People, businesses and organizations that care for our community resonated throughout the evening at the Chamber's Annual Dinner & Celebration of its Members.
More than 125 people gathered for the annual event Wednesday at the Elks Lodge, where Chamber officials paid tribute to Lifestyle Nutrition; Kyle Belew, owner of The Wounded Minnow; Dowagiac Union Schools; Joe Odenwald, Southwestern Michigan College incoming president; and Domestic And Sexual Assault Services (DASAS). Presdient Kim MacGregor is shown above with the award recipients.
"Each of our award winners have shown how much they care for the community," MacGregor said. "Too many times we hear of the bad things going on in the world. Tonight, we celebrate the good."
Caring for the Community Award was presented to DASAS. "This group sees the very best and the very worst of people," MacGregor said. "They help people, who are faced with psychological and sexual abuse, or stalking. They operate a home where people can stay to get back on their feet, to help them get stronger." Accepting the award was Rose Ludwick and Deborah Hackworth.
Angie Johnson, owner of Lifestyle Nutrition, accepted the award for Rising Star, which MacGregor said is presented to a new business that has come out swinging. "Lifestyle Nutrition is genuinely interested in helping people lead healthier lives. They not only sell product, they sell a healthier way of life...with their drinks and their drumming."
The Customer Service Award was presented to Kyle Belew, owner of The Wounded Minnow, who takes his customer service out onto the street. Kyle is often seen with a leaf blower in hand, cleaning the sidewalks in front of his business - and all the way down Front Street.
Joe Odewald, who has become an essential go-to person for the Chamber, received the Partnership Award. "When we needed more help with security for the parade, we called Joe," MacGregor said. "He put us in touch with a staff member, who got us eight volunteers. When we had a business that was closing, we called Joe. He put together leads for staffing. Joe also began bringing students to town, encouraging a closer relationship between the college and our community."
The final award recipient of the evening brought tears to MacGregor as she described how employees of Dowagiac Union Schools put their hearts on the line daily. "Staff has taken girls to get their first bras. They bring in coats to keep kids warm. They send food home, when they know some kids may not eat all weekend."
"This is not just teachers," MacGregor said. "This is school secretaries, bus drivers and maintenance people."
Accepting the award for the schools was Jonathon Whan, superintendent, who was joined at the dinner by several staff members, representing all ranks of the school district.
Guest speakers of the dinner were Steve Winchester and Andrea Jackson (shown below) of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians.