This year the Butler County Chamber of Commerce changed things up a bit, holding its annual banquet a couple weeks earlier and in a new venue, the Butler County Event Center. Ninety tickets were sold for the event.
The event took a year off of the speaker circuit, with the Chamber Board opting to concentrate on the community awards as a program.
One element that didn’t change was the emphasis on community service and community betterment. Awards were presented to two women known for what they do for others.
Pat Lostroh coordinator of Genesis House Personal Development Center, received the Community Impact Award. Virgene Otte, volunteer at Butler County Senior Services and a member of the Butler County Senior Advisory Board, was named the Community Volunteer of the Year.
Outgoing Chamber President Luke Beerbohm turned over the gavel to incoming President Erin Hotovy, who presented the highlights of 2017.
Those highlights included the Dueling Pianos event the chamber sponsored in November. It was among the first events at the Butler County Event Center. He also informed members about the sale of six acres of land on East A Street that the chamber had owned for years.
He said the Chamber board is excited about the March 13 Ag Expo planned for the Butler County Event Center. “We already have had a great response,” Hotovy said.
Hotovy noted that that Monday’s banquet was held on Martin Luther King Day. He quoted the slain civil rights leader: “I’ve decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“A lot of things he says speak very deeply to me,” Hotovy said, adding that among the core values of Ace Hardware, where Hotovy is manager, is love.
“Love for our employees, our customers and our community,” he said.
Describing his own philosophy of community service, Hotovy said that he has another saying taped to his computer screen: “A servant heart is not the enemy of a profitable business. Rather the enabler of it.”
He explained: “We are all in business. How do you keep score in business? By making money, right? You have to do that to keep the doors open. To me it’s the things you do that are beyond that. To assist the community, friends and neighbors.”
Hotovy said that in his three years at the store, he has found a “very tight-knit community, a very strong business community.”
“There are a lot of veteran leaders as I look around this room, who have been doing business for a long time,” he said.
Hotovy said he’s ready to get to work.
“I appreciate the way you all have treated me. I will do the best I can as chamber president this year,” he said.
There also was a transition in the Chamber Ambassadors, the public service arm of the chamber which includes many business owners and their employees. Outgoing chairman Nolan Samek recapped the Ambassadors’ activities over the past year, from the monthly business spotlight gatherings, to the annual summer motorcycle poker run to raise funds for the DCPS BackPack Program.
The Ambassadors helps with the County Fair fireworks show, Cow Pie Bingo for scholarships, the holiday progressive dinner and the newest event, Santa House, which was held at the library for four Thursdays before Christmas.
“We had about 200 kids at the Santa House and I only made 30 of them cry,” Samek said.
The Ambassadors' historical card project, with an edition for 2016 and a new deck now for sale, has raised $2,500 for local community causes, Samek said.
The Ambassadors meet one evening a month, do not have dues and “kids are welcome,” he said. “We are always looking for volunteers.”
Samek described incoming chairman Jim Angell as a very dedicated member of the ambassadors. Angell, speaking briefly, said that he saw some of his students in the audience from 36 years at DCHS. He said he looked forward to working with the ambassadors in the coming year. Angell said he enjoys "playing with vinyl" in his business D-Sign Shop.
At the beginning of the evening, Hotovy praised the banquet planning of Chamber Director Karla Wall, who began her job last year, for putting the banquet together.
“She has her hands on many things that we’ve been doing,” Hotovy said.
Unlike recent years, this year's event was not held in collaboration with the Butler County Area Foundation Fund, which will be holding other events during the year.