The Southwestern Madison County Chamber of Commerce is preparing for the 76th annual meeting at the Gateway Convention Center on Oct. 27.
The event and awards have taken on a significant importance, this year with the theme of Shine the Light. The idea behind the theme is simple — let’s talk about the good things, the good organizations and good people in our community. As a community, we need to recognize those efforts … we need to be saying “thank you” for the multitude of things that these people do for our community and the people within our community.
In January, the public had the opportunity to nominate people and/or organizations they felt needed to be recognized. We had 20 great candidates nominated, and in June voting began. We have more than 24,000 votes tabulated (the voting ended on Sept. 1), and while all 20 nominees will be recognized at the podium and in the printed program, the three with the highest vote count will be honored.
I am so very proud that we are in the midst of planning and talking about an event that will highlight and honor the good things, good people and good organizations, especially at a time when every television station, social media outlet and newspaper is constantly regurgitating the unrealistic and hateful rhetoric being spewed out by our so-called national leaders. I am so very proud that we have local, everyday people who are setting examples and are an inspiration to the youths and the residents of our area.
This Shine the Light campaign has highlighted the very gracious style of people who truly care; people who give so freely of themselves. Each of these great nominees have very humbly asked, “Why would I be nominated?” or, “Oh no, I haven’t done anything to be recognized for.”
Well I totally disagree, and we as a community need to be saying thank you a lot more often than we do.
In one case, the nominee actually asked not to be included in the voting for this award. He said he truly appreciated the nomination, but since he is retired he felt the recognition should be going to younger people who are more involved than he can be at this point in his life. I argued with him regarding the removal of his name from the list, my point being that these young people need to know who laid the groundwork and who gave of themselves to open doors and to move mountains for this area.
They need to know these foundations, organizations and even communities don’t spring up from nowhere. A community needs dedicated people who care about the success of others. Our upcoming generation needs to see the importance of serving on boards and volunteering of their time. They need to find some passion for a cause, for purpose, for their community. Each of these nominees had jobs and families and they had things they liked to do with their friends, but they found time to be a moving force in something in which they believed. Each one is a great example of who our young people should be emulating. I ask you, please don’t shy away from talking about what you have accomplished. Let us as a community thank you and then let me ask one more thing of you.
Please help our community by getting involved and by showing us the way to raise the bar to what our communities should be. The following list is the great group of people who have been nominated by the public and voted for by the public for the Shine the Light Award:
1. Conrad “Babe” Champion — a retired teacher, coach and an avid high school and community supporter
2. Brenda Whitaker — business owner, retired alderwoman and community visionary working to keep the arts alive
3. Church Women United — a group of Christian women who support local agencies
4. Dianna Briner — a community volunteer who breathed new life into the Good Samaritan House
5. Edward Coulson — a retired businessman who cares about the appearance and the safety this community, so he manicures his area of our community
6. Granite City Optimist Club — a community organization working to bring out the best in our youth and the community
7. John Manoogian, students and staff of the GCHS Fine Arts Department — as a group they are teaching every aspect of the arts to our students and providing the arts in many forms to residents
8. Joyce Epperson — directs a program that provides our seniors with social connections, exercise, instruction on eating properly and medication management
9. Knight of Columbus — a Catholic Fraternal Organization, working in many areas to improve our community
10. Melvin Wilmsmeyer — a retired businessman who has remained a leader in this community
11. Pastor Roy Boyer — has organized and presented numerous programs and activities working toward the betterment of the entire community
12. Pat Konzen — has been a volunteer at Gateway Regional Medical Center for more than 47 years and has accumulated more than 27,000 volunteer hours
13. Paul Wellhausen and Tom Butts — spearheaded the cleanup of Route 3, the building of the McKinley Bridge Park and building of The Salute to Steel Sculpture
14. St. Elizabeth Healthcare Foundation — awarding thousands of dollars in medical scholarships to people in Madison and St. Clair counties
15. St. Elizabeth Parish — supportive of numerous community service programs
16. The Family Tree – TWIGS — distributed lunches for children during the 2015 Summer at 32 locations
17. The National Honor Society of GCHS — guides students who have demonstrated leadership, service and character toward a lifetime of success
18. Tina Hubert — community volunteer and instrumental in the $4.1 million renovation of our main library
19. Tri City Faith in Action Group — provides much-needed services to community seniors
20. United Way — an agency that helps people live their best possible
The public is invited to join us at the Oct. 27 awards celebration. You can make your reservations by coming into the office at 3600 Nameoki Road or calling (618) 876-6400. You can also call the chamber and ask to be sent a formal invitation, if you are not already on our mailing list. You are welcome to be part of this community show of appreciation.
And remember … it’s not too early to think about who you might want to nominate for next year’s event.
Help us to become a nicer, more grateful community that looks around to find the big things and the little things and the people who should be acknowledged. If you were not nominated this year, may I take this opportunity to thank you for the many things that you do to make this community a better place for all of us. Let’s all look for “What’s Right, Right Here” and not let all the good things go unnoticed!