Honored citizen credits family, God, communityThe Feb. 9 Chamber of Commerce awards banquet honored many businesses and individuals, among them Leah Gavin, owner of the longtime business Freeman Drug, as the member-chosen citizen of the year.
The Feb. 9 Chamber of Commerce awards banquet honored many businesses and individuals, among them Leah Gavin, owner of the longtime business Freeman Drug, as the member-chosen citizen of the year.
Gavin said in a visit Monday she felt surprised when Chamber Coordinator Nick Carstens called to tell her the news.
“I don’t see myself as doing anything outstanding,” Gavin said in her award-acceptance speech. “I just try to live my life by being kind to others and helping those in need, in ways that I can.”
A video played at the banquet captured the reasons why Gavin’s fellow citizens voted to honor her. It cited her kind-heart and gentle attitude, longstanding commitment to excellent patient care and service, and community service.
The spot talked about her and husband Ron’s contributions to the community through Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, committees at Ezekiel Lutheran Church and volunteering with Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence and the downtown Business Improvement District.
Gavin was also instrumental in starting and maintaining the Free Clinic of Pierce and St. Croix Counties, where those who are uninsured or underinsured can go for many types of medical care, including prescriptions.
Clinic founder and colleague Mary Conroy-Johnson, praised her for “countless” hours of volunteering and going to great lengths to establish an on-site pharmacy at the Free Clinic.
Her peers notice that she “always seeks creative solutions to help those lacking resources,” plus she helps mentor pre-pharmacy students.
Gavin says she moved to River Falls when she was 10. By the time she was 12 had begun working with her pharmacist father, Seth Speerstra, at Freeman Drug.
Gavin credits her family at Freeman for “going the extra mile” to help people and maintain the level of personal service the store’s customers have grown to love.
She and the staff have earned a reputation for treating customers with the utmost respect regardless of their age, physical condition or economic status.
Freeman provides not only traditional pharmacy items but also carries hard-to-find health products, home supplies and a large selection of compression stockings, braces and wraps.
Gavin says that the pharmacy also offers the service of compound drug mixing, and it also makes shelf space for books by local authors.
Asked about her ‘secret’ to success, Gavin says it’s probably personal service. She thinks it makes a big difference when store employees know the customers’ names.
As far as most people in town know, Freeman is also the oldest business in River Falls.
Roscius Freeman began it in 1872, taking several partners over the years, including his son, Rosh. Gavin’s dad bought a share of the store’s ownership after one of the existing partners died in 1962.
The store now has 17 employees, including two other pharmacists besides Gavin. It is open six days a week, but the owner says her customers know they can call her after hours or on Sunday if need be.
She credits her mom and dad for setting a tremendous example -- always involved on boards, in community groups and at church.
She also appreciates the great support she gets from her family -- husband Ron, two sons Ben and Tim, daughter-in-law Sarah and baby grandson, Davis.
Gavin also thanks God for giving her gifts she can share with others. She believes nobody is perfect and that everyone has a gift worth sharing.
Asked what motivates her, Gavin said it’s mostly the customers, “I love the people and I care about them,” she said. “When I miss something in their lives, I feel cheated.”
The Citizen of the Year advises that she gets much more from her volunteer work than she is giving. She’s met a lot of great people and takes pride in the caring community of River Falls.
“It’s not just me alone,” Gavin reiterates. “I couldn’t possibly do my job without the help and support of others.”