‘Night of Luminaries’ celebrated


CAMDEN — The Preble County Chamber of Commerce celebrated 2023 with its 41st annual awards gala on Thursday, Nov. 18, at Wilderness Ridge Retreat Center outside Camden.

Executive Director Karen Moss welcomed everyone to the evening, dubbed “Night of Luminaries: A Star-Studded Affair.”

“We look forward to recognizing 26 remarkable Preble County individuals and organizations whose brilliance and achievements truly light up our community. When you learn more about tonight’s finalists, I think you’ll agree that that description fits them to a ‘T,’ Moss said.

According to Moss, the chamber received 94 nominations for 10 awards, “encompassing some of the best of the best in our county. We salute every single nominee, who all clearly have a worthwhile impact on our community. The individuals and groups to be recognized tonight are the finalists from those nominees, and the Chamber is honored to share their achievements with you,” she told those in attendance.

Awards presented during the gala included Outstanding Small Business, Outstanding Mid-Sized Business, Outstanding Large Business, Outstanding Agri-Enterprise, The Luminary Award, Excellence in Leadership, Young Professional, Educator of the Year, Outstanding Non-Profit, and the Community Improvement Award.

The PC Chamber Board’s Chair-Elect, Tara McCafferty presented the awards for Outstanding Small Business, Outstanding Mid-Size Business, and Agri-Enterprise.

The Outstanding Small Business Award is for a business with less than 30 employees which has proven to be “an outstanding asset, service, or benefit to its community. Small businesses are typically the result of determined entrepreneurs, dreamers, doers and are the heartbeat of any community,” McCafferty said.

The finalists for Outstanding Small Business were Eagle Fence, Heeter Insurance, Shively Contracting and Stearman and Son’s Tree Service.

“While each of these businesses have a unique focus — they also have a common theme according to their nominators. Eagle Fence, Heeter Insurance, Shively Contracting and Stearman & Son’s Tree Service consistently go above and beyond in their business practices and the quality of their work,” she added.

The recipient of the award was Eagle Fence.

“Eagle Fence has demonstrated exceptional community involvement over the years,” McCafferty said. “They are a steadfast supporter of youth and school baseball and softball programs, contributing to the success of Eaton, West Alexandria, and Lewisburg programs. A former little league president writes ‘Eagle Fence played a pivotal role by generously repairing our ballpark fencing, often waiving charges for their services.’ Beyond sports, Eagle Fence extends their generosity to the Preble County Sheriff’s Department, particularly supporting special groups such as the K9 Sheriff’s unit. Furthermore, their philanthropic spirit broadens to contributing Thanksgiving turkeys to the HIT Foundation annually, aiding those in need with approximately 15 turkeys each year. Eagle Fence’s community involvement truly sets them apart as an exemplary small business deserving of recognition.”

“Next, it is my privilege to present the 2023 Outstanding Mid-Size Business Award to a business with 30-100 employees who is an outstanding asset, service and benefit to our community,” McCafferty continued. Finalists for Outstanding Mid-Size Business were Wallace Heating and Air and Wings, Etc.

Wallace Heating and Air took home the award.

“Wallace Heating and Air, located in New Paris, is a professional heating and air company that serves a wide area of Ohio and Indiana customers professionally,” McCafferty said. “According to one nominator, they also regularly give back to their community by sponsoring events, organizations, veterans’ groups and other community projects. In fact, the family regularly hosts a blood drive during their family reunions in the summer. We are pleased to recognize their success and their support of our Preble County community.”

The finalists for Outstanding Agri-Enterprise were Farm Credit Mid-America/Rural First, the Preble County Congress Cutting Committee and Wild Hearts African Farm.

“As a rural community, Preble County has a long tradition of having strong agri-enterprises and organizations. These finalists are known for their business or event successes as they help to educate, sponsor, support and elevate agriculture in the county,” McCafferty said.

The award was presented to the Preble County Congress Cutting Committee.

“This year, the Preble County Congress Cutting Committee planned and coordinated a large-scale equestrian event that brought in 160 exhibitors from 11 different states and Canada (most who had never been to Preble County,) McCafferty said. “The committee worked hard to transform the fairground expo center into an indoor arena. The first cutting event was held in June of 2023 and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress Cutting event was in October. Local agri-based vendors were able to set up in a vendor shopping area and local food vendors were also onsite to serve the exhibitors and spectators. The event also provided an economic impact to the entire county. The committee is determined and focused to make Preble County a main attraction for large-scale horse shows and events in the future. The fit is perfect for our agriculture-based communities and county.”

Justin Sommer, Economic Development Director for the Preble County Development Partnership presented the awards for Outstanding Large Business and Community Improvement.

Henny Penny was recognized as the 2023 Outstanding Large Business, an award presented to a business with more than 100 employees which has proven to be an outstanding community citizen.

“We did receive multiple nominations for this award. They all just happened to be from the same business,” Sommer said. “So what did the nominators say about Henny Penny? Henny Penny stands as a beacon of success in our community. As an employee-owned business, their commitment to their workforce and the local area is truly commendable. They are dedicated to fostering a supportive workplace and benefits that set them apart.”

Also noted were the many expansions of the Henny Penny world headquarters in Eaton over the past decade. “This past year, they opened a new state of the art Wellness Center and the Owners Hall,” Sommer said. “I got to attend the ribbon cutting for the Owners Hall. And my comment at that time was that the Owners Hall was not just for their employee owners, but because of their employee owners. And I think that really embodies why they were nominated for this award. Despite the global reach they’ve remained deeply rooted in the Preble County Community, consistently contributing to growth and vitality. And Henny Penny’s commitment to providing exceptional products and services, coupled with their extensive community involvement and investment, makes them well deserving of this year’s outstanding large business award,” Sommer said.

Sommer also presented the Community Improvement Award, which recognizes municipality, organization or business which has made physical improvements toward the betterment of the Preble County community. “This award symbolizes the unwavering commitment and collaborative efforts of individuals, organizations and businesses dedicated to enhancing and improving our neighborhoods,” Sommer said.

Finalists for the 2023 Community Improvement Award were Regency Properties and the Village of New Paris Maintenance Crew.

Regency Properties was presented the award.

“Comments from their nominators,” Sommer said, “Regency Properties is the new owner of the complex known as the Eaton Center on North Barron Street in Eaton. They have done much to improve the look of a well-traveled shopping center in Preble County as well as the image of the area for travelers passing through on U.S. 127 since the acquisition of the property in early 2023. They have renovated the facilities including upgrades in the parking lot.”

“Yes!” Sommer added. “Although the mechanics don’t thank you, we the shoppers do.”

He continued, “They’ve improved the parking lot, the roof, the façade — and have begun bringing in new tenants, including the recent addition of Goodwill. The company is a deserving candidate for this year’s Community Improvement Award. And we appreciate the work that they’ve done to improve an important retail center.”

The awards for Outstanding Non-Profit and Young Professional were presented by PC Chamber Board member Jason Heggs.

“Non-profit organizations often play a vital role in addressing societal needs and an unwavering commitment, tireless dedication, and an unrelenting spirit to serve – and in one case entertain – others. Their presence contributes to the overall well-being, quality of life and resilience of the community by fostering a culture of collaboration and care,” Heggs read.

The finalists for Outstanding Non-Profit included the Preble County Council on Aging, Preble Players and Wild Hearts African Farm.

The Preble County Council on Aging received the award.

“The Preble County Council on Aging, often referred to as the county’s Senior Center, has been a vital presence in our community since 1973,” Heggs said. “Their dedication to the well-being of our senior citizens goes beyond just a tagline. With a mission to ‘keep Grandma and Grandpa safely in their home,’ the Council on Aging provides an extensive range of services. From engaging activities and educational programs to health screenings, exercise classes, and social events, they create a vibrant and supportive environment. The commitment extends to essential services like transportation, in-home assistance, meal delivery, and senior companionship. Currently undergoing a $5 million expansion project, the Council on Aging remains a cornerstone in ensuring the welfare of our community’s seniors.”

The Outstanding Young Professional Award recognizes a professional who is 40 years of age or younger who has made and continues to make significant contributions to his or her business, and the Preble County community.

“Not only do their contributions shape the economic landscape but also enrich the social fabric of the community, making it more dynamic and resilient,” Heggs said.

This year’s Outstanding Young Professional finalists were Miranda Armstead, Ryan Jarrell and Zac Wilson.

“All three candidates are stellar finalists,” Heggs said. “ Though they serve in different capacities in different fields, each of them works daily to make Preble County a better place, and we are delighted to recognize them as finalists for this award.

Armstead received the award.

“Miranda Armstead stands as a steadfast advocate for the betterment of her lifelong community in Preble County. Devoting her professional efforts to working with victims of domestic violence at the YWCA Dayton, Miranda goes above and beyond by volunteering for numerous community organizations and causes. Her commitment spans critical areas such as suicide prevention, mental health and recovery, homelessness, and more,” Heggs said. “Miranda is not only a force for change but a beacon of support for those in need of services and individuals on their journey to recovery. Her unwavering dedication to reduced stigma, advocacy, and leadership makes a profound impact on the lives of those she serves and the broader Preble County community. Her passion and active involvement in various causes contribute significantly to the overall well-being and resilience of the community she calls home.”

Chamber board member Jason Troutwine presented the Excellence in Leadership, Educator of the Year and Luminary Awards.

“The Excellence in Leadership Award seeks to recognize a community member who has contributed to the betterment of Preble County through service, leadership or volunteerism,” he noted. “Leadership is not merely about a title or position; it’s about inspiring others through action, guiding with integrity, and leaving an indelible mark on the people they serve and work with and on the projects they are involved in. The finalists we celebrate tonight embody those qualities.”

The finalists for the Excellence in Leadership Award included Pastor Kenneth Harbaum, Preble County Board of DD’s Maria Morgan and Tri-County North High School coach Jessica Spitler.

“All three nominees have undoubtedly made significant contributions to their communities through their exemplary leadership, leaving a lasting impact on Preble County,” Troutwine said.

Morgan was named the recipient of the award.

“Maria Morgan, the Project Specialist at the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities, emerges as a true community leader, radiating warmth and commitment in all her endeavors. Recognized for her exceptional contributions, Maria stands out as a dedicated individual who puts her whole heart into everything she undertakes,” Troutwine said. “In her role, Maria orchestrates the Adults with Disabilities basketball game, showcasing her commitment to inclusive and engaging community events. Beyond her professional responsibilities, she actively participates in community initiatives, serving as a Rotarian and volunteering her time for After Prom and the Fair. Notably, Maria took the lead in organizing new Special Olympics Softball and Cheerleading Programs, demonstrating her passion for fostering inclusivity and providing meaningful opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Maria’s outstanding efforts and dedication did not go unnoticed, earning her a nomination (and Honorable Mention) for ‘Local Coordinator of the Year’ at Special Olympics Ohio’s fall banquet, further solidifying her impact and positive influence within the community,” he said. efforts, Jessica has not only turned the basketball program around but continues to devote herself to the community, leaving a lasting impact on the lives of those she serves.

“Introduced in 2019, this award recognizes an educator or education administrator who goes above and beyond to aid in the education and success of Preble County students,” Troutwine said. “Tonight’s Educator of the Year finalists span across the educational spectrum, representing excellence in high school, middle school, and preschool settings.”

The finalists for the Educator of the Year Award included Twin Valley South teacher Nathan Clark, National Trail Middle School teacher Tyler Luce and Small Wonder Preschool’s Kayleigh Minner. “Based on the comments of your nominators, it is evident that each of you have made a tremendous impact on students, your schools and the educational community in Preble County,” Troutwine said.

Nathan Clark took home the award.

“Nathan Clark, a distinguished educator at Twin Valley South High School, is recognized for his outstanding contributions in teaching Government, Psychology, and Sociology. Known for his exceptional ability to connect with students, Mr. Clark has fostered a positive rapport within his classroom,” Troutwine read from Clark’s nominators. “Notably, his students achieved the highest scores in the county on the Government test, a testament to his commitment to their academic success. Beyond traditional teaching, Mr. Clark has initiated innovative programs like the ‘sandwich club,’ offering students real-life experiences during school hours. Additionally, he serves as a co-advisor for the Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention initiative, showcasing his dedication to student well-being and mentorship. Tonight, we celebrate Nathan Clark for his remarkable impact on education and the lives of his students.”

“It’s been a Night of Luminaries so far and we have just one more,” Troutwine said introducing the new Luminary Award.

“The Luminary Award is new award this year and will recognize a Preble County resident who inspires or influences their peers, community, or industry, and who fosters a culture of collaboration and support,” he added.

Finalists for the Luminary Award were Preble County MHRB Executive Director Amy Raynes and Preble Players founder Dr. Lisa Marling.

Raynes was presented the award.

“Amy Raynes, one of tonight’s Luminary Award finalists, is a beacon of inspiration in Preble County,” Troutwine read. “Serving as the Executive Director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board for the past 8 years, Amy has consistently championed the well-being of individuals requiring mental health and addiction services. Her collaborative efforts extend beyond her board responsibilities, as she actively participates in various committees and organizations dedicated to improving community health and support systems. Amy’s multifaceted role includes coordinating the Family and Children First Council, where she contributes to enhancing the overall welfare of Ohio’s children and families. Her commitment to fostering collaboration and creating positive change makes Amy Raynes a truly luminary presence in our community.”

Also recognized during the event was outgoing Preble County Safety Council Steering Committee Manager, Beth Salisbury, who has served in that role since 2009. The Preble County Safety Council operates under the umbrella of the Preble County Chamber in partnership with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. The mission of the organization is to serve as a forum for education, training, networking, and safety resources to promote safe work practices.

The 2023 graduates of Leadership Preble County program were also recognized for completion of the program. The members of the graduating cohort included: Tony Baker, Eshelle Bales, Adam Craft, Nick Fortini, Brian Green, Jason Heggs, Megan Jamison Griffis, Susan Laux, Tara McCafferty, Eric Montgomery and Jane Wickham, Andy Beckemeier, Bonnie Baker-Tattershall, and Donna Cross.

This year’s PC Chamber Awards Gala was sponsored by presenting sponsors Kettering Health, Reid Health and Indiana University East; Sustaining Sponsor Preble County Development Partnership and Patron Sponsor Wilderness Ridge.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @emowenjr.

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