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Gershman honored with community service award

Happy Harry's liquor store chain owner Hal Gershman stands among the wine aisles at his 32nd Avenue store in Grand Forks

Grand Forks has been good to Hal and Kathleen Gershman, the business owner said.

And in turn, the Gershmans are fortunate enough to be able to give back to Grand Forks, Hal Gershman said.

He was awarded the 2018 Leaders Community Service Award, from Market Watch, a national spirits, wine and beer magazine based in New York City.

"I was very happy to receive that award out of New York, it really meant a lot to me," he said.

The Gershmans are passionate about giving back to the arts. They regularly donate to the Empire Arts Center and had a hand in converting the old theatre into a performing arts facility.

"It's been very enriching going to performances throughout the years," he said. "So it's nice if we can help other people have that opportunity to enjoy something."

The Gershmans contributed more than $15,000 in 2017 to the Empire.

Hal Gershman is the president of Happy Harry's Bottle Shops, which partners with the Empire Arts Center in sponsored events like the annual golf tournament and dinner-dance. The Gershmans also support arts-centered nonprofits and events like the Fargo Film Festival, the Hillsboro Museum Wine Dinner and the Jamestown Art Center.

In total, the couple contributed $193,000 to 96 charitable events in 2017.

The Gershmans also support the arts in area schools by buying instruments for students who can't afford them.

"Those kids are able to be in band or orchestra and play with no fee," Gershman said.

Music helps students express themselves and is proven to help with learning math skills, Hal Gershman said.

"We're very happy about that particular program because it allows students to participate in music, which we think is very important, and music is something they can enjoy for their whole life," he said.

Hal Gershman said he and his wife like to invest in various programs, including scholarships, because that has a direct benefit to people.

"My wife always says a society is judged by how it cares for those less fortunate, so giving back is important to us," he said. "I never believe that it's enough to just pay taxes."

And they're not the only ones who give back to the region, he said.

"We're not the lone rangers here, there are so many people that give back," he said. "Many people give their time, and that's as important as a financial donation."