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Chamber Recognizes Community Excellence

By Staff | May 20, 2009

Professional of the Year Dr. David Harshberger, Sandy Hunt, Employee of the Year Lisa Northcraft, and Amy Witschey

The Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce honored seven community members and one group for their contributions in the areas of education, business, and civic involvement during their annual awards dinner April 30.

Those gathered at the Mollohan Center on the Wetzel County 4-H grounds enjoyed an evening of good conversation and food while joining together to support their community.

He says he is better known as “Pat Block’s husband” or “the guy with the dogs”, but Ken Block is now also known as the Citizen of the Year. Having been in many charities and groups in Wetzel County since he moved here 40 years ago, Block talked particularly about the pet therapy he administers in local nursing homes and Wetzel County Hospital. When he started that avocation 16 years ago, it was a new and somewhat radical idea. But George Couch, then administrator of the New Martinsville Health Care Center, welcomed the furry visitors to the nursing home. That reach has now expanded to Wetzel County Hospital and sometimes Sistersville Center.

“We only spend a few minutes with the patients, but they enjoy it,” said Ken. The dogs visit with about 30 patients per week, or 1,000 per year. He said that figures to approximately 10,000 visits in a dog’s lifetime.

People he doesn’t even know will stop him on the street and thank him for taking the dogs to visit their relative. He said it does make a difference in their lives.

Co-Business Owner of the Year Norma Binegar, Carl McDonald, Co-Business Owner of the Year Greg Yost, and Jerry Yost

Ken thanked his wife and children for their support over the years. He noted that often people will tell him that New Martinsville is fortunate to have the Blocks here. “I consider we are fortunate to live here,” he countered.

Greg Yost of Sounds Incredible received his Co-Business Owner of the Year award from his father, Jerry Yost. He said that ever since Greg was a sophomore in high school he wanted to run a music store. When he graduated from TRW Sound Engineering School in Chillicothe, Ohio, he had many recommendations of jobs elsewhere, but Jerry said Greg “wanted to stay at New Martinsville and at home, and we’re glad he did.”

Greg said when he looked around the room he was humbled when he saw people more deserving of the award. He said he could not accept the honor alone. “It’s been a family thing from the very beginning,” he noted. He thanked them for their help, particularly his parents who never made him think his dream was out of reach. He also thanked his wife. “She’s been very accepting,” he said of the long hours and not being at home much in the early days.

“I hope it’s not the climax of my career, but it certainly is a high point,” said Co-Business Owner of the Year Norma Binegar of Country Roads Ford when accepting her award. She thanked her customers, employees, and husband for their support. “I’m really proud to be a part of this community,” said Binegar.

Binegar received the award from Carl McDonald. He said when he moved to the area in 1993 he bought his first car from Binegar and now he has been privileged to be one of her employees for the past three years.

Tammy Chambers, Educator of the Year Rachel Melott, Youth Leadership/Volunteer of the Year Mallory Estel, and Chambers

Eric Vincent, who also served as master of ceremonies, presented the Civic Group of the Year award to Quota International, represented by President Shawna Christner. She thanked the chamber for the honor and said volunteerism is very important to a community. Unfortunately, like many civic groups, Quota membership is dwindling, currently at 15.

However, she said even a small number can make a big difference. Christner recently delivered items to a local school. “The smiles that our donation generated will be with me forever,” she said.

Employee of the Year Lisa Northcraft of the Wetzel Chronicle thanked the chamber for the award, Amy Witschey for nominating her, and Steve and Sandy Hunt for their support of the Buy Local promotion. “It has been a pleasure to work with two people who are very concerned about the community in which they live,” said Northcraft.

She also thanked her family. “They have always been very supportive and have handled my way of life very well,” she said.

Saying she didn’t think she was deserving of the honor, Northcraft said, “I’m just a person who tries to do my job to the best of my ability and try to give 110 percent every day.”

Civic Group of the Year Quota International President Shawna Christner, Eric Vincent, Citizen of the Year Ken Block, and Kaye Forbes

Educator of the Year Rachel Melott received her award from Paden City Elementary School Principal Tammy Chambers. A 34-year employee of Wetzel County Schools, Melott said she hopes her students remember her as the one who taught them to read or taught them to enjoy reading. Presently teaching second grade at PCES, Melott has taught first, second, and third grades at Jacksonburg Grade School, Grandview Elementary, Short Line School, and New Martinsville School.

Chambers also presented the Youth Leadership/Volunteer of the Year award to Mallory Estel. Her principal, Chambers said she nominated Estel because she is a wonderful role model for all of the students at PCES. She is always thinking of charities and ways to make them money. “She’s one of the biggest leaders in our school,” said Chambers. Estel, 12, is the youngest person to ever receive the WCCC honor.

Professional of the Year Dr. David Harshberger was very brief in his acceptance speech, thanking all the people who have trusted him to be their eye doctor. He also offered his gratitude to his family and staff.

Finally, Board President Don Riggenbach gave the annual Board Person of the Year award to Janey Longwell, saying she works to make the WCCC visible. “It’s a joy and I enjoy everyone I work with,” noted Longwell.

Board Person of the Year Janey Longwell and Board President Don Riggenbach