CAMDEN — The Preble County Chamber of Commerce held its 38th annual Chamber Awards and Holiday Gala on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Wilderness Ridge at PVM Retreat Center. During the event, 11 individuals were recognized for outstanding achievements and contributions to the Preble County community.
Presenting sponsors were: Reid Health and Wilderness Ridge. Preble County Development Partnership was the Supporting Sponsor. Patron Sponsors included: The Register-Herald, Opti-Vise IT, Brubaker Grain & Chemical, and Preble County Power Equipment & Rental.
Preble County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leslie Collins welcomed all present. She also referenced the overwhelming support this year’s event saw through ticket sales and an increased attendance.
“Many of our nominees and recipients this evening have made much more than money across their years in service or business. They’ve built a stronger, safer, more successful community. They’ve built up their fellow man and educated our students,” she said.
“There are over 100 more people in attendance this year than last, and we’re already close to outgrowing another venue. The Gala Committee originally planned on seating eight per table, but as you can see, we needed more seats. Because of your overwhelming support and your attendance this evening, when you leave here tonight you are going to be expanding your network, because you are sitting with somebody you probably don’t know.”
Elizabeth Koob, with Wilderness Ridge, also welcomed all in attendance and spoke about the changes made to the facility.
“We are proud to be one of the Presenting Sponsors for this wonderful event this evening,” she said. “In the last five years, you will notice we’ve made some really significant changes. We’ve brought our operations here to Preble County. We have significantly updated facilities. If you were in the old lodge, this one is obviously dramatically larger. We also hired a great team from the community, they are absolutely fantastic young men and women to work with.”
Following dinner — prepared by Chef Case Eyrich and his team — Collins took the stage once again to begin the awards portion of the night. She began by asking the 2019 Board of Directors to stand and be recognized. This board includes: Kelly McQueen, Jeff Sewert, Stacy Jones, Cory Taylor, Brenda Latanza, Chrissy Messenger, Jason Troutwine, Lori Pheanis, Brad Unger, and Matt Bishop. Board Member At-Large is Tim Gebhart.
“The Board and I work very hard to make every year a successful business year for our members. The Preble County Chamber of Commerce has had another great, tremendous year of growth, with 30 new members joining from Jan. 1 through Dec. 5. Those new members have helped you cross the 260-plus membership mark,” Collins said.
Billie Kester, Vice President of Reid Health, took the stage to highlight the Chamber of Commerce’s mission and success in Preble County.
“The 38th Annual Awards Dinner and Holiday Gala is truly a tribute to all of those who come together in their professional lives and give their personal time to make Preble County a great place to live, work, and play,” she said. “The successful evidence of the Chamber’s mission to create a favorable business climate, improve the quality of live, and support orderly growth and development in Preble County is quite obvious as I look across the room tonight.”
Next, Collins honored outgoing board member Stacy Jones and 2019 Board Chairperson Kelly McQueen.
McQueen recognized members who became Chamber Partners in 2019.
The following three members supported the chamber at the Bronze Level: Brubaker Grain & Chemical, Opti-Vise IT, and Preble County Power Equipment & Rental. Gold Level Partner for 2019 was the Preble County Development Partnership. The Chamber Champion for 2019 was Reid Health.
Collins recognized several members who helped found and support the Leadership Preble County program: TimkenSteel, Preble County Development Partnership, and Kettering Health Network & the Grandview Foundation. Collins also recognized Indiana University East, which recently signed on for the next three year round.
Chamber Board and Awards Committee member Christina Messenger presented the award for Outstanding Small Business Citizen. Finalists were: Preble County Chiropractic, Harris-Maggard Memorials, and New Paris Antique Mall.
“Each of these finalists’ contributions help strengthen their communities according to their nominators, and tonight’s recipient took that a step further by getting involved and helping families across the state and country,” she said.
The 2019 Outstanding Small Business Citizen was Harris-Maggard Memorials.
“Harris-Maggard Memorials has been in business since the 1920s, and under the direction of the Maggards for over 35 years,” Messenger said. “One of the company’s nominators noted, ‘Amanda Maggard Ramsey is a proud business owner, taking excellent care of families in their time of need. Harris-Maggard is a pillar in the Preble County community, but also recently worked with the clean-up crews following the Dayton-area tornadoes, and donated markers for the victims of the shootings in Dayton and in El Paso, Texas.
“‘The company created the Preble County War Memorial you see in front of the courthouse in Eaton, and consistently donates time and effort to better the community.’ Another wrote, “Harris-Maggard Memorials is dedicated to strengthening the fibers of our community. I love their passion.’”
Awards Committee member Lauren Robinson presented the Outstanding Agribusiness of the Year Award. The 2019 finalists for Outstanding Agribusiness were: Today’s Harvest, Safari Junction, and Lawn Plus.
“Each of these nominees are family-oriented businesses who support their own and surrounding communities. Two of these finalists are destinations for families and other groups, promoting the growth of agritourism in Preble County. The third not only promotes the growth of healthy lawns across the Miami Valley, but also supports school and recreational sports leagues across the county and state, as well as non-profits across the county. All three are deserving of this recognition,” Robinson said.
The recipient of 2019 Outstanding Agribusiness was Safari Junction.
“Safari Junction, located south of Eaton off U.S. 127, is the home of Valley Exotics. Safari Junction is owned and operated by Jamie and Dianna Beneke. Safari Junction was organized specifically to provide a learning environment for area youth to be properly educated about animals, their care, and their habitats,” Robinson said.
“Safari Junction aims to provide a safe environment for people to learn about a variety of wild and exotic animal species that they would normally not have a chance to encounter, to provide a safe location where members of the public can witness trained staff taking proper care of a variety of animal species, to provide a variety of wild and exotic animal species the proper habitats they need to thrive, and to sponsor, host and/or participate in events and activities that promote the proper education of animals of all species to the general public.
“One of Safari Junction’s nominators pointed out the Benekes’ willingness to give back to the community by volunteering to visit nursing homes, schools and other organizations with the animals. The family contributes by being active with FFA and 4-H groups, and has won multiple awards for promoting the poultry industry.”
Preble County Chair-Elect and Awards Committee member Jeff Sewert presented the Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award. Finalists this year included Preble County Medical Center, TimkenSteel, and Larkin Cobb Chevrolet, Buick, GMC.
“Although one nominee is in the healthcare field, one is an automotive dealership and one is a major manufacturer in Preble County, all three exemplify giving back to the community, according to their nominators. All three are deserve recognition here tonight, and I congratulate all this year’s nominees,” Sewert said.
This year’s recipient of the Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award was TimkenSteel.
“TimkenSteel is a leader in high-quality steel manufacturing and recently celebrated its 26th year in Eaton. The company continues to expand and works with local leaders to ensure job and community growth and sustainability,” Sewert said. “One nominator said, ‘TimkenSteel has made significant financial contributions to the community, aiding in the quality of life of its employees and the community’s residents. They continue to be involved at the ground level, always making themselves approachable and accessible.
“‘They ask for little to no recognition in return for their contributions, so it is appropriate for the Chamber of Commerce to give a public ‘thank you’ for all they do.’ Another pointed out, grants from the Timken Foundation over the last five years total over $750,000, including funding provided to the Preble County Art Association, Preble County Agricultural Society, YWCA, Eaton Fire & EMS and more.
“Grants from the TimkenSteel Charitable Fund have totaled over $60,000 and benefited everything from Leadership Preble County to the United Way and L&M Products and more. Employees at TimkenSteel have taken part in the United Way Day of Caring, the HIT Foundation’s Senior Home Repair Program, recent tornado relief efforts and more.”
Ben Thaeler, Representative for U.S. Congressman Warren Davidson, presented the Community Improvement Award. Finalists were Brick Rhod Antiques & Bistro, The Star Theatre, and the Preble County Art Association.
“Whether they are a non-profit or a ‘mom and pop’ small business, all three of our finalists have improved the Preble County landscape in their own way, and all three deserve recognition this evening,” he said.
The recipient of this year’s Community Improvement Award was the Preble County Art Association, represented by Executive Director Vicky Fanberg.
“Among the several nominations submitted for the Art Association, it was pointed out, ‘The mission of the Preble Count Art Association is to fuel creativity in Preble County, thus fostering a community rich in arts and culture.’ The PCAA has given both professional artists more opportunities to share their gifts with the community and has worked with groups and businesses across the county to expand access to the arts,” Thaeler said.
“Over the past year, over 380 artists were represented at PCAA exhibits. Nearly 10,000 people through its outreach programs have been served. One nominator wrote, ‘Community improvement definitely includes the programmatic aspects of PCAA’s work, but over the past two years, it has also included improvement of the physical environment one very specific way. In July 2019, PCAA opened its new facility, PrebleArts at 207 E. Main St. in Eaton.’
“This work has resulted in ‘a stunning ‘new’ building to be the home of the PCAA,’ the nomination continued, ‘Most importantly, the building is now all-accessible and includes an elevator for friends with mobility limitations, a fire-rated stairwell, a fire suppression system, new HVAC and plumbing,’ and more. Other nominations cited the PCAA’s focus on community involvement and bringing life and the arts to downtown Eaton.”
Kelly McQueen was welcomed back to present the Non-Profit Innovation Award. Finalists were: Community Action Partnership, The Star Theatre, and the Preble County Historical Society.
The recipient of the 2019 Preble County Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit Innovation Award was The Preble County Historical Society, represented by Executive Director Misti Spillman.
“Among the several nominations received for the Preble County Historical Society in this category, one nominator noted the restorative work the PCHS has done for its own past, all the while preserving the history of Preble County and re-engaging public interest in that history and heritage,” McQueen said.
“The Preble County Historical Society has ‘made strides for a better future while continuing its mission in preserving the history of Preble County through historic events, public education, and new this year, a quarterly speaker series.’ Another said, ‘the Preble County Historical Society Director and Board of Trustees are professionals and work tirelessly to preserve and promote the history of Preble County.
“‘PCHS’ professional contributions include the management of the collections, preservation of artifacts, and work with the Preble County Park District, Preble County Genealogy Library and many other non-profit groups and organizations.’ A past Chamber Non-Profit Innovation nominee, the Preble County Historical Society ‘deserves this recognition as they have continued to grow and serve the Preble County community,’ a nominator wrote.
“’As a nonprofit with a long history of working to preserve the important past for Preble County and providing education to our future generations, the PCHS continues to focus on its mission and has a vision for the future.’”
Awards Committee Member Amy Raynes presented the new Educator of the Year Award. Finalists included: Sylvia Arcuragi, Joe Finkbine, and Harold Niehaus.
“This year, the Chamber Awards Committee decided it fitting to recognize a deserving educator, as the teachers in Preble County’s five school districts are the front lines in creating the emerging workforce and future business owners and operators who will make a better tomorrow for all our communities,” Raynes said.
“All three bring different aspects of education to the table, and all three are deserving of being nominees for this award.”
The 2019 Preble County Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year was Joe Finkbine.
“Joe Finkbine is the principal at Tri-County North Elementary School. The nomination for Joe spoke to his passion and commitment to the staff and students at TCN and touted his positivity and loyalty. Finkbine has led several successful initiatives, programs like Doughnuts with Dads, Muffins with Moms, and Grandparents’ Day at each of his grade levels,” she said.
“He spearheaded the Watchdog Program, where fathers spend a day in their child’s classroom, and has helped make numerous community engagement nights for parents to enjoy with their children. Along with special themes set for the school year, like Pride in our Community, where he has speakers come share information about Lewisburg and the TCN community, he also shares ‘Tootles,’ which are special notes for students and staff alike letting them know when he sees something happening that he likes.
“Joe is also leading TCN Elementary in the PAX program – which we are in partnership with, that is very cool – which is designed to create an environment where students can self-regulate their own behavior. This leadership has earned him numerous positive comments from around the Dayton area.”
Leslie Collins was welcomed back to present the Public Servant of the Year award. Finalists were: Sgt. David Sizemore, Chief Robet J. Sewert, and Marsha Shannon.
“A second new award this year, the Public Servant of the Year Award seeks to honor a first responder, government official, or other public servant who has made and continues to make significant contributions to his or her own community or Preble County as a whole,” Collins said. “All totaled, [the three finalists] have served their communities a combined 105 years.”
The 2019 Public Servant of the Year Award was presented to Marsha Shannon.
“Marsha has proudly and professionally served the public for over 28 years with the City of Eaton. She serves city council and the city manager’s office and assists all other divisions. Each year, according to one nomination, the city ‘receives numerous thank-yous from citizens, staff and other organizations’ directly related to Marsha’s work,” Collins said.
“A nominator called Marsha the ‘most valuable employee for efficient operations of the City of Eaton.’ She is often the main point of contact for all communications. No offense, city officials, but I’ve always, for 25 or so years, thought this woman runs the City of Eaton.
“Marsha assists with preparations of all proclamations, maintains the city’s Facebook and website and handles other public relations. She takes care of public assembly permits, schedules street banners, and helps with special events. ‘All community organizations love working with Marsha on projects,’ the nomination continued.”
Awards Committee Member Aubrey Stevenson presented the Young Professional of the Year Award. The finalists for Preble County Young Professional of the Year were Todd Appledorn, Alexa Joyce, and BJ Price.
“The Young Professional of the Year 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,” Stevenson said. “Though they all serve in different capacities in different fields, each of them works daily to make Preble County a better place, and each are worthy of this award.”
The 2019 Preble County Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year was announced as Todd Appledorn.
“Todd, an agent with Heeter Insurance in Lewisburg, is a ‘true leader,’ a nomination for him read. ‘He gives so much of his time serving many community and children’s organizations.’ He joined the Lewisburg Chamber of Commerce in 2012, became president in 2014, and is currently serving as president,” she said.
“He is an active member of Lewisburg Life, and Lewisburg Lion’s Club. He recently became part of the new Preble Connect Young Professionals organization and is serving as events chairperson. Todd devotes time to coaching both baseball and soccer in Eaton. He served two tours in the U.S. Army, directly out of high school, where he was stationed in Afghanistan.
“The nominator noted, ‘Todd truly enjoys life and puts a smile on everyone’s face. His leadership, guidance, positive attitude, especially within the Lewisburg community, is very much appreciated. His goal is to keep Lewisburg great and his definitely accomplishing this.’”
Eddie Mowen Jr., 2017 Distinguished Service Award winner, presented the Distinguished Service Award. Finalists included: Bruce Barnes, Becky Sorrell, and Dan Appenzeller.
“This award is intended to recognize a professional who has demonstrated a long-term dedication to his or her business or agency and the entire Preble County community and remains employed by or is still operating their business. This year’s finalists include two in similar – and yet different – fields and one who has been helping families and children at local agency for many years,” he said.
The 2019 Distinguished Service Award was presented to Becky Sorrell.
“Becky has been with Preble County Job and Family Services for the past 30 years. Beginning in 1989 as a Social Service Aide, she is now director of the agency. A nominator said, ‘The things Becky has dealt with on a professional level range between beautiful to horrific. She is committed to the residents of Preble County and has the highest commitment to keeping families together,’ he said.
“‘As director, she has made it her priority to collaborate with many county agencies to invest in individuals in need to reduce barriers to service without duplication. Becky is a woman of integrity, dedication to the people she serves, and she doesn’t waver from her worldview that everyone deserves respect and a non-judgmental view.’
“Becky is active in the community and sits on numerous boards, attends Ware’s Chapel Church in West Manchester, and is a certified Lay Servant, the Chair of Outreach and Missions, a Stephen Minister, and sits on the church parishioners’ board. She currently serves as the Preble County on Council on Aging secretary and has been involved with the Boy Scouts for many years.”
Brenda Latanza, 2018 Citizen of the Year, presented this year’s award for Citizen of the Year. Finalists were: Brenda Mezz, Lisa Chandler, and Angie Getter.
The 2019 Citizen of the Year was Angie Getter.
“Angie received several nominations for her work at the Preble County Room of the Preble County District Library. Nominators said her passion for genealogy has brought information held at the Preble County Room to individuals across the globe. She and her team have created countless books of local history,” Latanza said.
“Her vision brought the first Genealogy Fair to Preble County. Angie volunteers her time with the Lewisburg Historical Society and works tirelessly to update that society’s inventory. Every year, she volunteers her time to help with the Historical Society’s booth at the Haunted Caves in Lewisburg.
“Angie was a vital part of Lewisburg’s Bicentennial Committee and was a pack leader for her local Boy Scout troop. She helped the Preble County District Library receive three grants for the Preble County room, which were used to purchase a new microfilm machine and to preserve Preble County history.”
Leslie Collins presented the final award of the evening, The Ray Potter Legacy Award. Finalists were: Jake Early, Gene Lindley, and Dale Moberly Sr.
“The Ray Potter Legacy Award, named for longtime Preble County Chamber board member, small business supporter, and past Legacy Award recipient, the late Ray Potter, recognizes a retired Preble County resident who demonstrated a long-term dedication to improving his or her former business and continues to support the Preble County community. This year’s finalists include two longtime businessmen and a well-known attorney and retired magistrate,” she said.
This year’s award was presented to Dale Moberly Sr.
“Dale operated Dale’s Recreation on North Barron Street for nearly 60 years. One nominator said, ‘His work schedule prohibited him from being visible at most downtown activities, but he daily had conversations with dozens of customers and supported the activities of our downtown leaders. Dale’s priorities were church, family and running his business to support his family,’ Collins said.
“‘Dale supported many local activities, but his schedule kept him from attending many events like ribbon cuttings, etc. but I can assure you he was doing his part — in his own way — by using his time at the lunch counter making sure his customers were well informed on current issues.’
“Another nomination said Dale was ‘a friend of almost every man in Preble County, and touted his food and the environment.’ Dale shies away from cameras and recognition, but as one nominator pointed out, ‘The list of businesses who’ve been at one location in downtown Eaton for that period of time is small and deserves recognition. The neighborhood where he lives, and the downtown of Eaton has benefited from Dale’s presence.’
“Please join me in congratulating Dale Moberly Sr., the 2019 Ray Potter Legacy Award recipient.”
Upon accepting his award, Moberly Sr. said, “I want to thank everybody for this award. I wasn’t expecting this at all. I enjoyed everybody who came in — a lot of friends too and a lot of family, a lot of good people. Thank you very much.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH