Above & Beyond

cover-storyFour Rochester women who put the “extra” in extraordinary

When we called Kathy Johnson, this year’s Extraordinary Businesswoman award winner, and told her she had won an Extraordinary Rochester Women Award, she replied with disbelief, “Seriously?” It was a common reaction among this year’s winners whom we are proud to introduce.


kathy-johnsonKathy Johnson
Extraordinary Businesswoman

Our family moved here in May 2012 and in our research in moving to Rochester we found Kathy’s business, Rochester Greeters.

I immediately contacted her to find out about Rochester. Kathy not only called me back, but once we arrived, she came to my house and sat on my floor (because our furniture had not arrived yet).

She brought a wealth of information, along with a wholehearted and welcoming spirit. She is so knowledgeable about the community of Rochester and was able to answer all of my hundreds of questions with kindness and warmth. She made me feel at ease and helped me navigate the new community we would now be a part of.

Her kindness and information did not stop at that initial meeting. She continues to be a wealth of knowledge about Rochester and has always given more than a little extra to help me out. I’m sure that she welcomes all newcomers with as much warmth and kindness as she has for us.

She recently launched Rochester Newcomers, a club for people and families to connect and meet other folks who have recently moved to Rochester. There are fun gatherings, and it is so nice to know we are not alone in figuring out a new community. We could not have asked for a better welcoming to Rochester than Kathy Johnson and her information and business.

— Laura Quest, Former client of Rochester Greeters, Kathy’s business

“Kathy recognizes that how people are welcomed into Rochester makes a difference on whether they stay. Rochester is a communitythat has a constant influx of people moving in and out. Kathy is such a good example of being a host and proving that Rochester is a great place to be. She puts ‘Minnesota Nice’ to work in the right way.”— ERWA Judge


danielle-nikolaiDanielle Nikolai
Extraordinary Volunteer

Dani is the mother of two special needs children and does an absolutely amazing job with them, but that is not why I am nominating her.

Danielle does outstanding work in our community supporting local education needs and the Rochester Public Schools. Not only is Dani an active school volunteer—volunteering in everything from PTA and special events to classroom activities—she is one of the main directors for the successful Rochester Public School Foundation Haunted Hallways event.

For two years now, Danielle has been the primary interface to each school for Haunted Hallways and has been responsible for the overall decorating plan for the event, a Herculean effort that she does entirely as a volunteer. She successfully drove the involvement of 17 school groups in 2011—obtaining buy-in and support for the inaugural event—and organized over 23 school groups for the 2012 event. She skillfully manages hundreds of volunteers, donates hundreds of hours of her time and juggles all of her competing obligations with finesse.

I have known Danielle for over 20 years, and she has always been driven by a strong desire to help make her community a better place and is highly respected by all those she encounters.

— Phillipa Hartley, Vice President of Development, Rochester Public School Foundation

“Danielle’s donation of hundreds of hours of volunteer time speaks to how passionate she is about education, not only with her own kids and her own school, but for the entire district and the advancement of all.” — ERWA Judge


wendy-reynoldsWendy R. Reynolds
Extraordinary Caregiver

Wendy is truly an inspiration for me to do better in my life. I believe her doing for others shows a sense of selflessness rarely found these days.

Wendy has done daycare for about 15 years and foster care for 11. Though she has had many short-term foster care children throughout that time, she has raised at least a dozen children long-term—two of whom she fostered through age 18. Wendy has three kids of her own, ages 9, 6 and 4 and has recently taken guardianship for her younger sister’s daughter, age 5.

She has also been a full-time student for the past two years to complete her bachelor’s degree and recently completed her certificate in parent coaching. She has volunteered at Aldrich preschool and now volunteers in Eyota where her children attend and are very active in sports and Girl and Boy Scouts.

She deserves recognition for these achievements; there are so many people’s lives she has touched. She is too modest to admit she is worthy of this nomination. Please help me convince her she is.

— Amanda Schild

“Think of how many lives Wendy has changed by changing the lives of the children she has taken in and raised. What an example she is for her own children. She has a wonderful, committed heart for care and love. ”— ERWA Judge


lori-miller-beachLori Miller-Beach
Extraordinary Overall

I can’t think of a more deserving woman than Lori, who seems to have an endless capacity to give—to her family, her community and even through the businesses she manages. Her goal in life, it seems, is to make everything and everyone around her better, and she has been very successful at this endeavor. I have been a beneficiary of her giving spirit and would like to share a little bit of her story.

Lori is a mother of four children, ages 15, 13, 11 and 9 and “backup” mother for her twin sister’s four children on many occasions while her sister travels for work. I also travel extensively, so she parents four to eight children essentially alone.

Not only does she give of her time to her own family, she gives to the Stewartville schools as well. She served on the preschool board for five years, was a PTA member and officer for four years and has been a substitute teacher in the district for over three years. In 2010, she was recognized as Stewartville’s “Friend of Education” award winner for her many and varied contributions.

She has also served on the city council for the City of Stewartville, recently finishing her four-year term. In that time, she has helped the council complete several core infrastructure upgrades and downtown revitalization initiatives that are crucial for the long-term health of the city and will be felt for many years to come.

An interesting byproduct of her work in revitalizing downtown was the inspiration to “walk the walk” by purchasing the property previously occupied by Home Sweet Home to create the Stewartville Heritage House. The Heritage House, as Lori describes it, provides a place “to get together with friends and create memories.” Lori supplied the vision and energy for renovations, furnishings and atmosphere for the house, a stunning Victorian home built in 1901. It is now a Stewartville treasure and the site for weekend quilting and scrapbooking retreats, weddings, special dinners, business meetings, graduation parties and whatever else customers can dream up.

Lori will try hard to deflect this praise to the people around her, and there is no question she is blessed by an amazing group of friends who share her enthusiasm for life, friends and community. But I cannot think of anyone more worthy of the Extraordinary Rochester Women Award than my wife, Lori.

—Van Beach

“Lori is engaged in the community in many ways from business to volunteer work and is very passionate about children and what happens to them inside and outside of the classroom. She gives back and raises her children in a community where she can be an example.”— ERWA Judge