination of a good product, hard work and a winning personality will no doubt lead to a successful outcome for Neil."
The Jacobson selection committee was inspired by Hughes' story and his desire for a better quality of life. "Each year, we look for someone who exemplifies the 'spirit' of my late husband, Judd, and for us, this year, that person was Neil Hughes," said Barbara Jacobson, owner of Flying Wheels Travel, Owatonna, Minn.
Hughes will receive his award on Tuesday, Oct. 20, during a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Courage Center Golden Valley.
About the Judd Jacobson Memorial Award
The Judd Jacobson Memorial Award is named for the late Minnesota business leader who became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident. The $5,000 cash award is administered by Courage Center, with funds made possible by Daniel J. Gainey, a lifelong friend of Jacobson.
About Courage Center:
Courage Center is a nonprofit rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence. At Courage Center, we specialize in treating brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, chronic pain, autism, and disabilities experienced since birth. Founded in 1928, Minneapolis-based Courage Center offers advanced technologies and innovation provided in part through the efforts of thousands of volunteers and donors. For more information visit www.CourageCenter.org.
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