EATON — Many Preble County residents were honored for their outstanding achievements during the 36th annual Chamber of Commerce Holiday Gala and Awards Ceremony, held on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
In addition to the award winners and nominees, outgoing chamber board members were also recognized.
Cindy Kaufman, Business Manager at L&M Products and the 2017 Chairperson, opened the ceremony.
“Last year, we switched up this annual awards event, moving it to December to allow us to reflect on the past year and honor those businesses and individuals who did great things. This year, we’re switching gears a little more, making this celebration less about us and more about you,” Kaufman explained.
“We are excited to welcome and honor all our nominees tonight, as well as surprise our winners – and surprise our Chamber Board members as well, because even we don’t yet know who won.”
One such way the Chamber Executive Director Leslie Collins changed the Awards Ceremony was by keeping the winners a secret up until the moment they were announced. Not even board members knew who won the awards.
Kaufman took a minute to thank event sponsors, including: Premier Sponsor Reid Health, Principal Sponsors TimkenSteel and The Register-Herald, and Supporting Sponsors The Preble County Development Partnership, and The Greenbriar.
Additionally, she thanked Preble County Council on Aging for hosting the event and Buckeye Jake’s for providing the meal.
Collins took the stage to say a few words before dinner.
“Tonight, we are gathered here to celebrate the accomplishments of 2017, honoring several special businesses and individuals helping to improve the quality of life and economy in the Preble County community,” she said.
Following dinner, Collins took a moment for a special recognition ceremony for the Chamber’s outgoing board member and the 2017 Board Chairperson.
She started by honoring outgoing board member Jason Moles, who has served on the board of directors since 2010, and was chairperson in 2016.
“Over the past year Jason did an exemplary job in helping the chamber continue with business as usual in the absence of an executive director. Jason made sure the Leadership Preble County program ran according to plan and continues to aid in its success,” Collins said.
“He is a staple on all our event committees and his input and hard work will be greatly missed. On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and its members, Jason, we thank you for your dedication and service to the Preble County business community.”
Next, Collins took a moment to honor outgoing Board Chairperson Cindy Kaufman, who has been involved with the Chamber since 2013 and has served on numerous committees.
“Cindy has also served as the Chamber’s representative on the Preble County Development Partnership Board and will serve as Immediate Past Chair on the Chamber Board of Directors for 2018. Cindy has provided great leadership and direction in her service as Board Chair, and on behalf of the chamber board of directors and the entire membership, we thank you for your service,” Collins said.
Before the award ceremony could begin, guests were encouraged to take a few minutes to bid on the silent auction items in the back. Bidding had been open throughout dinner, but this gave guests one last opportunity to bid on the item they wished to take home.
The first category to be recognized was Outstanding Small Business Citizen. Next year’s Chamber Chairperson Stacy Jones presented the award to Twin Creek Tea Room.
Located in West Alexandria, the Twin Creek Tea Room is owned and operated by Carolyn Ulrich. Carolyn and her husband Mark purchased the Tea Room in 1992. In 2000 they took over day-to-day operations, which Carolyn continues still today. Over the years, Ulrich has been active in the community, with Twin Valley South Schools, the library, the historical society, and Farmersville Methodist Church.
She is a dedicated member of the Preble County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau board. With all her many activities, she still makes time to feed her husband supper each evening at an area nursing home. Ulrich loves Preble County and is a pillar in West Alexandria. She works tirelessly for the nonprofits she volunteers with, and maintains the successful Tea Room & Ivy Parlor Gift Shop, which is a destination for both locals and tourists from around the state and country to visit Preble County.
“I just want to thank everybody for all of your support, this is our 25th year and we always have a good time,” Ulrich said.
Other nominees included: Preble County Habitat ReStore, Rexarc International, and Olde Schoolhouse Winery.
Preble County Habitat ReStore is located in downtown Eaton. It has been managed by Jodi Gray for over three years. In that time, she has turned the ReStore into a thriving business, according to the presentation.
“Gray works tirelessly to keep things looking nice, works with all the volunteers who come to help, manages the ReStore employees and the people who come to work at the store from Easter Seals and Goodwill. One major mission of the ReStore is to raise funds to build houses, but there are two others the Habitat Board did not at first recognize: keeping items out of the landfill and providing items for a variety of customers. The store also gives both volunteers and employees the opportunity to be productive.”
Rexarc International is located in West Alexandria. From being a 2006 charter member of the Preble County Safety Council to participating in Manufacturing Days, Rexarc remains active in the community, according to Jones.
“Rexarc supports Ohio Business Week, SAY Soccer, WABO, the Twin Valley Schools Hat/Glove Drive, the Officer Phil Program, the National Child Safety Council, the West Alexandria Turkey Trot, and the West Alexandria Community Picnic. Rexarc has received the Governor’s “E” Award for Excellence in Exporting, Small Business Exporter of the Year, Preble County Excellence in Business Award, and more. Rob Moyer was last year’s Preble County Chamber Young Professional of the Year,” Jones read.
“The Rexarc family fosters and embraces opportunities to share the company’s success by giving back with monetary and time donations to the community. The employees have a sincere interest in and commitment to the welfare of their industry and Preble County.”
According to Jones, “the Olde Schoolhouse Winery and Vineyard shares on its website, “In the fall of 2014, two couples decided to purchase a property at the corner Ohio 127 and Ohio 726 to transform it into a vineyard and a winery. Located just north of Eaton, this building had been vacant for at least 30 years. In the spring of 2015, the old pasture was planted into a vineyard. They planted 1,000 vines with the help of friends and family.”
In June of this year, the Winery held the first Preble County Cork Festival, with wine tastings, craft sales, live music, food trucks and more. The Olde Schoolhouse Winery is active in opening their doors for fundraisers for groups of all sorts and sells its wines in venues across the state. Olde Schoolhouse Winery is owned by Mark and Angela Zdobinski and Jim and Beth Meeks.”
Jason Moles presented the Outstanding Agribusiness of the Year Award to Brubaker Grain, a local family-owned corporation which started in 1975 with a dream of serving their local agricultural community.
“Brubaker Grain was built on customer service and satisfaction, and to this day, still maintains this belief. Brubaker Grain now has four separate divisions, located in West Alexandria, Farmersville, Collinsville, and Eaton. Three of these locations have grain handling abilities and can store close to 5.4 million bushels of grain. Brubaker continues to look to expand and grow the operation.
They have also expanded their retail sales and sell everything from feed to ingredients, to heat pellets, to your everyday pet needs. It is their mission to serve the community with fairness, honesty, and integrity, and they have committed themselves to helping build up a strong group of agricultural leaders for the future.
“I just want to thank the Chamber for this award. My father started the business and as long as we can provide a service to the community we continue to grow,” Greg Brubaker said. “As far as I know, ever since I’ve been a kid we grow every year. I hope that continues.”
Other nominees included: Blessed Criations and Safari Junction.
The Yarn Barn @Blessed Criations, located on Northern Road near Somerville, serves natural fiber producers with high quality yarn from their own harvest. They also raise alpacas, according to Moles.
Blessed Criations’ yarn store provides natural products for sale, holds special events, and classes as well,” Moles said.
“They are a member of America’s Natural Fiberworks. Blessed Criations is a small Preble County family-owned and operated company. Carrie and Robbie Davis used their passion and talents to start and grow the business into what it is today, and continue to grow.”
Safari Junction, owned and operated by Jamie and Dianna Beneke, is the home of Valley Exotics. Safari Junction was organized specifically to provide a learning environment for area youth to be properly educated about animals, their care, and their habitats.
Jeff Sewert presented the Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award to Henny Penny Corporation.
“Henny Penny has a strong tradition of supporting the local community of Eaton, as well as joining with peers worldwide to contribute to the success of the food service industry and environment at large. Henny Penny supports the efforts of organizations like United Way in Preble County, and other local, regional and national groups throughout the year,” Sewert read.
“Whether it’s donating resources to the YMCA and the American Red Cross or putting on the annual Community Cares Day, Henny Penny employees go above and beyond to give of their time and talents to benefit others. In 2017, Henny Penny created a new charitable organization, the Henny Penny Employee Foundation,” he continued. “This new foundation supports the specific communities where Henny Penny employees and families live with a special focus on hunger and early childhood education. The first grant from the foundation was awarded to Jacob’s Ladder.”
“We’re a blessed community with corporate partners like the Chamber. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the community,” Tim Crammer saidsaid.
Other nominees included Bullen Ultrasonics and Silfex.
Bullen Ultrasonics is globally recognized as the leader in ultrasonic machining, and has established itself as a trusted partner to advanced technology companies worldwide and as a leading provider of high quality, components for the Semiconductor, MEMS, Transportation, Defense & Aerospace, Medical and Life Sciences industries.
Bullen contributes to World Hope International, the Preble County Development Partnership, the HIT Foundation, and the Preble County Fair among others. In the recent past, Bullen received three honors from the Dayton Business Journal: First in innovation, first in community involvement and second in safety.
Silfex (formerly Bullen Semiconductor) is a division of Lam Research Corporation. Lam Research purchased and expanded the silicon-related business of Bullen Ultrasonics.
Silfex recently completed a large-scale expansion of its silicon growing capacity and enhanced the capability for full vertical integration through the development of bonding, cleaning and clean room manufacturing. Located in Eaton, Ohio, Silfex headquarters is the world’s largest custom silicon growing facility, according to Sewert.
Corey Taylor presented the 2017 Community Improvement Award to Eagle’s Point Development.
“Now known as The Residences at Eagle’s Point, the old Eaton High School turned Middle School has been transformed into a thriving housing complex and home to both the Sinclair Community College Manufacturing Lab and the pay-it-forward local eatery, The Bistro,” Taylor read.
“The housing project was led by Miller-Valentine Group, St. Mary Development Corp. and the H.I.T. Foundation. Costing $11 million, it created 40 apartments which are income restricted. Part of the project was funded using Ohio Historic Preservation tax credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency, which called for historic preservation during renovation of the building.”
“One of the greatest thing about working in this business is all of the great partners we get to work with, like the H.I.T. Foundation and Miller-Valentine,” Wes Young with St. Mary’s Development Corporation said. “From the start the idea of redeveloping the school to the first resident moving in, was four and a half years. That is a lot of times and a lot of meetings.
“It is a unique and one of a kind building. You won’t find it anywhere else. Thank you so much for the award and the opportunity to receive.”
Other nominees included: KFC/A&W of Eaton and the City of Eaton Aquatic Center.
In the past year, owner of KFC/A&W Keith Chambers has completed a total remodel of the restaurant in Eaton, updating the interior and the facade. Chambers used the funds from the sale of old interior KFC and A&W memorabilia to give back to the community in the form of donations to the Preble County Humane Society and the Eaton High School Band.
The City of Eaton’s new Main Street Aquatic Center opened on May 27, 2016. The only swimming pool was over 50 years old and was in disrepair. Through donations and grants, the city was able to build a completely new aquatic center. The new pool was a hit with the community, and over 700 people attended the grand opening in 2016. Throughout that summer, the pool saw consistent traffic, and after its second year, the $1.9 million facility continues to be a beloved summertime recreation destination for local families.
Kelly McQueen presented the Nonprofit Innovation Award to the Preble County Art Association.
Under the direction of Director Vicky Fanberg, the Preble County Art Association has expanded its role in the community, and this year held its third innovative “Bad Art, Good Folk” fundraiser which brought together teams of community members to design artwork which was then auctioned off – to the tune of over $50,000 this year.
“The fundraiser supports the PCAA and the art programming it provides for the community,’ according to McQueen. The PCAA is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to fostering a creative community. The PCAA operates the Visual Arts Center, currently located on Hillcrest Drive in Eaton, where art workshops and classes are offered, as well as the “Clay Cafe,” Eaton’s only “Paint Your Own Pottery” studio. Art by local and regional artists can be viewed in the gallery, and the center hosts six shows each year. Fanberg and the PCAA are always working to bring the creative arts to the Preble County community.
Other nominees included: Preble County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau and the Dayton YWCA Preble County Office.
The Preble County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau is made up of a volunteer board of people who bring their talents and love for Preble County to the table for the purpose of marketing Preble County as a tourist destination. The CVB does a tremendous amount of marketing on shoestring budget because the PCCVB board members give freely of their time and talents, according to McQueen. The PCCVB works to help bring visitors to Preble County to support local businesses and boost the economy.
YWCA Dayton is the only domestic violence shelter provider in both Preble and Montgomery Counties. The YWCA has operated the domestic violence shelter in Preble County since 2004. In addition to the shelter, they offer a full slate of clinical case management services, legislative and public policy advocacy work, and have a Girls Inc. program in the summer.
During Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the YWCA Dayton – Preble County Office used an innovative event to raise funds to support the shelter, when the staff hosted the Purple Paws event, “Preble Pets Against Domestic Violence,” to raise money for YWCA Dayton’s Preble County office and the services it provides. Purple Paws featured a pet pageant, pet parade, vendors, music, and more. The YWCA’s Preble County Shelter Services provide emergency housing and assistance to victims of domestic violence.
Cindy Kaufman presented the Young Professional of the Year Award to Jeremy Linder.
“As TimkenSteel’s Eaton Plant Manager, Jeremy Linder most recently oversaw the expansion of the plant, bringing economic growth for Preble County. Jeremy is an active member of Rotary and works tirelessly on many Preble County community fundraisers and activities. Although he has a young family, Jeremy takes the time to serve the community in many capacities, including holding a position on the HIT Foundation Board, serving on the Preble County Development Partnership’s Workforce Development Committee, and more.”
Linder was also one of the first graduates of the Preble County Chamber’s Leadership Preble County program.
“What an honor to be nominated with these two fine people. The common thread among the three of us is that we all love Preble County and the people of the County. We are also all members of Leadership Preble County,” Linder said. “Thank you so much, it means more than you know and I really appreciate it.”
Other nominees included: Courtney Griffith and Kelly McQueen.
Griffith is the Preble County Manager of the YWCA Dayton – Preble County Office in Eaton. Courtney is a Rotarian and a member of the Community Action Partnership Board. She serves on the Continuum of Care, Family and Children First Council and Preble Transit. She also leads the Purple Paws event in Preble County.
Griffith has participated in events at the Preble County Council on Aging and has helped with the Christmas for Kids project. She recently helped to box and deliver approximately 200 meals for the Preble County DD. She participated in the ‘Night Without a Home” overnight stay on the courthouse lawn in support of Homelessness Awareness Week. Courtney has completed leadership training through the University of Dayton and was in the first class to graduate from Leadership Preble County.
Kelly McQueen grew up in West Alexandria, and attended Twin Valley South High School, The School of Advertising Art in Kettering, and started her career as a Graphic Designer at Hafenbrack Communications in Dayton. She served as Senior Designer for Miami University, University Advancement from 2001-2012 and in 2012 came back to Eaton to work for the family business, Opti-Vise IT, as Director of Marketing. Kelly is a 2017 graduate of Leadership Preble County, and was Preble County Art Association’s Bad Art Good Folk Event Chair, which had a record breaking year with $50,000 raised.
She does volunteer design work for the Preble County Art Association and the Preble County Council on Aging and sits on the Preble County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. She is a member of the Eaton Church of the Brethren where she served on staff as director of children’s ministry in 2015-16. She managed a large group of volunteers to run weekly programming and establish family-focused events including an annual Family Camp Weekend. She volunteers at the Preble County Pork Festival, and is an ACES event committee member for the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.
Next, Brenda Latanza presented this year’s Distinguished Service Award to Eddie Mowen Jr.
Eddie Mowen Jr. has spent nearly 19 years reporting and photographing Preble County news, sports and community events for The Register-Herald. Mowen served on the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities for several years, and has helped coordinate the Kids for Kids Toy Drive for the Preble County Christmas for Kids program for 15 years, helping collect nearly 12,000 toys which have stayed in Preble County for families in need. He has coached basketball, softball and soccer for years, helping shape the lives of many young Preble County athletes. He is a 20-plus-year member and past secretary of the Butler County Volleyball Officials Association, and a member of the Southwest Ohio District Officials Committee, has been a state certified volleyball and basketball official, has served on the PC Say Soccer Board, is a founding member of the Preble County Athletic Hall of Fame, and more, according to Latanza. Mowen has been the recipient of numerous news, sports, and other feature photography awards from the Ohio Newspaper Association. In February of this year, he led The Register-Herald to a 1st place award for news coverage from the Ohio Newspaper Association, and received the 2016 award for “In-Depth Reporting” for a feature series focused on the “Digital Dangers” facing children and families today.
He has been recognized numerous times for fair and impartial coverage by the Ohio School Boards Association and been recognized by the DD Board and Special Olympics for his coverage of their events.
“He has an undying passion for supporting Preble County’s youth and scholar athletes, and for nearly two decades has demonstrated a dedication to the community and its residents,” Latanza read.
Tim Gebhart presented the Legacy Award to Ray Potter, who has served the Chamber of Commerce for many years. Potter served on the Chamber’s Board of Director’s since 2009, completing his two terms in 2015. He was active on the board, serving as treasurer and the SCORE representative. Ray helped generate Chamber business plans, strategic plans, and the Chamber’s employee handbook.
After going off the board in 2015, Potter continued to serve in an at-large, non-voting capacity, providing his wisdom and insight in many ways. He sat on the hiring committee during the search for our new director, and was an active member of the Chamber’s Scholarship Committee.
“He resigned from his at-large-position this past summer, and his wit and wisdom are missed during the monthly meetings,” Gebhart read.
“As you see, the rumors of my impending death are grossly exaggerated,” Potter said, as he accepted his clock award. “My time is running out.”
To finish out the awards ceremony, Leslie Collins presented the Citizen of the Year award to Rodney Creech.
“Over the past two decades, I have worked or dealt with all four of our nominees for Citizen of the Year, and can say personally all four deserve the nomination and the award,” she said.
Rodney Creech is resident of West Alexandria, who graduated from Twin Valley South in 1995 and then Morehead State University in 1999 with a Bachelor’s degree in agronomy and turf science. A local business owner, Creech operates Lawn Plus, which has 32 employees, and a Superior Ag Solutions/Becks Hybrids dealership, with 1 full-time sales agronomist, and he recently opened the 1808 Cafe in downtown Eaton, which has four employees.
“He is a fourth-generation farmer with a 400-acre grain farm he loves to farm with his father. Rodney served as a Twin Township Trustee from 2007 until he was elected Preble County Commissioner in 2013. Rodney is involved with several boards and committees in the county but says one of his favorites is the Preble County Council of Aging Board, because he loves working with and serving the seniors in our community,” Collins read.
“He serves on Morehead State University’s agricultural advisory committee, and has a great passion for business, marketing and learning how to grow small business. Rodney is married to Jeanne Creech and has two daughters, Ava, 11 and Kyla, 9. He actively supports youth sports and several nonprofit activities each year.”
Other nominees included: Carol Lunsford, Dean Wigger, and Jason Moles.
“Carol Lunsford is the owner of the Pin Up Beauty Shop in West Alexandria, and current mayor of the village. Carol has been a 4-H advisor for over 50 years, and mayor of West Alexandria for 16 years,” Collins read. “She is a member of Kiwanis, Coterie Club, the Certified Emergency Response Team, and is president of the West Alexandria Celebration Committee. Carol teaches Sunday school and is an active member of her church. She is a past honoree of the Top 10 Miami Valley Women of the Year. She was nominated by a resident who says she is ‘an inspiration to all who know her.’”
Dean Wigger was nominated for his work and promotion of Preble County and Eaton with the annual Whispering Christmas event which results in thousands of visitors to Preble County each year.
“Dean has volunteered for the event for over 20 years. He has been one of the lead coordinators for over 17 years. It is a month-long event – but including set up and tear down, Dean is there several months each year,” Collins said. “Whispering Christmas began in 1987 with 800 lights. It has grown to over 22 displays and 2 million lights. This event would not be as successful as it is without Dean’s dedication and service to the community.”
Jason Moles is a member of the Leadership Preble County Oversight Committee and led the program launch in 2016-2017. “He has been a Preble County Chamber of Commerce Board Member and is Past Board Chair,” Collins read. “For the chamber, Jason chaired the annual golf outing and was a committee member for the Business Expo and various other events. He has been a Preble County Development Partnership Board Member, is an Eaton Rotary Club Member and chairs Rotary’s Fair Gate project, the largest annual fundraiser for the club.
“Moles is President of Miami Valley Council Boy Scouts of America, serving a five-county area throughout the greater Dayton region, and a Junior Achievement Volunteer. He is a former Executive Board Member and Youth Leader of Covenant of Peace Church in Eaton. Jason has been with Henny Penny Corporation for 20 years, and is a Certified Food Service Professional (CFSP) and member of the NAFEM (North American Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers) Industry Education Committee.”
Collins closed the evening: “Congratulations to all of tonight’s winners, and thank you again to everyone for coming out in support of Preble County’s awesome people and businesses.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH