It was a night of honors as community leaders, volunteers and businesspersons were recognized for service to Shawnee and the accomplishments of the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce were celebrated at the 2011 banquet Thursday night.


It was a night of honors as community leaders, volunteers and businesspersons were recognized for service to Shawnee and the accomplishments of the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce were celebrated at the 2011 banquet Thursday night.
While many prestigious awards were presented, the event served as a night to reflect on the chamber’s activities for the past year, as well as looking ahead to the future.
Mike McCormick, 2010 chairman of the Board of Directors, spoke about the chamber’s activities for the past year, such as supporting the Bryan Street interchange and dealing with homelessness in Shawnee. Chamber achievements mentioned included a record for the annual Pig Roast and Junior Livestock Show, with $132,000 raised from the premium sale.
The chamber’s largest fundraiser, the Tasty Affair, topped the $61,000 mark once again, McCormick said, and he touted the Leadership Class for its efforts to raise more than $11,000 for the Regional Food Bank’s backpack program, with the first $8,000 matched by Chesapeake Energy Corp. to bring the total to $19,000.
McCormick spoke about Shawnee’s future and said the community faces many challenges. But he said the leaders involved in the chamber have the determination and willpower to face those challenges head-on.
“The chamber is and should be a force in any progressive community,” he said. “Our role has to be one of providing leadership and how we can bring all the sectors, the chamber, the city, the county, the state and the other local organizations together and the people associated with them.”
And while “we must have a vision for our community,” McCormick said the chamber must be ready to take the lead, with everyone working to make the community better.
“We, as a chamber and community leaders, must challenge one another to reach our potential, to achieve our goals and ensure quality of life and the business environment for generations to come. There is no better time to start than here tonight.”
McCormick, as outgoing chairman, presented two special Chairman’s Awards to Bill Ford and Randy Gilbert for their guidance and support to him during his time as chairman.
Those retiring from the board or leaving committees also were recognized before several awards were presented.
The Pierre F. Taron Jr. Leadership Award was given to Steve Wallace, vice president and relationship manager for Arvest Bank, for his many areas of noteworthy service to various boards and civic groups.
This year, there were three people honored with the Fleeta Greenwood “Best Kept Secret” award. The first, Jane Townsend, was honored for her work for the Salvation Army auxiliary, downtown clean-up efforts and more.
McCormick said Townsend “is modest to the core, but she is a jewel of a worker.”
The second recipient was Chris Thomas, who was honored for his work in helping reduce Shawnee’s drop-out rates, his work with the Shawnee Police Foundation and local pet rescue operations.
The third honoree, S.D. Hackett, was recognized for countless hours of service work and helping non-profit organizations. He wasn’t present, so his daughter accepted that award.
The Ambassador of the Year award was given to Amanda Cejka for her outgoing personality in promoting businesses and attending chamber events, such as ribbon cuttings.
The Neill and Mary Wiley Outstanding Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Felecia Freeman for her exceptional efforts to see the chamber prosper.
The Agri Business Person of the Year award was presented to Suzanne Gilbert for her efforts in two communities — Shawnee and Tecumseh — with numerous areas of involvement and service.
The Shawnee Business Person of the Year Award was given to Greg Brown who developed Windmill Ridge.
The evening’s prestigious award, which requires at least 10 years of service to the community for nomination, was the Gordon Richards Sr. Service Award. That award was presented to Chris Clark for his unrelenting efforts and service to various boards and organizations.
“I’m not sure I deserve this honor,” Clark said when briefly taking the podium. “But I will take it with great pride.”
As part of the banquet, 27 Leadership Shawnee graduates were honored as Paulann Canty announced their completion of the community service course, which included 10 class sessions.
“Without service, I’m not sure we are effective as leaders,” Canty said.
The event also served as the annual changing of the guard as McCormick passed the gavel to the incoming 2011 chairman of the Chamber Board, Joe Ford.
Ford told McCormick he enjoyed seeing his passion for the community and chamber, and presented him a gavel award to mark his year of service.
As he looks forward to the upcoming year, Ford said it will be an honor to work with the chamber staff and he’s proud to serve like the many who served as chairman before him.
“I’m challenged by those who’ve come before me,” he said, adding his goal is for everyone to work together and move the city in the same direction.
Will Rosebure served as Master of Ceremonies of the event, held at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center.