The Ripley County Chamber of Commerce celebrated 20 years at their annual meeting and awards dinner Nov. 15 to the tunes of Keith Swinney and Lora Iceberg Parks. The local duo provided blended talent to take the event to a level of fun and excitement as people were honored.
Marsha Brinson was named the 2012 Educator of the Year. She has taught elementary school for more than 16 years, with most of those at South Ripley.
Brinson completed her undergraduate work at Hanover College in 1990 and earned her Master's degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.
"Marsha is loved by her students," noted Cathy May, who introduced the award winners. "She goes over and above to make each student feel special. She takes time with each child to help them understand what tools to use to help them learn," May continued. May said that Brinson "gives her all – every day – to serve her kids. She makes learning fun!"
Brinson also serves as the 4-H leader of the Olean Volunteers Club where she is known to give the same level of care to the members of the club. She lives on their family farm in Olean with husband, Tad, and three children, Jacob, Kelsey and Abby.
Brinson thanked those who nominated her. She said there was a special teacher in her high school years who inspired her to get into education. The crowd was not surprised to hear her name Mary Margaret Moorhead, who was a long time teacher at South Ripley.
The 2012 Business Person of the Year award went to Marc Rulli, owner of Gold Star Chili in Versailles.
As May introduced Rulli, she said he has proven to be a great partner in the community. She noted that a new business has never made such a positive impact on the community so quickly. She noted that in the history of the chamber, no one has been nominated as many times as Rulli, he received 14 nominations in all.
"His contributions toward non-profit organizations and fundraising for special needs, as well as donations, has been outstanding," May noted. "Since Marc has opened his restaurant he has been everywhere when there has been a need." Rulli and his wife, Kristi have three children: Alessa, Jacob and Dominic.
Rulli thanked the chamber for the award and said, "It means a lot that you have the confidence in me." He went on to say that being in Versailles has exceeded all his expectations. "I feel like I'm a member of the community," he noted. "I'm happy to be here." He thanked the chamber for 20 years of serving the community.
Roger Kavauaugh, Versailles, was named the 2012 Citizen of the Year.
Kavanaugh was introduced with a short bio saying he graduated from Indiana State University in Evansville in 1975. He served in the Vietnam War in the US Army from 1971-1973 with the 1st Air Cavalry.
Kavanaugh owned Rogers Service Center in Versailles for a number of years and is now retired. He is a member of the Versailles American Legion where he recently served as the chairman of the Holton tornado relief, helping with supplies, food and materials for those in Holton. He also is the chairman of the Christmas program where supplies, toys and food for 50 families in the South Ripley School District are distributed.
One of his greatest accomplishments was to serve on the Vietnam Veterans Committee that helped bring the Vietnam Wall to Versailles this past July. He was responsible for getting the wall set up and torn down. It took 18 months of planning for the event to take place.
"Roger has called Bingo at the legion every Friday night for the last 16 years," May noted. She said he does between 600-800 hours of community service a year in Ripley County making him more than eligible for the award.
Kavanaugh and wife, Debra have three children, three grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.
Thanking the chamber for the award, Kavanaugh talked about his responsibility in getting the wall into place. He said he found out some things. One, that people don't use phones anymore, just email and two, that the soldiers from the Patriot Academy, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, were in better shape to do the labor! He said the young men were a great asset in getting the walls in place and then taking them down again, quite a job.
When May left the podium thinking all awards had been given out, she was surprised as the chamber president, Matt McNew, called her up again.
McNew noted that May has resigned from the chamber at the end of this year, marking her 20th year of service. She is a charter member, serving on the board of directors, as the treasurer and president, and chairperson on almost every event throughout the years.
To name a few accomplishments, May has served on the Ripley County Community Foundation for seven years. Another endeavor she has been involved in is the tourism commission, Osgood Library Board for 16 years, Osgood Beautification Committee as president; is a member of the Osgod Baptist Church where she is the choir director; and involved in the Ross Run DAR. She was the 1999 Citizen of the Year at the Speaking of Women event, sponsored by Margaret Mary Community Hospital.
May is known for her Second Sunday Shuttle ministry where she has taken people for 16 years to various events and outings every month.
She has been employed with WSCH Radio for 18 years, has written more than 1,000 columns for the local newspaper, the Osgood Journal and The Versailles Republican.
"Every community needs a Cathy May," McNew concluded.
May reclaimed the podium for just a few minutes to express her gratitude to the chamber for giving her the award and beautiful clock. She said, "I have loved the chamber from the start." As words failed her she said, "This is the best chamber of commerce in the whole world," to which the audience applauded.
A special tribute in the form of the song, "I Wish You Well My Friend" was sang to May by Lora Iceberg Parks who was accompanied by her sister, Amy Thomas on the piano. Thomas serves as the chamber's executive director.
The meeting ended with a number of songs from the special entertainment and items from the silent auction tallied.
To learn more about what the chamber does in the community or to become a member call Thomas at 689-6654.
WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTOS
Pictured at left, Cathy May, seated, received an award from chamber president, Matt McNew, for her 20 years of service to the chamber. Also honored at the annual meeting were (pictured below from left): Roger Kavanaugh, citizen of the year; Marsha Brinson, educator of the year and Marc Rulli, business person of the year. The meeting took place at the South Ripley Elementary School Cafeteria.