Chamber Celebrates Strength of the Business Community

The annual dinner of the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce is a time for the business community to come together and recognize the success and hard work of the previous year. This year’s dinner, held on January 23, gathered more than 500 people to celebrate the positive momentum of the chamber and local business success.

The most prominent award given out by the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce is the Art Vivian Distinguished Community Leader Award. This recognition, always given to a prominent member of the business community, is given based on demonstrated leadership, success in promoting the development of the community, overall involvement and contributions to the community, participation in professional activities and a respected reputation among the community’s leadership.

This year’s Art Vivian Distinguished Community Leader Award was presented to John McBride, the recently retired president and chief executive officer of West End Bank. Throughout his time at West End Bank, McBride has been involved with many organizations including the Boys & Girls Club of Wayne County, the Starr-Gennett Foundation, the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, the Wayne County Foundation, the Reid Hospital Governing Board, the Reid Hospital Foundation Board, and the Ivy Tech Community College Executive Leadership Council. Also among his many accomplishments, McBride has served as board chair of the chamber in 2007.

Rich Ahaus, of Ahaus Tool and Engineering, said, “When we hired John, we were sure he was a good banker, but what we didn’t know was that he was going to be a great asset to our entire community. He became involved in every aspect of what it means to be a valued contributor to Wayne County.”

Another very competitive award given out by the chamber is the Bob Rosa Buy Local Award. This recognition is given to a person, business or group that has demonstrated a high level of professional integrity and worked to promote and enhance the business community in Wayne County.

This year’s Bob Rosa Buy Local Award was given to the Depot District Group for the collaboration and success that has been fostered in that business community. The Historic Richmond Depot District Association has been meeting monthly for nearly the past ten years. These meetings include time to celebrate successes and talk with one another about what is happening at each business.

The Educator of the Year is given to an educator who has distinguished themselves through exceptional accomplishments within the educational and community environments. This year’s Educator of the Year was presented to Kendra Beisner of Charles Elementary School. Beisner received several nominations for this award and her contributions are best summed up by Mary Jo Clark of Contemporary Consulting.

Clark said, “It always amazes me when I read in the paper each spring the list of teachers the top academic students nominate as being a major influence in their lives. Most amazing is how often that name is Kendra Beisner, their kindergarten teacher. Kendra is the one that touched their lives and influenced their education the most.”

The Partnership in Education award is presented to a business or organizations that has established a partnership that exemplifies service to the community through effective programming and cooperation between business and education institutions. This year’s Partnership in Education award was presented to First Bank Richmond for its financial support of area youth serving organizations as well as the dedication First Bank Richmond employees have shown to Third Grade Academy.

The mission of the Third Grade Reading Academy Fund is to confront the deficit of Third Grade students who failed the reading portion of the ISTEP test, which in recent years, has been pretty consistently 30% of the class total in Richmond Community Schools. Leslie West, a fourth grade teacher at Vaile, lead teacher for the First Bank site for the past two years, said, “The students quickly bond with the First Bank volunteers and the kids love the attention from the adults.”

The Corporation of the Year award is the highest recognition that the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce presents to a corporation. Award recipients must exemplify good corporate citizenship and a commitment to the Wayne County community. This year, the Corporation of the Year was presented to the Secret Ingredient, Inc. for its 35 years of business in Wayne County and the innovative community development demonstrated by owner Jeanne Rush.

Shaun Dingwerth, Richmond Art Museum, said, “For thirty five years, Jeanne Rush has shared her creative talents and retail expertise with the Wayne County Community.  Through imaginative initiatives such as the Butterfly Release and Art Inspired Runway, her philanthropic and civic minded spirit has benefited various nonprofits.   A true artist, Jeanne continues to bring bold visions to our community through art, fashion and humanitarian efforts.”

The Achievement of Excellence awards for large and small businesses, and non-profits are presented to organizations that have impacted the Wayne County community positively through superior and unique accomplishments. This award recipients were Veach’s Toy Station (small), Wolverine Worldwide (large), and the Richmond Family YMCA (non-profit).

Veach’s Toy Station was presented with the Achievement of Excellence award for the historical connection to the community as well as the visionary leadership of the owners. Jason Whitney, Center City Development Corporation, said, “John and Shari have done a tremendous job of providing meaningful family oriented activities for the community since taking over the operations in 2014. They are helping families create lifelong memories, but are also giving other merchants a focal point to build their businesses along Main Street.”

Wolverine Worldwide was presented with the Achievement of Excellence award for the growth and success of its business as well as their positive contributions to the community. Valerie Shaffer, Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, said, “It was such a fantastic experience to work with their team to make their expansion opportunity a reality. This was truly a collaborative effort with the company, the City of Richmond and the EDC. The dedication and productivity of our local workforce played a large role. The hard work and enthusiasm that Wolverine’s employees demonstrate in the workplace is an irreplaceable asset to both the company and this community.”

The Richmond Family YMCA was presented with the Achievement of Excellence award for the impressive growth in membership and programming that the organization has put forth. Dave Stidham, board president of the YMCA, said, “The YMCA transitioned to a new remodeled location in 2014 and experienced impressive growth in memberships and youth programs.  The Chamber award gives wonderful recognition to the Y management and staff for their effort in expanding the Y’s presence in our community.”

The Outstanding Service to Agriculture award is given to an individual or organization who has positively impacted the Wayne County agricultural community. This year’s award recipient is Ann Smith of the Farm Bureau Foundation. Smith received the recognition for her contributions to an outreach program to educate students about various agricultural topics.

Two outgoing Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce board members were also recognized for their service. Dr. Allen Bourff received the Chamber Public Service award for his commitment to Richmond Community Schools. Tracy Upchurch received the Distinguished Service to the Chamber award for her contributions to the business community and chamber over the past nine years.

Chamber Volunteers of the Year were Tracy Grimme of Wayne Bank (ACE’s Committee), Rinda Kieffer of Dot Foods (Business-Education Committee), Derric Watson of Center City Development Corporation (Buy Local Committee) and Dave Stidham (Issues and Advocacy Committee).

Special recognition for the success of the annual dinner is given to the Awards, Celebrations and Events (ACE’s) Committee, immediate past chair Tim Frame of West End Bank, board chair Natalie Richert-Sumner of Richmond Furniture Gallery, chamber staff Amy Holthouse, Denise Lanman and Trevor Oakerson, keynote speaker Sarah Fisher, and Indy Car Director of Communications and Richmond native Michael Kitchell.