EATON — The Preble County Chamber of Commerce held the Holiday Gala and 37th Annual Awards Dinner on Friday, Dec. 7. During the event, numerous community members were recognized for their outstanding service.
Sponsors for the event included: Presenting Sponsor Reid Health, Premier Sponsor Preble County Development Partnership and Supporting Sponsors The Register-Herald, TimkenSteel, The Greenbriar, Positive Points, Inc., and Premier Community Health.
Chamber Executive Director Leslie Collins started by thanking her business members. The Chamber has had a tremendous year of growth with 28 new members joining in 2018. The organization has officially passed the 240-plus membership mark thanks to those new members.
“Tonight we’re gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of 2018, honoring several businesses and individuals, helping to improve the quality of life and economy in Preble County communities,” Collins said.
Craig Kinyon, President and CEO of Reid Health, then took the microphone to speak about Reid’s connection with the Chamber of Commerce and why the holiday season is special to so many people.
“We are very proud to be a sponsor of this event tonight and Reid has enjoyed a long partnership with Preble County, going back many years,” Kinyon said.
Collins honored two outgoing board members: Cindy Kaufman and Pam Barr. She also honored the outgoing board chairperson Stacy Jones with Brubaker Grain.
Outstanding Small Business Citizen was presented to Prograde Excavation & Demolition.
This business is based in Eaton and was nominated for owner Darrell Buckley’s dedication and professionalism. One nominee noted, “Darrell helps out and does extra work for the community on every project he works on.”
Another nominator noted, “Darrell contributed many extra hours working at the Village of Lewisburg Community Center paving project. Darrell cares greatly for Preble County and does not want recognition. Always behind the scenes and giving back in his own way.”
As he accepted his award, Buckley said, “It is an honor to receive this and I really would like to thank each and every person who nominated us. We strive for perfection and we’ve been blessed with a lot of work and a lot of kids. I want my employees to know how much I appreciate them, so if you see them out in the community, thank them as well.”
Outstanding Agribusiness was presented to Wildhearts African Farm.
Located on Salem Road in Lewisburg, Wild Hearts African Farm is a USDA-licensed farm operated by Amanda Badger and her husband, Brian and was nominated several times. The Badgers have worked hard to make the farm a gathering place for all who love the outdoors and wildlife, and work with young students to educate them as well. In 2018, a handicap-accessible boardwalk made visiting the farm’s petting zoo a possibility for Preble County residents with disabilities.
As she accepted her award, Badger said, “I am really choked up by this, by being nominated and receiving this award. It really means a lot. It has been a long bumpy road to get here. What started out as a dream to work with animals, has really evolved into helping a lot of people. That has been the most rewarding thing of all.”
Outstanding Corporate Citizen was presented to Bullen Ultrasonics, Inc.
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, YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter, and the Preble County Fair among others. Bullen received the Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, reflecting the efforts to support citizen warriors through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment and more.
In the recent past, Bullen received three honors from the Dayton Business Journal: First in innovation, first in community involvement and second in safety. Bullen has had an 87 percent increase in job growth since January 2017, currently with 127 employees creating a substantial positive impact on the Preble County economy and advancing opportunities for Preble County residents.
As he accepted the award, Tim Beatty said, “We’re most definitely honored, especially given the generosity of all the other nominees as well. Really shocked given the generosity of TimkenSteel this year. What I love about Preble County is that we compete to be the most generous. I see that a lot, I hear, ‘What is Henny Penny doing this year? What is Cargill doing?’ We’re always watching that and wanting to one up each other in being the most generous to the community. It is great to be a part of that community.”
Community Improvement Award was presented to the Village of Lewisburg.
The Village of Lewisburg celebrated its bicentennial in 2018, topping off a year which saw great growth and improvement in the downtown area. Lewisburg invested and received grant funding to revitalize the downtown and assisted over 19 businesses in rehabbing their buildings, transforming the downtown.
The nominator wrote, “This community cares about its citizens and businesses. Lewisburg goes the extra mile, working together to make this happen.”
As she accepted the award, Mayor Marsha Jones said, “Thank you to the Preble County Chamber for awarding us the most improved and thank you to the Preble County Commissioners, our local Chamber of Commerce, Village Council, Administrative Department, and our employees. Our Downtown Revitalization Project did more than improve the brick and mortar facade, it also improved the spirit of Lewisburg and the enthusiasm that we have.”
Nonprofit Innovation Award was presented to Preble County Habitat ReStore.
The ReStore was a two-time nominee. Jodi Gray has been the manager of the ReStore for approximately five years. This second nomination went further into Gray’s innovations, from finding ways to remain open on Tuesdays and increasing income, to using volunteers from Job and Family Services and the courts. Jodi works with all kinds of people, her nominator noted.
“I think her biggest achievement is her ability to develop relationships with the people she works with and the people she serves,” her nominator said. “She is an exceptional individual.”
As she accepted the award, Gray said, “Thank you very much, I really appreciate it. I’m shocked and stunned. I couldn’t work with a better group of people, my board is amazing and I have a great staff. I want to thank everyone for all the donations you have been giving us at the store. It has been a great year and a great last five years.”
Young Professional of the Year was awarded to Courtney Griffith with YWCA Dayton.
Griffith is the Preble County Manager of the YWCA Dayton – Preble County Office in Eaton. She is a Rotarian and is continuously active in the community services sector. She serves on the Continuum of Care Committee which addresses homelessness in Preble County, serves and volunteers with Christmas for Kids, and is chairperson of the County Domestic Violence Shelter Advisory Committee. She was instrumental in bringing the Girls LEAD! Program to Preble County. Her work with the domestic violence shelter has brought forth a higher level of care and service for those residents who are victims of domestic violence. Courtney has organized and led multiple fundraising events and others to raise awareness of domestic violence in Preble County. Courtney was in the first class to graduate from Leadership Preble County, and is very knowledgeable about many of the agencies and businesses in Preble County.
As she accepted the award, Griffith said, “This is amazing. I absolutely love my job, this community, and the agency that I work for, the YWCA. Our mission at the YWCA, we are dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women. I remember when I got the call five years ago and was offered the job. I was so excited. I called my friend right away and said, ‘I’m so excited, I get to empower all these women.’
“I had no idea how much they would empower me. These women enter our shelter and they may be fleeing abuse, but they are not weak and they are not broken. They are the strongest and most resilient people that I have ever known. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to work with and for them every day.”
Distinguished Service Award was awarded to Jim Simon with Simon Insurance, who was not present to accept his award.
Simon is a Preble County Development Partnership investor and past chair, and serves on the board of the Preble County Art Association. He is a member and contributor to the Preble County Chamber, YMCA and Lions Club.
Citizen of the Year was presented to Brenda Latanza.
Latanza has been the Economic Development Director for the Preble County Development Partnership for just under four years. She is an active member of the community, is a Rotarian, sits on the Preble County United Way’s Advisory Board, and helps with many committees. She is active with the Preble County Chamber of Commerce, Lewisburg Chamber of Commerce and New Paris Chamber of Commerce. Latanza was nominated because of her work to ensure Preble County remains an ACT Workready Community, ensuring site selectors for possible companies looking to relocate to the area are impressed with what Preble County has to offer.
As she accepted the award, Latanza said, “Thank you so much. I pale in comparison to the things I’ve heard tonight, but I do love this county and I have loved every day I wake and come to work here in Preble County. Just so many good things going on in Preble County right now, I’m excited about every project we are working on. I love each of the people that help me at the partnership. It is a true partnership. Everybody on our committees, they make the things happen.”
Jean Bussell was presented with the Ray Potter Legacy Award.
Director Collins explained, the award was renamed to honor Ray Potter after he passed away this past year. He was the recipient of the award last year. His widow Lida Mae and her cousin Kathy Stevens were able to attend in Potter’s honor.
Stevens took the microphone to read words written from Lida Mae.
“At last year Chamber Awards dinner, Ray [Potter] was deeply honored to be presented with the Legacy Award. All of you who knew Ray were well aware that he was a man of many words. He always had a story to tell, a joke to share, or an anecdote to amuse, but the honor of this award left him speechless,” Stevens said.
“Honoring Ray’s personal legacy of community service and love of country by renaming this award would have meant as much to him as it does to Lida Mae.”
Jean Bussell PhD is the retired President and Chief Executive Officer of Bussell & Associates, LLC, consultants to associations and not-for-profit organizations. Bussell & Associates provided consulting services in the areas of governance, leadership, organizational best practices, strategic planning, and project management.
Bussell has done project management for a large foundation grant at a private liberal arts university in Central Ohio as well as facilitating strategic planning and decision-making for the statewide literacy project in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In addition, she recently completed project management for the creation of a digital library for early literacy information for an international association headquartered in Columbus, and facilitated a strategic planning process for the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio.
As she accepted the award, Bussell said, “Shortly after Harold and I moved here in October of 2005, our longtime friend Ted Strickland said, ‘I’m going to run for governor next year, will you coordinate my campaign in Preble County?’ So Harold and I started immediately looking for democrats in Preble County.
“One of the first places we went was the Democratic Women’s Society. Who was there — none other than Lida Mae. She was very enthusiastic and supportive and began volunteering with our efforts right away. Ray, on the other hand, was a little less enthusiastic.
“That led to a long series of conversations, kidding, but respectful, educational and caring about politics in general. That friendship lasted until August. Last year at this gala, Ray talked to my husband Harold and said, ‘I’m sick, I’m going to worry about not being treated.’ Harold said, ‘I had that illness 20 years ago and I’m okay.’ Another bond between the Potters and the Bussells.
“This year I get an email from Leslie [Collins] saying I’ve been nominated for the Ray Potter Award. The tears started rolling down my face. I couldn’t believe it. I thank the Chamber so much for adding this additional point of recognition to the friendship that the Potters and the Bussells have.
“I thank also my nominator, wherever you are, such a gift you’ve given me. I thank my dear husband Harold, whose love and support has kept me going through all the professional, and community service, and helping we with the rearing of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I thank each and every one of you who serves as a member, paid, or unpaid staff member of a volunteer board. Without all of us working together, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do for Preble County.
“I want to wish all of you happy holidays, no matter how you celebrate the holidays. And as a contemporary mentor will say, sometimes the holidays are not so easy for some of us, so may they land gently for those of you that need that gentle touch.”
At press time, Director Collins added, “Thank you to everyone who took time out of their Friday night to attend this year’s awards dinner. It means a lot to me personally that we had such a successful year and such a dedicated group of people who came out in support of the Preble County Chamber of Commerce and the businesses, organizations and people who were recognized. There’s no such thing as a “loser” — each of the nominees deserves the recognition for all they’ve done over the course of 2018 and in previous years, and I couldn’t be prouder of each of them.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of my administrative assistant, Virginia Lindsey, or the Awards Committee, chaired by Pam Barr. They deserve much more than a round of applause. Thank you to all our local businesses who donated items for the silent auction, and to Eaton Floral & Gifts, The Duchess & the Greyhound and Your Flower Shoppe for providing the unique centerpieces. And thank you to my awesome group of presenters – they did an excellent job.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH