Chamber awards honors at annual dinner

Wanda English Burnett


Bill Cunningham, Mayor of the City of Lawrenceburg, was a welcome guest at the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner held November 18 at the South Ripley Elementary cafeteria.

A full house heard some figures from Cunningham as he shared some of the benefits the riverboat has bestowed on the area.

The Dearborn County Foundation has recently given over $2M to charitable and non-profits. Over $50M has been given to a surrounding 10-county area in the past five years. Ripley County has reaped the benefits of that sharing to the tune of $9M.

Mayor Cunningham complimented Dee Dee Benkie, who was in the audience. He said she is a wonderful advocate for Ripley County. Benkie is on the board for the Dearborn County Foundation as the representative for the Governor’s office.

The Mayor assured they have “all intentions to continue this (sharing) program.” He said, “As long as we have this money - you’ll have this money.”

He talked about the importance of keeping a vigilant watch on the money since the State would love to get it.

The benefit from revenue sharing to Dearborn and surrounding counties is imperative to the area’s economic future.

Barry Lauber, president of the chamber, thanked Cunningham for sharing revenue with Ripley County. He said Ripley County is working with three businesses right now because of the incentive package from the City of Lawrenceburg.

“It’s been an honor to share the money,” Cunningham concluded.

The annual meeting marked the 18th anniversary for the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce.
Cathy May, co-chair of the event, conducted the award presentations. Each person was given a plaque in honor of their service.

Business Person of the Year

The 2010 Business Person of the Year award went to Jerry Gilpin of Versailles.

May introduced Gilpin saying he was born in Milan and started learning the greenhouse trade at age 15.

In 1978 he purchased Hitz Greenhouse in Versailles. In 1984 he modernized the operation and changed the name to House and Garden Floral Center. He purchased Hill Monuments in 1985 and 10 years later started M&N Music, a concert promotions business.

In 2005, Gilpin added the screen printing and embroidery business.

Gilpin is very community oriented and has served on the county council, the sheriff’s merit board, Versailles and Ripley County chambers, and the Versailles Volunteer Fire Department. He has been a member of the Versailles Lions Club for 30 years where he has worked hard to promote Pumpkin Show events.

Married to Natalie Gilpin, he has four children, Bryan, Staci, John and Olivia.

Citizen of the Year

Anita Fledderman was selected as Ripley County’s Citizen of the Year.

Fledderman serves as the current Sunman Chamber of Commerce President and as chairperson for the Ripley County Community Foundation Marketing Committee. She also organizes and oversees the Sunman Wine Festival and serves as the co-chair of the Sunman Idol competition.

She also has time to be an active member of the St. Nicholas Church, where she has served on several committees and organizes their annual golf outing.

Fledderman has been working for Enhanced Telecommunications since 1999 as the Marketing Manager.

Anita has been married to Greg Fledderman for 16 years and is a life-long resident of Sunman.
In her spare time, Fledderman enjoys getting together with friends and family, competing in fantasy sports leagues and rooting on the Bengals and IU Basketball.

“And I personally know she is just a really nice person,” May concluded.

Educator of the Year

Phyllis Hull, third grade teacher at South Ripley Elementary School for 28 years, was announced as the Educator of the Year.

She graduated from South Ripley High School, attended Marion College, and continued her education completing her Masters Degree in Education from Indiana University.

Hull is a member of the Hopewell Baptist Church where she is described as being “passionate” about being involved in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

May told the crowd, “Phyllis has touched many lives by her kindness, her commitment to her students, her family, father, Wayne, brothers and a sister and her many friends.” She said that Hull takes the opportunity every day to show love and compassion to children. “She sets a wonderful example of what giving of ones self is all about,” May concluded.

The three accepting the awards all told the crowd they were initially “shocked” or “surprised” that they had been chosen. Fledderman said, “I am so very, very, honored.”

Gilpin noted, “This was a surprise.” He said he is still growing his business and noted his son, Bryan, would probably be taking the reigns in a few years.

Hull thanked everyone and said she was speechless. She regained her composure and accepted the award on behalf of her co-workers, who she said does the same thing as she does everyday. She also thanked her family in attendance, many coming from a long distance to be with her for the special evening.

Chamber President Lauber conducted a short business session to nominate and elect directors for 2011-2013. They include, Lauber of Osgood, Bonnie Jeffries, Versailles; David Baugh, Versailles; Lorie Taylor, Holton; and Justin Smith, Milan.

The Rolling Pin catered the meal for the evening and the silent auction was a big hit. The chamber was pleased with the number of items that area businesses had donated and the amount of money and interest they generated. Lorie Taylor headed up the auction.

Mayor Bill Cunningham, pictured below, was the keynote speaker at the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Dinner held November 18 at Versailles. Pictured above: Cathy May, left, co-chaired the event and honored (from left) Phyllis Hull as Educator of the Year; Jerry Gilpin as Business Person of the Year; and Anita Fledderman as Citizen of the Year; Chamber President Barry Lauber, presided over the event.