Annual dinner celebrates all pieces working together

Drawing on a story from an old photo and events of the past year, the new Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce board chair said the county is “at its best when all the pieces are connected, working in relationship with one another, and focused on a common purpose and mission.”

The Chamber of Commerce celebrated 32 businesses, individuals, and organizations with about 600 people in attendance for their annual dinner Friday, Jan. 20 in the First Bank Kuhlman Center at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

In his remarks, incoming board chair Jeff Carter of Bethany Theological Seminary referred to an 1893 photo featuring the Dille and McGuire Diamond High Grass Mower, invented and manufactured in Richmond.

“ … (I)n its mechanics, every gear, cog, sprocket, and blade must operate together in timed precision. If you are missing a piece or a part, a cog or sprocket, then you will not be cutting grass — the purpose of a lawn mower. Everything needs to work together.”

Then he spoke of Wayne County during the COVID pandemic. “It was amazing to see different organizations take the lead on various initiatives while others jumped in to add their energy and assistance.”

Carter continued, “The pattern was repeated when K-9 Officer Seara Burton was wounded during a traffic stop and later died from her injuries. Different organizations took the lead in offering support and honoring her sacrifice while others jumped in to add their energy and assistance.”

The meeting’s theme, “Wayne County — The Incredible Machine,” showcased all things working together to drive the machine called community.

The program included the following recognitions.

Emergency Professional of the Year: Adding to the community’s commemorations of K-9 Officer Seara Burton’s life, the chamber presented this honor posthumously to her stepmother, Richmond Police Sgt. Ami Miller.

2022 Art Vivian Distinguished Community Leader: Bob Bever of Boston Bever Forrest Cross & Sickmann (BBFCS Attorneys). He served on the chamber board for 30 years. He was closely involved in the creation of the Wayne County Economic Development Corporation and has served numerous nonprofit organizations including the YMCA, Forest Hills Country Club, Reid Health Foundation and Junior Achievement.

Public Service Award: For only the seventh time in its 56 years, the chamber presented this award. It went to Ken Paust for serving as an elected official since 1965, when he won election to Richmond City Council. Following the 1968 downtown explosion, Paust led fundraising, planning and construction of the rebuild, when downtown became a trend-setting Promenade, a winner and recipient of a beautification award from then-First Lady Pat Nixon, He has served in several other positions, most recently as a member of the Wayne County Board of County Commissioners.

Educator of the Year: Kevin Munchel of Lincoln Middle/High School began his teaching career in October 2020. He implemented a program for a student-based enterprise, Lincoln Golden Eagle Industries, which offers students the opportunity to cultivate ideas, engage in technical collaboration, and market products or services. Chamber President Melissa Vance also recognized LGEI for making table decorations from items such as gears and plumbing donated by other businesses.

Excellence in Higher Education: Indiana University East professor Tim Scales serves in the classroom and contributes time and expertise in the community. He has obtained grants and gifts to support a youth entrepreneurship program entitled BOSS (Business Opportunities for Self-Starters) and has managed internship experiences for more than 400 students. He has assisted with the launch of several entrepreneurial businesses.

Young Professional of the Year: Traci McCollum, as Radford’s Meat Market’s catering manager, spent recent years preparing meals for events and parties. She ventured into the community supporting groups like Richmond Civic Theatre and making appearances at nonprofit fundraising events and festivals. She is the chair of HYPE Wayne County, a group for young professionals. She has recently become general manager of the Corner Café at the Leland.

Partner In Education: Future Achievers, led by Carl Rhinehart, provides mentoring and connections for students, particularly those who may lack other positive role models. This includes internships, jobs, soft skills, training and education focused on enhancing career readiness and self-esteem.

Outstanding Service to Agriculture: As a large animal veterinarian, Dr. Christy Herr of Hagerstown spent nearly three decades serving the community and its livestock. Then she made a drastic career change and took the reins as the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Hagerstown High School. She continues to teach students through hands-on programming.

Achievement of Excellence — Small Business: Western Wayne News. In 2017, Jim and Brenda McLane purchased the Western Wayne News and Nettle Creek Gazette. During the pandemic, the two papers merged into one. In September 2020, Western Wayne News made a leap into Richmond and the business has since more than doubled its distribution. They sold the business and retired last fall. New owner Chris Hardie is continuing the newspaper’s growth.

Achievement of Excellence — Large Business: Wayne Bank opened in 1882 in Cambridge City. In 1981, the bank opened its first branch in Richmond, and, in 1983, a second office on South A Street. An example of the bank’s community collaboration and support is the Athena Leadership Award, recognizing women who have excelled in Wayne County. Wayne Bank recently committed to a four-year partnership with Boys & Girls Club supporting the Western Wayne Unit and serving more than 100 underserved youth.

Corporation of the Year: Blue Buffalo received the chamber’s 2022 Corporation of the Year honor. The pet food maker came to Richmond in 2016 and has 187 employees in a 450,000-square-foot facility. Its corporate climate is one of valuing all employees and supporting their activities in the community.

The Bob Rosa Buy Local Award: Alan and Jackie Carberry started Warm Glow Candle Company in 1994 with a philosophy of being an involved community partner. The Centerville-based company produces 15,000 candles per day. The Carberrys give to myriad schools and nonprofits. They raised over $25,000 for the Richmond Police Department’s K-9 unit in memory of Officer Burton. They also host festivals at their retail outlet along I-70, bringing in massive numbers of visitors, benefitting the entire county.

Achievement in Excellence for a Nonprofit: Richmond Art Museum is celebrating its 125th anniversary, the second-oldest art museum in Indiana. Housed within Richmond High School, it is the only art museum in the state with free admission. RAM operates a mobile outreach program to schools called “VanGo,” taking art directly to students.

Champion of Diversity: Megan Johnson of Blue Buffalo received this award for the company’s “Love is Love” initiative during Pride Month in 2022.

Volunteer of the Year: Sharrie Harlin-Davis of Reid Health was recognized for her willingness to cheerfully jump in on many projects that make a difference in the community.

WC Leads: Graduates of the second Wayne County Leads program were recognized. Aimed at professionals under the age of 40, the program included 10 professional development workshops on topics like leadership, community involvement, overcoming obstacles.

The graduates recognized were were Kara Bellew of IU East; Mark Broeker of Neighborhood Health Center; Thomas Hill of Cardinal Greenway; Amber Irwin of 3Rivers Federal Credit Union; Megan Lamb of Reid Health; Terri Mitchell of Bethany Theological Seminary; Ashley Pax of Reid Health; Matt Railsback of Wayne Bank; Dustin Vincent of Brady Ware; Makayla Wamper of SaverSystems; and Alison Webb of 3Rivers Federal Credit Union.

Chamber committee outstanding members: Doug Macias of Awards, Celebrations and Events; Theresa Lindsey, Business and Education; Amy Dillon, Buy Local; Terri Mitchell, HYPE Wayne County; Eric Marsh, Issues and Advocacy; and Paul Moore, Member Outreach.

Find additional photographs of award recipients in the Jan. 25, 2023 print edition of the WWN.

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Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.