SCOTTSBLUFF — A Chadron woman was caught off guard during the Panhandle Safety and Wellness Conference on Thursday, Sept. 12, at the Gering Civic Center.

Rachel Johnson was honored with the Leading Light Award for her leading the charge for wellness at her workplace.

Johnson is the volunteer services director at the Northwest Community Action Partnership.

During a video featuring a number of messages to and about Johnson, co-workers, family members and friends shared stories of how she made their world brighter and healthier.

One co-worker talked about how when she’d been sick and in the hospital, Johnson arranged to have meals delivered to her home and had volunteers help with her workload.

Another said that Johnson’s “good vibes” and positivity help improve their workplace.

As the video played, Johnson laughed and wiped tears from her eyes.

“I’m honored,” Johnson said.

The Leading Light Award was created in 2018 to honor Annie Loutzenhiser for her dedication and leadership to the Panhandle Worksite Wellness Council as well as her commitment to her organization’s wellness initiatives.

Loutzenhiser died last year after a battle with cancer and was honored with the first Leading Light Award posthumously.

“Annie was such a gift to our community and when they established this award, I never thought I’d be on the list of people who receive it,” said Johnson.

She said she had no idea she had been nominated for this year’s award.

“My co-workers conspired to make sure I was here today through lots of conniving,” laughed Johnson.

During the awards ceremony, three organizations were honored with a Governor’s Wellness Award.

Chadron Community Hospital and Panhandle Public Health District both received Grower Awards, which honors businesses and organizations demonstrating significant improvement in employee health behaviors, according to a press release from Gov. Pete Ricketts' office.

Banner County Schools received a Sower Award, which recognizes workplaces that have established quality wellness programs.

The Nebraska Safety Council presented Panhandle Cooperative Association and Parker Hannifin with awards for having a safe workplace.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at

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