the Abilene Area Chamber of Commerce recognized community leaders and
volunteers during the organization’s 83rd annual banquet in the
courtyard at the Eisenhower Presidential Library.
Eight major awards were presented during the banquet.
Julie Beswick, on behalf of the Food For Kids Program, a project
undertaken by the 2008 Leadership Dickinson County Class, was
recognized as the Quiet Hero. Beswick said the project, which helps
provide nourishment to youth, has been successful because of
generosity in the community.
Abilene business executive Bruce Dale received the Distinguished
Citizen Award. Accepting his award was neighbor Dennis Weishaar, who
said Dale was out of town Thursday because of a prior out of-state
commitment. He said Dale was an example of how Abilene has continued
to develop and encourage leaders to accomplish projects of importance
to the community at large.
Bonnie Madsen, long-time manager of Guys ‘N Gals, was the recipient
of the Distinguished Business Person of the Year. Madsen said she
enjoys her work and visiting with people in the community.
The Ag Business of the Year Award recipient was Jeff Bathurst, who
learned about farming by starting with 45 acres and now is part of a
2,100-acre diversified farm operation. Bathurst thanked his wife,
Charity, and family for their support, which is the backbone of a
successful operation. An active Dickinson County Farm Bureau
Association member, he encouraged chamber members to attend Farm
Bureau organization activities and provide support.
The Volunteer of the Year was shared by two recipients, Audrey Sheets
and the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo committeee.
Audrey Sheets was commended for her leadership in the Abilene Rotary
Club and in restoration of buildings at Old Abilene Town.
Sheets said she loved Dickinson County which is why she likes to be involved with community projects. Any effort to improve a community is
time well spent, she said.
Jerry Marsteller, president of the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo committee,
said the award was shared not only with the rodeo committee but with the business community. The 26 committee members
provide all of their work on a volunteer basis, but the committee also
works hand-in-hand with local businesses.
“Without the support of the business community we could not do it,”
Also present for the presentation were committee members Ronnie Phillips and Kregg Kohman.
Two other volunteers were honored for in-house work. Brian Tajchman
was recognized for leading the successful Coffee Connections program
that helps businesses connect with each other on an informal basis.
Pat Baier was the recipient of the in-staff volunteer award. She noted
that she enjoyed volunteering for the chamber and working with
president Cindy Issitt.
Doug “Chappy” Chapman, a Manhattan musician, provided the
entertainment with a theme of 1960s music to remind people of simpler
Chairman of the board Sheldon Jones, who will continue to lead the
board in 2012, believed the private organization with a focus on
promoting business has continued to make strides in fostering a
cooperative relationship among the Abilene Downtown Association,
Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau and Abilene Economic
Development Council, which he said were tangible examples.
He said when Abilene has a united front it makes the community more
attractive to businesses.
Jones introduced the board, which included Kelly Cooper, Sandy Foltz,
Dennis Weese, Tim Shafer, Linda Smith, Mark Miller, Becky Schwab,
Jolene Rankin, Marc Beswick, Kyle Adams, Diane Miller and Julie
Patton. Jones also voiced appreciation for the 2011 board, including
outgoing members David Walters, Steve Karl, Jeff Sheets and Ron Preston.
Issitt gave an overview. She said the local organization was one of
only a handful across the state that grew its membership in 2011.
“I believe that trend will continue,” she said.
Issitt voiced her appreciation for businesses and community members
who provided support for projects in the past year. They included a
sheet and blanket drive designed to help single soldiers based at Fort
Riley and the recently completed Toys for Tots program that served 520
children in Dickinson County. Those projects have a deep meaning to
those in need and shows the compassion of businessmen and women as
well as the community at large.
The chamber in 2012 will continue to focus on promoting members. One
project that is being considered is a digital electronic sign that has
required the chamber to submit public plans to several advisory boards.
She also encouraged those who wish to look for volunteer opportunities
or have questions to contact her at the chamber office, 500 N. Buckeye.
The meal was catered by West Plaza Country Mart and the invocation was
provided by board member Kelly Cooper. Among those recognized were
Elizabeth Patton, a staffer with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., state Rep.
Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove, mayor Lynn Peterson and city
commissioner Dennis Weishaar.