COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Incoming Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Kristen McEnroe addresses the dozens in attendance at Camp Eberhart’s Klinger Hall during the Chamber’s annual awards ceremony and celebration dinner Wednesday.COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Birch Meadows Senior Care, owned by Diane (left) and Kirt Stauffer (center), was awarded the David M. Armstrong Memorial Award during Wednesday’s Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce dinner for their commitment to displaying values of faith, family and job in their work. Also pictured is Violet Korkinsky (right).COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - (From left to right) Maddie Jackson, Abby Fader, Melissa Bliss and Tracie Hinkley received their graduation certificates from the Leadership St. Joseph County program during Wednesday’s Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Chamber of Commerce dinner celebrates local business accomplishments

FABIUS TWP. — Area businesses and business leaders were recognized and awarded for their many accomplishments and investments in the community in the past calendar year at an annual dinner event.

The Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce held their annual awards ceremony and celebration dinner at Klinger Hall on the grounds of Camp Eberhart in Fabius Township Wednesday night. Attended by dozens from the local business community, the theme of the dinner was “Flannels and Flapjacks,” with the majority of attendees wearing casual flannel shirts and enjoying a dinner of breakfast food, such as pancakes, bacon, sausage and fruit, put together by Camp Eberhart’s staff.

“One of my favorite parts of the job is to be able to celebrate with the businesses and hear their stories and be able to share that with the community,” Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christy Trammell said following the ceremony. “We’re grateful we have such unique and cool spots in St. Joseph County that we can highlight, bring people here who have never been here, and hold our event here.”

The recognitions began with the newest graduates of the Chamber’s Leadership St. Joseph County class, which gives those who sign up the opportunity to build leadership skills by contributing in a number of different ways, including a community service project.

Abby Fader, one of this year’s graduates, said it was a “great experience” and she learned plenty from the class. She said they started off with an assessment of their personality traits and leadership styles, and then worked on communicating with other people and their traits. Following that, she said the class discussed the community as a whole, with one of the activities being a tour of Kadant Johnson and having interactive presentations on different subjects.

“Overall, it’s a great program, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking to learn more about themselves and more about their community, and more overall just to communicate,” Fader said.

The community service project for this year’s group was putting together an online directory for service club resources in the county. Class graduate Melissa Bliss said this particular project was inspired by the Elks Club’s annual assistance to kids with special needs and a need to give people a way to connect with local resources, and service clubs in particular.

“Our goal is to help clubs grow their membership and connect our neighbors with these local resources,” Bliss said.

Bliss, Fader, Maddie Jackson and Tracie Hinkley were this year’s Leadership St. Joseph County graduates.

Following that recognition was the board chairpersons’ addresses, starting with outgoing Chamber chair Greg Moore, who recalled all the accomplishments of the Chamber throughout the year, including the success of the Water Festival, IceBreaker, and “record” rentals at their new facility on North Main Street.

“I have the pleasure and good fortune of interacting with another of Chambers and Chamber professionals around the state and how they operate. I can tell you without hesitation that what we have been able to accomplish with this Chamber with a staff of two people is nothing short of remarkable,” Moore said, praising Trammell’s leadership of the organization. “I truly believe that Christy Trammell is one of the best Chamber presidents around in this state. Her passion for this organization is unparalleled. The amount of after-hours time she puts in speaks to that passion, and her desire to put the Chamber and the community and this organization first is just remarkable.”

In an annual tradition, Moore then passed the chairpersons’ gavel off to the next Chamber board chair, Kristen McEnroe, who was chair back in 2020-21. McEnroe then gave a preview of the Chamber’s five goals for next year, which were tourism, engagement, housing, labor and legislative priorities.

With the housing goal, McEnroe said it continues to be a “struggle” in the community, with people continuing to ask about rentals, leases and the landlord list. She said the Chamber will look at ways to encourage new housing development, better broadband service, and relocation of employees.

Specifically talking about legislative priorities, advocating for education legislation was top of the list, with McEnroe acknowledging the guidance on the issue from St. Joseph County ISD Superintendent and Chamber board vice chair Teresa Belote. McEnroe said the Chamber will look to support Senate Bill 861 and Senate Bill 942, which she said would provide an “expedited pathway” for experienced teachers and counselors certified in other states to work in Michigan.

Overall, McEnroe said she looks forward to the year ahead for the Chamber.

“Promoting and serving this community is very important to me. I look forward to the amazing things that come this year,” McEnroe said.

After McEnroe’s address, various awards were given out to local businesses, including the annual Brick Awards, which are given to those who Trammell said have made “significant investments” in the community in the past year. This year’s recipients were Confluence Cannabis for opening up their storefront and their goal to provide space to other up-and-coming businesses, Harbor Farmz Provisioning for opening their new storefront in Three Rivers and being the first recreational marijuana shop in the city, Glen Oaks Community College for their two renovation projects currently in progress, the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging for their pickleball/shuffleboard court project, Satori Guest Properties for their positive feedback on Airbnb, and Camp Eberhart for the construction of the camp’s new bathhouse.

Other awards included Bliss receiving the Community Service Award, Sabrina Helland and Flagstar Bank for winning the Outstanding Customer Service Award, Jackson receiving the Chamber Participation Award, and Clayton Lyczynski receiving the Ambassador Award.

The final award handed out for the evening was the David M. Armstrong Memorial Award, which is given to someone who displays values of faith, family and job in their work. This year’s recipients were Kirt and Diane Stauffer, the owners of Birch Meadows Senior Care in Three Rivers. In the nomination letter for them, read out by Rex Scare of Armstrong International, it discusses how the company’s faith in God impacts what they do.

“The leadership team is committed to praying for the right residents and right employees to join the team. They believe if they serve the elders in our community with the heart of Jesus, he will bless everyone around them,” Scare read. “It is not uncommon for them to pray with a resident or a team member. They often play worship music, which results in a peaceful environment where everyone can thrive. Respect and dignity also perfectly describe who they are.”

Overall, Trammell said following the ceremony said it is always special to recognize the businesses and the people surrounding them for everything they do for the community.

“We have so much that happens in our community, and to be able to celebrate with them and recognize them for their accomplishments and their investments is a special evening,” Trammell said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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