Chamber celebrates Delta County
HARRIS — Delta County’s best were given a taste of German hospitality Thursday at the annual Delta County Chamber Dinner at the Island Resort and Casino. The Oktoberfest-themed event brought together distinguished community members, businesses and organizations for an evening of awards, music, and food.
“In true fall festival fashion, we’ll celebrate an autumn harvest of sorts by showcasing Delta County’s bounty — you, our Chamber members who generously give of your time, talents, and resources to make our community a fabulous place to live, work and visit,” said Delta County Chamber of Commerce Director Vickie Micheau to kick off the evening.
The event began with special recognition for the Delta County Economic Development Alliance (EDA), which is celebrating its 25th year in the community. Tom Butch and Marilyn Kinsey, EDA board members, led guests of the event in a champagne toast to the EDA.
Following the toast, Caren Crawford, of Crawford Funeral Homes and chair of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, took to the podium to hold a brief business meeting. During the meeting, she officially closed out her term as the board chair, inducted the new chamber board for 2019, and officially passed the gavel to Ed Legault, of the Escanaba Downtown Development Authority, who will serve as the chair for 2019.
Next, the Delta Force graduating class of 2018 was honored. The Delta Force Leadership Program takes individuals from various walks of life and teaches them about many of the different aspects of the Delta County community that they may not be familiar with. Participants who graduated from the program who were honored Thursday were Cheryl Anderson, of Great Lakes First Federal Credit Union; Taylor Barron, of the UPWARD Talent Council and Michigan Works; Adam Becker, of Verso Corp.; Jeremy Belanger, of Bay College; Jeremy Bosk, of Bosk Equipment and Party Rental; Wendy Bovard, of the Northern Michigan Mobile Child Advocacy Center; Brooke Bowden, of Peninsula Federal Credit Union; Danielle Carlson, of Engineered Machined Products; Jalyn Dagenais, of Elmer’s County Market; Alex DeHaan, of First Bank, Upper Michigan; Alyssa Guidon, of the Island Resort and Casino; Dayna Kapp, of Public Health Delta Menominee Counties; Dana Khalaf, of the Island Resort and Casino; Larry Kirschner; Luke LaPlant, of Upper Peninsula State Bank; Jessie LeDuc, of Allo Coolman Funeral Home; Whitney Maloney, of Upper Hand Brewery; Kimberly Schlenvogt; Karen Sexton, of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Melissa Silta, of Wells Fargo Advisors; Matt Smith, of OSF St. Francis Hospital and Medical Group; Nicole Weber, of mBank; Jeff Wood, of 41 Lumber; and Mary Zimmerman, of OSF St. Francis Hospital and Medical Group.
Of the 2018 Delta Force graduates, two were selected to speak about the experience.
“What would I and what will I say to anyone who asks me, ‘Should I do Delta Force?’ Absolutely. If your employer gives you the opportunity, absolutely take them up on it. If they don’t sponsor anybody, ask them if they would do so,” said Smith, who added the program changed his life.
Barron also spoke of the impact Delta Force has had on her and the other graduates.
“Delta Force is so much more than what we’ve learned and experienced in all our sessions. We built relationships, we made friendships, we learned history and a community that we grew to love more and more with every session,” she said.
After the Delta Force class of 2018 had left the stage, Corky Deroeck, publisher of the Daily Press, took to the podium to give the Delta Force Alum Outstanding Contribution Award to Caren Crawford for her many roles with community organizations and boards.
“I’m humbled of this acknowledgment and accept this on behalf of everyone that wakes up every day to do more and provide service above self. If it’s important, it can be done,” said Crawford.
After a break for dinner, the evening continued with more awards presented to outstanding individuals and businesses. The first award after the break was the Educational Excellence award sponsored by the Community Foundation for Delta County and presented by Delta Schoolcraft ISD Superintendent Doug Leisenring and Community Foundation board member Will Carne to Sara Sholten. Sholten, a fifth grade STEM teacher at Jones Elementary in Gladstone.
“I show them that choice does matter in the classroom, their opinions matter, and that they matter, and even though they are little, they can make big changes in our world,” said Sholten.
The next award was the Community Ambassador Award, presented by Crystal Porior of Peninsula Federal Credit Union to Bobbi Ryan and Cynthia Ivy, owners of Jack’s Restaurant in Rapid River and the Brisket Barn.
Ryan, who accepted the award on behalf of herself and Ivy, took the opportunity to talk about the good things happening in Rapid River.
“I wanted to point out the fact the Rapid River is kind of small and kind of on the edge, but it’s growing. There’s a lot of new things coming and community support is huge, so for us to be a part of the Chamber and a part of the community, with the association — the (Rapid River) Business Association, and the Lions Club, and everything that’s going on over there, I can’t be more blessed. And I can’t be more blessed with the staff that we have, both for Jack’s and the Brisket Barn,” she said.
Next was the Century Award, which is given to a Delta County business that has been open for at least 100 years. TJ Thomas, executive director of the Delta County EDA presented the award to Delta Abstract & Title. The company has been in Delta County since 1889.
“I go to work every day and my thought process is the staff at Delta Title does not work for me, I work with my staff for a common goal, to keep the office going for another 100 years. I will not be here in another 100 years, but I believe we provide the best product and service and have the best staff to provide any title evidence that anyone needs for any reason,” said Gina Davidson, president of Delta Abstract & Title.
As in past years, the night featured two Oktoberfest-themed awards. The first of these special awards was the Schottenhamel Award, a special award for community V.I.P.s sponsored by Visit Escanaba. This year, the award went to Gladstone Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Sanderson, as well as the rest of the parks and recreation department. The award recognized the department’s work to complete a 2.5 mile non-motorized trail along Little Bay de Noc, a world-class disc golf course, and upgrades and expansion at the city’s beach.
“Not a day goes by that I (don’t) shake my head and think, ‘how did I become so lucky to even be a part of this?’ People talk about loving their job, and it’s beyond that. I guess all I can say is that we’re going to keep listening to our citizens and we’re just going to try to provide a clear vision for our city leaders so we can keep moving forward,” said Sanderson.
The Danke Schoen Award presented by the UPWard Talent Council and Michigan Works! was given to Deb Doyle, who recently retired from the UPWard Talent Council and Michigan Works!
“Many thanks to the boards, advisory council, administration and staff for allowing me to work not only for you but with you over the years,” said Doyle.
The final two awards of the night focused on businesses rather than individuals. The Business Partner of the Year Award was presented by the Escanaba DDA and U.P. State Fair Board to Michigan Broadband for expanding internet services to the fairgrounds.
“Michigan Broadband services is not done in the communities of Escanaba and Gladstone,” said Bruce Moore, president and general manager of Michigan Broadband.
Moore then gave five $1,000 gifts to Delta County nonprofits. The recipients were Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Northern Lights YMCA, St. Vincent de Paul, Tri-County Safe Harbor, and the Delta County Chamber of Commerce.
The final award of the evening was the Business of the Year Award, presented by the UPWard Talent Council to VanAire, Inc.
“I’ve always said that VanAire is Gladstone’s best-kept secret. Well, I guess the secret’s out,” said VanAire CEO William VanDeVusse, who also told guests about company programs to keep employees financially independent and debt free — just like VanAire itself.