Catlin florist’s ‘tireless’ volunteerism earns her Citizen of the Year award

via The News-Gazette

What happens when you want to congratulate someone with flowers, but that person is your go-to florist?

“Starbucks gift cards work just as well,” Cheri Welsh said, breaking into a grin.

The longtime Catlin resident and business owner was selected as the 2018 Citizen of the Year.

She was honored at a banquet November 1, which was also her birthday.

“Cheri is an integral part of this community,” said Mark Stutsman, president of the Catlin Lions Club, which has put on the banquet every year but once since 1954.

He nominated her for her “tireless” volunteerism in the village and throughout Vermilion County.

That’s included serving on the Catlin Sesquicentennial Committee; helping to launch and put on the annual Christmas Tree Celebration; hanging red, white and blue buntings on downtown buildings for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July; planting the village’s flower pots and serving as a class and prom sponsor for several years; sponsoring Little League teams; serving on the Catlin Historical Society; sponsoring the Georgetown Fair Princess Tea and directing the talent contest; and decorating for the Danville Symphony Orchestra gala, among other things.

Welsh is also a member of the Catlin Church of Christ and helped establish its backpack program, which provided Salt Fork North Elementary students from low-income families with snacks on the weekend. The program is on hiatus this year, but Welsh hopes to restart it soon.

“She’s always willing to help out,” Stutsman said. “She does a lot of behind-the-scene things that people don’t even realize she does.”Because Welsh is so involved in the community, most assume she’s always been there. Actually, she grew up in Lockport and came to town in 1975 when her parents, Larry and Jean Finley — who grew up in Catlin and Bismarck, respectively — moved back home.

After graduating from high school in 1979, she opened a small flower shop in the back of Chuck’s Barber Shop in the downtown. She also worked at J.C. Penney in Danville, where she met her husband, Tim, then a manager trainee.

She and Tim married in May 1987. That October, Tim’s job with the department store took them to Iowa and then Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming and Minnesota.

In Nebraska, Welsh — who continued to work as a florist out west — directed community theater, served on the Miss Nebraska Pageant board of directors and directed the pageant for three years. In Wyoming, she was involved with the Cheyenne Frontier Days, billed as the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration.

In 2004, the couple and their young son, Tanner, moved back to Catlin to be near family. A couple of years later, Welsh opened Floral-n-Flair, a flower shop and event-planning business, in the same downtown building she started out in. She and business partner Kay Smoot also own and operate a gift boutique called Pauline’s Attic

Welsh was working one evening when Stutsman popped in.

“Who got it, and how are we going to decorate?” she asked, thinking he’d stopped by to discuss the Citizen of the Year banquet at the Methodist Church, which she decorates.

She was floored by his answer.

“It still hasn’t sunk in,” she said, the day before the banquet.

While honored, Welsh was quick to acknowledge her “crew,” including local high school students and residents who help her set up for community events, weddings and parties — and family. Tanner, who turns 21 this month, has autism, and Tim is his full-time caregiver and still finds time to help out at work.

“I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without him,” she said.

“It’s always been a team effort,” she continued, adding she learned that from her dad who helped out in many ways at the shop and home before he passed away a couple of years ago.

Welsh recalled sitting at the family table years ago after her brother became a 1,000-yard rusher on his high school football team.

“My dad pointed to his picture on the front of the sports page and said, ‘He wouldn’t have done that without his line that blocked for him.’ I’ve always remembered that. You can’t do it alone. You have to surround yourself with good people and work as a team.”

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