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ST. MARYS — Each year, the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes outstanding individuals who have dedicated much of their time and effort to making St. Marys better by awarding them with the Builder of Bridges award.
“The award is presented as a recognition of community service, contributions and the individual’s work to make St. Marys a better place,” Master of Ceremonies Jeff Squire said Thursday night at the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.
The award, he said, was originally given to residents who played an important role in completing the Memorial Covered Bridge.
“The Builder of Bridges recognition was first given at the dedication ceremony of the Memorial Covered Bridge,” Squire said. “The purpose of the award was to give special recognition to those individuals that had extra responsibilities or gave extra efforts in fulfilling the completion of the Memorial Covered Bridge project. The individuals who received the award were chosen by the bridge committee.”
Past Builder of Bridges recipients now meet annually to determine the next individuals to receive award, and two more joined the group Thursday night.
Milt Miller presented the first Builder of Bridges award to Dick Hudson. Miller noted Hudson’s proudest accomplishment.
“Typically we start out with the civic achievements and accomplishments, but I’ve heard this recipient say — without hesitation and often — that his greatest and proudest accomplishments are his four wonderful children and his wife of 53 years,” he said.
Hudson’s involvement in the community is extensive.
“He has quietly been the civic measure stick of leadership, starting as a young man with the Jaycees, and to this day, a Rotarian of 35 years,” Miller said. “Supporting the chamber since 1965, generously donating his time, his effort, his money, and was a regular on the executive committee for most of those years ... He has lent his support to school bond levies, Christmas decorations adorning our community, youth exchange programs, Giving Thanks dinners and the Elm Grove Cemetery Board.”
Miller also noted Hudson’s downtown business, Hudson Jewelers Inc.
“He is the owner and leader of a third-generation business downtown, which has been a fixture and an anchor of St. Marys for 115 years,” Miller said.
Ronda Shelby took the podium to present the second Builder of Bridges award to Kathy Sampson. Shelby said Sampson lives by a motto that promotes joy.
“She lived by this motto, ‘The way to be joyful is to think joy, to affirm joy, to believe in joy, to practice joy and to give joy,’” Shelby said.
“That is what she does every day in every phase of her life. You just know you’re in the presence of joy when you’re in her space.”
Shelby read an extensive list of Sampson’s involvement in the community, noting a particular accomplishment.
“The most treasured thing she has, which she values more than anything and which speaks of this person’s character, is that she has taught Sunday school for 34 years without missing,” Shelby said.
Sampson said she was honored to be placed among the group of Builders of Bridges. She said when she chose things in the community to be involved in, she always kept one thing in mind.
“When I chose to do things, I chose things that my family could do,” she said. “I have a wonderful husband that I have been married to for 32 years, and I’m surprised he’s put up with me this long. He has slaved right beside me in all the things I’ve done.”
Sampson thanked her family for their support and said she was humbled to be chosen as a Builder of Bridges.
The St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce also awarded a special recognition in honor of its 60th year anniversary.
“In 1952, Edward Noble, from St. Marys, signed the papers that incorporated the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce and then proceeded to serve as the first president of the group,” St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kelly Kill said, noting some of the first activities of the chamber, including drafting the by-laws, bringing Kessler Builders to St. Marys and supporting the creation of a community pool.
Kill noted that the chamber has continued to help businesses and promote the community.
“The chamber has continued throughout the years assisting businesses when they can, presenting awards to outstanding businesses and business practices and sponsoring area businesses and area events,” Kill said. “Currently the chamber has 240 members and a newly renovated home. We will be there for years to come.”
Kill recognized Noble, presenting him with a commemorative clock.
“I would like to recognize and thank Edward Noble for his initiation and organization of the chamber,” she said.
Other businesses and individuals honored at the banquet include: AAP St. Marys Corporation as Business of the Year, Guarnieri Pizzeria as Most Improved Business, the Lake Improvement Association as Nonprofit Organization of the Year, JT’s Brew & Grill as Emerging Business of the Year, Stan Davis as the Frank C. Murray Ambassador and St. Marys City Schools for Community Impact.
The 2011 chamber officers, executive committee and board of trustees were also recognized, as well as 2011 President Tim Bigham and 2011 SummerFest Chair Brian Little.
For more information about the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce, visit StMarysOhio.org.