First Chamber of Commerce in county to earn Purple Angel Award

In an average year, the Visit Lake Geneva visitor center on the lake welcomes upwards of 20,000 people who stop in for information on what to do and see in the area. Among those thousands are people with dementia.

Visit Lake Geneva received its Purple Angel Award Oct. 18 from Walworth County’s Dementia Friendly Community Initiative, recognizing the staff for completing training on how to recognize, better understand and serve individuals suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s and also support their care providers.

Visit Lake Geneva is the first Chamber in Walworth County to complete the training which is provided free by the Dementia Friendly Community Initiative.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates the population with dementia or Alzheimer’s in Walworth County will be a little more than 2,100 in 2020, with that number expected to more than double by 2040.

According to the founders of the Walworth County Dementia Friendly Community Initiative, Bernadette and Eric Russow, their mission is to allow those with dementia and Alzheimer’s to live as independently as possible.

“By completing this training, the Visit Lake Geneva staff will be helping to ease the fear and isolation associated with dementia and increase access to the resources people need to live well with dementia,” said Bernadette Russow, the organization’s president. “It is also treating the person with dementia with dignity and respect, as it’s the reaction to the disease and not the disease itself that robs someone of their dignity.”

Bernadette Russow had a very personal reason for spearheading this initiative – her father suffered from dementia.

Stephanie Klett, Visit Lake Geneva CEO and president, noted just how eye-opening the training was for her team.

“There were insights into everything from communications methods to furniture styles, things we would not have realized on our own without the help of the trainers,” Klett said. “It warms our hearts to know we’ll be doing all we can to make every visitor who walks through our doors feel welcome.”

Visit Lake Geneva will now be added to the list of trained businesses that appears on the Facebook page for the Initiative at


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