The Duneland Chamber of Commerce returned this year to the lovely Spa Speakeasy and Special Event Center for the annual State of the Chamber address. Members could gaze outside the floor length windows for a view of the vibrant oaks and sloping hill that are a trademark of the community being discussed inside.
Socializing and networking were the first orders of business. Without the connections existing between the Duneland businesses we, as a community, would not have reached so many milestones in our economic growth.
“The saying rings true,” said Board Chair Laura Gerhardt, “It truly does take a village.”
This was why the Chamber’s leaders felt it was important to recognize the outstanding efforts of members with an award plaque and a Designer Desserts goodie bag.
Among the awardees was Bill Meyer, a man whose contribution to the waste management industry got him inducted into the National Waste and Recycling Hall of Fame. 51 years ago, he took a job as a garbage truck driver. He soon became the owner of Able Disposal and grew it to a capacity of fifty trucks and 100 employees. The Chamber awarded him with a Putting Duneland on the Map plaque.
Another person who stood out among the Chamber crowd was Amber Hensell-Hicks, the Distinguished Woman of the Year. Hensell-Hicks is the owner and founder of the substance abuse program Frontline Foundation. She works with the Rotary, numerous Courthouses, and even prisons to combat the overwhelming force that is temptation.
Chamber President Maura Durham said, “So many people work to make our community great, which is why today is so special. We get to award those people for their efforts.”
Other people and organizations who received awards were George’s Gyro Spot with a second Putting Duneland on the Map award, Sweetville featuring Designer Desserts for Business Renovation, and Road to Life Church as Humanitarian of the Year. Dan Amling and Kelly Shikany both won Volunteer of the Year. New Construction awards went to Symphony of Chesterton for their 76,000-square foot community of rehabilitation and retirement, and Phillippe Builders Inc. for their work along the Prairie Conservation lands. Nicole Caylor won the first every Spotlight Award.
Bob Capehart was stunned to hear that he won the Golden Achievement award for his tireless efforts to improve the world around him. Each email he sends bears the footnote: "I have retired from work not from life." He embodies this mentality by spending his free time on volunteer work.
“I do this because I love this community,” he said. “You have to participate. Good communities don’t happen by accident.”
It certainly takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and compassion for the Chamber to grow and nurture Duneland. This year their focus was on education. The Chamber became partners with school corporations in order to help develop what they believe is the foundation upon which our future sits on. If we are not learning which tools will help our community, we will have none with which to work with.
Learning does not end with our schoolchildren. The Duneland Chamber sent out a survey to see what kinds of educational programs its members would be interested in. They gave eighteen choices to best gauge what kind of activities are wanted, ranging from yoga to economic development.
“If you have any questions regarding this village we call Duneland,” said Gerhardt, “The Chamber is here to help.”