The Chamber of Commerce rose to its feet three times Thursday night, recognizing several individuals' distinguished service and achievements.
Marvin Ott, Sandy Lonz and Peg Baird each were honored with awards at the Chamber's annual banquet held at Norwalk High School.
Ott, field operations coordinator at Janotta & Herner, is so knowledgeable his nickname, Chamber executive director Melissa James said, is "God." He has brought this expertise to five missions to the Gulf Coast and five to Honduras and to extensive projects with Habitat for Humanity and St. Paul Catholic Church. For these efforts, Ott was recognized with the Dedicated Service Award.
Ott was taken by surprise Thursday. In fact, he wasn't planning to attend. Co-worker Kathy Nickoli (and outgoing Chamber president) asked Ott to go to Honduras, but, he told her, he just didn't have time. He was far too busy working with some other volunteers to add an addition to a local family's home to make the lives of a couple handicapped children a little easier.
Ott was finally convinced to go, but he thought he was going because of Janotta's safety achievement.
It is difficult to see how Ott finds the time. Part of it, he said, is he took five weeks of vacation last year, though he only gets three. But really, he said, he learned a long time ago from an older man that when you think you're too busy to help others, it's not a question of time. It's a question of priorities.
Ott is surprised and overwhelmed by the award, he said. He never expected anything more than a thank you from the people he's helped that was enough for him, he said. In fact, he felt a little bit guilty getting the award. There are plenty of people out there, he said, who are doing just what he's doing and who are just as deserving.
Lonz may be in need of "professional help for her need to volunteer," James quoted from the nomination form. Lonz is the president of the ladies association at her church, a member of Kiwanis, program chair for the Chamber, a United Fund board member, and a member of the Huron County Veterans Committee. A former Chamber board member, she served as president twice. Lonz received the Distinguished Citizen Award.
"I haven't learned the word 'no,'" she said. "I really like people. I enjoy helping wherever I can help. My payback is to be able to help somebody else."
National City's Woman of the Year Award was given to Peg Baird, executive vice president at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. Baird, an RN, earned her bachelor's, master's, and several professional certifications while on the job and raising two children. By accepting responsibilities for which she had no training or experience, she rose to the No. 2 position at FTMC where she would eventually oversee the $50-million expansion of the last few years.
Janotta & Herner and Kaiser-Wells Pharmacy each received the Notable Business Award in recognition of their contributions to work safety. Janotta has an extraordinary record of service without injury. Kaiser-Wells provides defibrillators to businesses in this and surrounding communities.
James presented the Chamber Leaf Award to the members of the chamber themselves. Chamber members rallied to one another's aid after last year's flood, hauling away the trash and debris necessary to get affected businesses back open.
In addition to presenting awards, several speakers addressed the state of the chamber.
In-coming president Charlie Doyle welcomed everyone and presented the awards.
Out-going president Kathy Nickoli informed the crowd that chamber membership has reached an all-time high of 466. Among the last year's newest accomplishments, she noted the Job Bank, a labor pool business can dip into when they require some temporary help.
James spoke about a new effort to create a business resource room, with professional clothing for new businesspeople to use to help them get started (or for experienced ones that need to start over). She also urged members to get involved in a revived political committee. Businesspeople may not like politics and may want to avoid them, she said. But, she quoted John Lendrum, "If you're in business, you're in politics."