HARRIS - Delta County business and community members gathered Thursday night at the Island Resort & Casino for the annual Delta County Chamber of Commerce dinner and awards ceremony.
The theme for this year's event was military in nature, and commemorated the 10th year of the Chamber's leadership program, Delta Force. This year, more than 20 local leaders participated in the program.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, who also serves as chairman of the U.S. Armed Services Committee, presented some opening remarks prior to the distribution of various awards and the graduation of Delta Force participants - both staples of the annual event.
From left, Kay Johnson and Will Carne present Chuck Guay with one of two Excellence in Education awards at Thursday’s Delta County Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner at the Island Resort & Casino. The second Excellence in Education award was presented to Karl Dollhopf. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
Levin recognized Delta Force's 10th anniversary, as well as the recent or upcoming milestone anniversaries of Delta County, the city of Escanaba, Bay College and NewPage.
"These anniversaries remind us of the importance of institutions that serve as the foundation of our communities," said Levin. "It is good to be reminded once in a while that in a world that seems to change in an instant ... some institutions are flexible enough and adaptable enough to become permanent fixtures in our lives. Delta Force hasn't been around quite long enough to do that yet, but it's a sure bet that it will continue for a long, long time."
Levin noted the Chamber took on an ambitious goal in helping these community leaders emerge through creating the Delta Force program.
"Saying that I want to be a better leader isn't the same as saying I want to be a better accountant or a better architect," he said. "Being a leader isn't just about improving your own prospects. It's about improving the prospects of those around you."
Levin's remarks were followed by the distribution of meritorious awards in several categories.
This year's winners included:
Excellence in Education, Chuck Guay and Karl Dollhopf; Excellence in Customer Service, Dennis LaMarch (chairman of Ambassadors of Delta County); Century Award, Bay Bank (Don St. Germaine); Philanthropy Award, John Besse Family; Volunteer of the Year Award, Paddy Fitch; Business of the Year, Lofts on Ludington; Athena Award, Dannielle Herbert; Bay College Scholarship Award, Yuko Lamb.
The Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by the Daily Press and NewPage, was presented to Paddy Fitch for her more than 40 years of active involvement in community groups like Boy Scouts, the YMCA, and United Way, among others.
"When I was called and told that I had been selected as Volunteer of the Month, that was a bit of a shock, but when I was called and told that I'd been selected as Volunteer of the Year that was overwhelming - especially since every day when I go off to do my things, all I do is have a blast," said Fitch, upon accepting her award.
She said she would "happily, gratefully and humbly" accept the award only on behalf of all the hundreds of volunteers that do so much to make Delta County special.
The Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Michigan Works! The Job Force Board, went to Matt and Beth Sviland for their conversion of the former Delta Building into 15 luxury lofts and three commercial spaces into Lofts on Ludington. The building was one of six projects that received a 2012 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation.
Matt thanked all those involved in the project and for all the support and encouragement it received, as well as three women who took a chance to pursue their own dreams with housing their businesses in Lofts on Ludington's commercial space - Salon West & Spa, Holly Nylund Photography, and Pink Sugar Company. The three businesses have brought 16 jobs to downtown Escanaba.
"Beth and I thank God for bringing these people into our lives and for the loving support of our family ... and for the faith to see this through to the finish," said Matt. "We feel truly blessed to be able to live and work in this community."