Mayor Roy Cessna became the 34th recipient of the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Award of Merit during the organization's annual banquet on Thursday night.

Cessna was honored before more than 500 attendees representing area organizations in the public and private sectors, from nonprofits to law enforcement agencies, at Horace Good Middle School.

Cessna said he “knew something was up” when he saw Donna Tanner, last year’s Award of Merit recipient, at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. Cessna decided to ask Tanner who the award winner was going to be this year. To that, Cessna said she told him, “You’re just going to have to show up and find out.”

After an introduction that read like a book by Dr. Seuss, Cessna accepted the award before thanking those in attendance.

“I’d like to thank everybody,” he said. “It’s a great community. We’ve made this our home. It’s a special place. I’m just trying to hopefully make it a better place than when I got here. That’s my main goal. Hopefully, making it a better place so that my kids can come back and live.”

Chamber President Myca Bunch noted that the agency has been proudly serving the Garden City community since 1888.

“We’re inspired every day by the work you put forth in the pursuit to build a better business and a better community,” Bunch said. “It is businesses and individuals like the ones honored here tonight that continue to make Finney County the great place it is to live and work.”

Liz Scheopner was introduced as the Chamber’s incoming board chairman for 2018, taking the place of Mark Hinde, who was the night’s emcee. 

“Everyone in this room has a lot to be thankful for,” Scheopner said. “We are all leaders in one of the greatest places there is in which to live, and all of you should be proud to have played even a small part in what makes this a great place to live. The Chamber is proud to be a part of what has made Finney County a great place.”

She said the Chamber has an exciting year ahead of it with a renewed focus on tending to its roots and biggest assets, its members. Scheopner also promised that the Chamber would provide more training than ever before to area employees, pledged to provide local businesses with resources and answers in times of difficulty, as well as networking opportunities.

Scheopner also gave kudos to Bunch, the Chamber’s new president who was tapped for the position in late October after serving as executive director of Downtown Vision.

“Though she is new to this role, she’s not a stranger to the Chamber or to the business community,” Scheopner said. “And when the search committee interviewed her for the job recently, we were all blown away because she was bursting at the seams with enthusiasm and ideas for your Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce, and that’s why we have her here.”

Four local businesses were honored for their entrepreneurial achievements and contributions to the community.

LiveWell Finney County was named 2017 Nonprofit Organization of the Year. Hinde described the coalition as a leader in the community for public health with more than 60 organizations in the public and private sectors that provide a support umbrella for frontline providers.

In 2014, the nonprofit received the NOVA Award from the American Hospital Association. It also recently was awarded a grant from the Kansas Department of Health for preventative education programs.

Last year, LiveWell was instrumental in working with Garden City High School students to pass the T-21 smoking ordinance that raises the legal age to buy and possess tobacco products in Garden City to 21. The project was recognized by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The students involved received an award from the University of Kansas.

The nonprofit also was recently awarded a community service award by the Garden City Police Department for its work with law enforcement following the 2016 alleged bomb threat targeting an apartment complex in Garden City that housed a local mosque.

Escape the cLock was named 2017’s Emerging Business of the Year. The interactive experience based on the escape room model became available in late 2016 and offers players a complex, innovative series of puzzles in themed “rooms.” The goal is to escape the room within a specified time limit.

The business serves clients within 150 miles of Garden City and provides community groups a three-day period during which 20 percent of their proceeds benefit the organization. Hinde said it is the first business of its kind in the region.

The Robinson Oil Company received the 2017 Small Business of the Year Award. The company has been in the community since December 1970, and it currently serves five states. Robinson Oil currently is working with LiveWell Finney County to develop a worksite wellness program to incorporate healthy lifestyles into daily routines.

Ward’s Garden Center was named 2017 Business of the Year. The restaurant and store has been open since 1976. It offers pets, landscaping, and home cooked meals. Each spring, it hosts 800 students and teachers on field trips focused on horticulture, pet shops, petting zoos and more.

Vickie Harshbarger of Mosaic was given the Chamber’s 2017 Ambassador of the Year Award.


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