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Cheering for the DL Area Chamber

SJE RHOMBUS EMPLOYEES accept the Wellness in the Workplace Award, as they are praised for "setting the bar

Red and white balloons and pompoms splashed spirit around the pavilion Thursday night as the Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting and banquet to "cheer the chamber" and its local businesses.

Almost 200 people showed up for the one and only yearly meeting for an evening of socializing and awards.

"We get to have fun and celebrate the things we've done and honor those that have worked so hard to make not only the Chamber work, but the city and the whole region -- to just cheer on all the businesses," said Chamber President Carrie Johnston.

A slew of awards were handed out to area professionals Johnston calls some real "go-getters," chosen by either the Chamber Committee or the chairman.

The awards began with recognizing the recipients of the "Super Service Awards," handed out quarterly throughout the year.

Bea Burnside of Lakes Sport Shop, Diane Bellefeuille of Lakeshirts, Andy Moen of Arvig Communication System and Sue Sorenson of Emmanuel Nursing Home all received this award for their outstanding service to clients, tourists, customers and co-workers.

The "Rising Star Awards" were given to Sam Rufer of Pemberton Law Firm for his work on the Chamber Board of Directors and the Agri-business Committee, and to Paul Sandman of Leighton Broadcasting for his leadership with the Chamber Promotion and Events Committee.

Brad Green was handed the "Tourism Award" for his work on the Heartland trail extension and in-city bike trails.

The "Volunteer of the Year" award went to Barb Halbakken-Fischburg for her leadership in the awareness effort of the effects of Aquatic Invasive Species in area lakes.

Wellness in the workplace awards went to Midwest Bank for providing fresh fruit, safety training, flu shots and wellness screenings, and to SJE- Rhombus for creating employment achievement awards and promoting health, safety and wellness among employees.

"They (SJE-Rhombus) have established what the bar should really be for all of us," commented Cindi Anderson of the board of directors.

The Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center received the Chairman's Business Award for exemplifying what the chamber is hoping to achieve and for carrying out the chamber's mission -- actively promoting health and wellness while being community minded.

A surprised Jill Mack, of ACS, received the Chairman's Individual Award for reviving the Parade of Lights, which happens the Friday after Thanksgiving.

"For those of you who have been to the parade in the past, you've seen the attendance in terms of floats and people viewing it dwindle until 2010," Chamber Chairman Josh Hochgraber spoke to the crowd, "This person took it upon herself to actively recruit floats."

"I had no idea," said Mack, "so when he started talking about it I was like, 'uh-oh' -- It feels great though," adding with a laugh, "I talked to as many people as I could ... I hit up everybody I knew to encourage participation."

The annual meeting is also the event where three members of the Chamber's Board of Directors are rotated out and three new ones are voted in.

Outgoing this year were Cindi Anderson, Kristie Fritz, and John Green.

Voted in were Chris Holland-Melhaff, Mary Brenk, Ryan Hill, and Doug Froke, who is completing the term of Chris Valdez.

Their terms now go for three years.

Finally, in a ceremonial passing of the gavel, Hochgraber then turned his Chairman's gavel over to the new chair-elect, LeAnn Mouw.

The event also recognized Walk or Bike to Work or School Week with a mock fashion show (complete with some shiny bicycles, hats, and carefully crafted smiles) and a drawing for chamber bucks.

Johnston says the event, which she dubbed a "success," was a chance for chamber members to get together for both business and pleasure.

"It gets people to network, and hopefully make business connections so that people remember to do business with their neighbor."