ST. MARYS — The 2013 Annual St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet was held Thursday at the St. Marys Eagles to honor local business and business owners who have brought something exceptional to the city.
The Builder of Bridges award is one of the most prestigious of these honors. Last night’s ceremony saw two new community members added to the ever-growing list of those people who the chamber recognizes as outstanding citizens in their endless contribution to the St. Marys area.
Chamber Board Member Jeff Squire gave the crowd some background on the award.
“The Builder of Bridges recognition was first given at a dedication ceremony for the Memorial Covered Bridge that we have in the park to give special recognition to those individuals who had extra responsibilities or efforts in fulfilling the completion of the Memorial Bridge,” he said.
“The individuals who received those awards were chosen by the bridge committee. Since that time, the award recipients, with the help of the Chamber, have acknowledged, annually, members of the community who have, through specific projects or lifetimes of service, been deemed to have contributed to the St. Marys area, and who deserve to be referred to as ‘Builder of Bridges.’”
Superintendent of Water and Sewer Departments Dave Sprague presented the first award to Dave Stilwell.
“The man I’m going to introduce here in a few minutes was not originally from St. Marys,” Sprague said.
“Soon after he moved here, though, he began working toward the betterment of the community ... serving the community’s youth, and the community as a whole. He’s laid back, low-key, prefers to work in the background. In fact, his wife told me having him up here is going to embarrass the heck out of him. It would probably be easier to list the organizations he has not been involved in.”
He went on to list them anyway. Stilwell has been actively involved with Rider Rooters, headed the football fundraiser, helped out with the K.C. Geiger Park Improvement Committee, “that has raised thousands of dollars to maintain and improve the park,” Sprague said.
“He is a founder of the St. Marys Bluesfest,” Sprague said. “He is a past president and currently serves as a trustee to the Miami Erie Canal Certification; he is a current commissioner of the Heritage Trails Park District; he is involved with the Buckeye Trails Commission; he’s also involved with St. Marys Tailgate for Cancer, a relatively new organization here in St. Marys.”
Stilwell took his place at the podium and thanked the chamber for his award.
“I really appreciate the honor,” he said “Thanks to (my wife); she lets me sneak out of the house all the time. If not, I wouldn’t be able to volunteer as much as I do. It is a great honor, and I appreciate it.”
The second award was presented by Chamber Executive Board Vice President Kathy Sampson to Board Member Robbie Burke.
“In the path of our lives, we meet many people who make lasting memories,” Sampson said. “Some we remember for a moment and others for a lifetime. This Builder of Bridges Award winner is one of those individuals. With every step they have taken, the have made deep footprints within our souls. Impressions of love, dedication and kindness and the unselfish gift of giving. They inspire us.”
Burke has lived in St. Marys her whole life and has garnered nothing but praise from those who have met her, Sampson said.
“This individual has a list which seems never-ending in her personal building of bridges within this wonderful community of St. Marys,” Sampson said. “She has served on the Board of Directors for the Adult Basic Literacy Education; she has volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Auglaize county for 10 years, where she had the same little (sister) for 10 years; she was named Big Sister of the year in 1993; she served on the Board of Directors for the United Way of Auglaize County and co-chaired the campaign for the City of St. Marys for several years; she was named the United Way Volunteer of the year in 2008.”
Like Stilwell, Burke also was surprised to receive the award.
“This, really, should go to my dad,” Burke said.
“It’s just a privilege that I’m up here. You’re not prepared for this at all, so I’m not prepared for this. But all I can say is thank you and everything I do ... you don’t do this type of work for this, for this recognition, for any kind of acknowledgment, or anything like that. It’s just, and my dad will get a chuckle out of this, but it’s just the way (I’m) wired. And I’m wired this way because he was wired that way, and he taught me and guided me my entire life.”
Burke then went on to share the award with her father Robert, whom she brought up on stage with her.
“He’s 92 years old, and celebrating 60 years in our business, and it’s all because of you,” she said.
“You’re our customers, you’re our clients, and you have made Burke Insurance as well. And with that, I will simply say thank you.”
The chamber presented and honored several additional area businesses during the evening of celebration.
The Emerging Business of the Year Award, which goes to businesses that have been open for less than three years, went to Beer Barrel.
“Beer Barrel made a very visible improvement to one of the outlots in front of St. Marys square,” Squire said.
“I hope everyone’s been there. If not, you should go. It’s a great addition to the business community.’
The award for Most Improved Property went to McDonald’s, and Heritage Trails Park District received the Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award.
The 2012 Business Person of the Year went to Squire, and the Frank C. Murray Ambassador Award went to Executive Board President Anna Katterhenry.
R.J. Burke Insurance received the award for 60 Years in Business, and WCSM for 50 Years in Business.