Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Community hands out kudos to its best

Chambers award individuals and businesses

Express Staff Writer

Environmental Advocate of the Year, Elizabeth Jeffery, was elated with her Community Award win at the awards event at Elkhorn Springs Restaurant. Here she shares a laugh with Kim Coonis with the Blaine County Senior Connection. Photo by Willy Cook

Over 100 participants attended a lively evening at Elkhorn Springs Restaurant on Friday to honor individuals, organizations and businesses that have made the valley a better place to live and work. Among them was Citizen of the Year Kim Garvin and Nonprofit of the Year the Hunger Coalition.

In the face of economic challenges and a changing community, the 2009 Wood River Valley Community Awards could not have happened at a better time to raise spirits and celebrate accomplishments.

For the second year, the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau and the Hailey Chamber of Commerce joined forces to solicit nominations from the public to recognize the contributions of stand-out individuals and businesses. The chambers organized a silent auction to help fund the college scholarship awarded to the Youth Citizen of the Year winner, Wood River High School sophomore Dakota Barnes.

Barnes received a standing ovation for her contributions and leadership. Her volunteer efforts, while she maintained a 4.0 GPA as a member of the National Honor Society, included coordinating a dinner for over 130 international law enforcement officers who were torchbearers for the Special Olympics.

"My advice to adults is to be a mentor to all," Barnes said.

Winning Service Individual of the Year was Kim Coonis, executive director of Blaine County Senior Connection. Coonis said her job allows seniors to age at their own home, retain their dignity and live their lives.

"I am a blessed person," Coonis said. "I get up every morning and do what I love."

Environmental Advocate winner Elizabeth Jeffery asked the audience to consider doing little changes to make a difference, such as buying a programmable thermostat, using more insulation for their homes and irrigating at night.

Company of Fools was awarded Arts Advocate of the Year and was complimented by its board president, Tim Black, for its effort to make theater affordable through Pay What You Feel theater, and its children's program, Stages of Wonder, which has served an estimated 15,700 children in its 11 years. Company of Fools core members Denise Simone, R.L. Rowsey and John Glenn were congratulated for being Broadway in the Rockies.

Taking over the podium as Business of the Year, Bellevue-based Webb Landscaping, an employee-owned business, was honored for all its community service, including giving 3 percent of its profits back to the community.

Webb and Mountain Rides work together and lease five vans to bring Webb workers to work from Shoshone and Jerome. Several Webb employees stood up to receive the award for the company. Webb donates time and material to valley nonprofits and sponsors community events such as this year's first Webb Winter Concert series.

The Hunger Coalition's win for Nonprofit of the Year was accepted by Executive Director Jeanne Liston, who was given a standing ovation for her efforts to feed people in need.

"We are scrambling and exhausted, but we are meeting a need," Liston said.

Liston said the Hunger Coalition is seeing a shift. People who have received help are now volunteering to load vans and give out food. Liston said she can see the pride in their eyes from giving back.

The awards ceremony ended with Citizen of the Year accepted by Kim Garvin, who was grateful to be present and thanked all women in business. Garvin is the owner of Vintage Gypsy in Hailey and has been the lead organizer of the South Valley Merchants Alliance's efforts to produce and promote annual programs to promote local business.

"It's a great day to be in the Wood River Valley," said Hailey Chamber Executive Director Jim Spinelli. "It's a sad day for anyone who has to close their doors. We are trying to keep everyone in business."

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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