By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Friends, family members, business owners, and many more gathered on Thursday to the 41 Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards celebration held at Canaan Valley Resort. Over the last few months, the Chamber of Commerce has solicited a secret committee to review the nominations sent in for the recognition of Educator of the Year, Student of the Year, Employee of the Year, Business of the Year, Athlete of the Year, Community Service Award, and the top secret Tuckineer, who is the only one unaware of their name to be called.
After the social time, Jessica Waldo, Executive Director of the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce greeted the guests in the at capacity banquet room, followed by a warm welcome from President Andrew Snyder. Pastor John Moyers asked the blessing over the food and event before the Canaan Valley Resort staff served a succulent meal.
After the meal, prize drawings began with award winners being recognized in between. The first award to be recognized was Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Mountain Hospice, Ms. Kelly Reed. Reed is a first grade teacher at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School, where she has been employed since August of 2018. In her nominations, one colleague wrote, “As a teacher myself, I know the amount of time you have devote to educating young minds. However, Ms. Reed goes above and beyond. She isn’t afraid to challenge their minds and watch as they succeed, because she knew they could do it.” Another nomination said, “She works tirelessly to help her students learn. Daily, she puts in far more hours than the typical eight hour work day. She has given my daughter the gift of reading. More than that, she has inspired my daughter to want to become a teacher.” After receiving her award, Reed stated, “I enjoy spending every day with the little people…” and thanked the Chamber, her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, parents, brother, fellow teachers, and children.
The next award was for the Student of the Year, sponsored by Sirianni’s Café, which went to TCHS student, Riley Evans. One nomination said, “Riley is someone who demonstrates strong leadership skills and a hardworking attitude. She is not afraid to face new challenges. She is a self-motivated young lady who has not only excelled in her academics, but has aspired and acquired several honors and honorable mentions.” Another added, “Riley Evans has always given to our beloved Tucker County. From baking treats for our Cortland Acres residents to volunteering as an assistant Bible school teacher at Riverview Church, Riley has over 120 official hours of community service and many more unofficial hours. Her service to the community, academic excellence, athletic excellence, and leadership among her peers make Riley the obvious choice for this year’s Student of the Year.” Evans’ brother actually received the same honor in 2016, and she was happy to continue the honor. Upon receiving her plaque, Evans thanked the Chamber, those who nominated her for the award, Sirianni’s, her teachers especially Mr. Eakle, her parents, friends, and boyfriend for their continued support.
The 2019 Employee of the Year Award, sponsored by Blackwater Falls State Park, went to their very own employee of over 39 years, Lois Reed. One nomination said, “Tucker County has benefited from the warm, welcoming presence of Lois Reed at Blackwater Falls. She is very much a part of the Tucker County brand. She utilizes finesse and has a calming influence on others, while maintaining the ideals of the park. She does not allow situations to spiral out of hand, but keeps her composure and seeks to find solutions to issues. Lois has been consulted by outside state park systems who were interested in developing state park lodging, the US Army National Guard-Camp Dawson sought Lois’ advice when setting up and renovation of the main lodge at the Preston County compound, and other WV State Parks seeking advice. The WV State Parks Central Office has consulted with Lois for years seeking counsel on implementing new programs, rate schedules and functions.” Another said, “Her commitment to the success of Blackwater Falls and Tucker County is unparalleled. She is known by so many both in the Tucker County industry professionals and guests of Blackwater. The fact that these visitors know her personally is a perfect indicator of her strong hospitality focus.” Reed and her family run a large farming operation consisting of cattle, maple syrup, and much more. She noted that even though she doesn’t reside in Tucker County, she spends as much time here as anywhere else and she was honored to do so.
The Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Best of Canaan, went to Mountain State Brewing Comopany, Brian Arnett and Willie Lehmann. A brief recap of their history was displayed on the big screen that can also be found on the company’s website. As the nominations poured in for this business, one stated, “Mountain State Brewing is passionate about its products and the community. The company regularly supports local events, donating time and merchandise for good cause. Brian and Willy are also always willing to help out local individuals, families and organizations. If someone or a group needs space for a fundraiser, all they have to do is ask. You won’t be turned away empty handed.” Another read, “Owners Brian Arnett and Willie Lehmann are setting a wonderful example that entrepreneurship can begin and thrive in the Mountain State…and more importantly, in Tucker County. Consisting of office staff, brewers, servers, drivers and organizers, the Mountain State staff are known for their friendly service and small-town hospitality. With a wonderful website and great staff…and some damn good beer…Brian and Willie and staff are shining a bright light on Tucker County. They are proud of their mountain home and the clean, clear water they use to create a dozen different craft beers.” Upon receiving their award, the business partners said, “We really couldn’t have come this far without a great crew and friends.”
After several more prizes were awarded, the next award to be recognized was the Community Service Award, sponsored by Monongalia General Hospital. Unfortunately, a representative of the sponsors was unable to attend; therefore, Waldo did the honor of introducing this year’s recipient, Rob Burns. One nomination said, “Mr. Burns has dedicated a majority of his life to volunteer work, community programs, and community development. It goes without saying that there is no one more dedicated to our social foundation or the kindness required to inspire an entire community.” Another noted, “Mr. Burns is a staple in this community. In addition to his lead role at the Tucker Community Foundation, Mr. Burns currently serves as President for the St. George Medical Clinic, President of the Tucker County Family Resource Network, is a Founding Member and Treasurer of the Tucker County Culture District Authority, Board Member of both the Tucker County Rotary and Tucker County Parents as Teachers. Mr. Burns also, in recent past, served on the Tucker County Landmark Commission, the Parsons City Council, was the Treasurer of the Tucker County Planning Commission, was the Treasurer for ArtSpring, Treasurer of Highland Community Builders, and served as a member on both the Hardwood Alliance Zone Board and the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce Board.” As Burns took his spot behind the podium, he said, “I do thank you all for having me tonight and this award,” as he jokingly said he obviously doesn’t know how to say “no”.
Blackwater Bikes was the sponsor of the next award, Athlete of the Year. This award has only been distributed three times, the last being to Jed Drenning in the later 1990s. Photos were shown of this year’s recipient, John Logar, of his outdoor endeavors, including that of 2014 when he completed a 1,000 mile race on foot across Alaska in 23 days, 23 hours, and 10 minutes. Just this year, Logar completed the same trek, however this time on bicycle in 19 days, 3 hours, and 56 minutes. One nomination wrote, “My nomination today requires bringing back an award that has not been given out in many years. I feel after this year’s accomplishments of John Logar, winning the Iditarod 1,000 mile series for the 2nd time, he is deserving of this award. In 2014 he won the 1,000 mile foot race and in 2019 the 1,000 mile bike race. I feel it is time to wipe off and break out the Athlete of the Year Award and honor John Logar.”Another nomination said, “Dr. Logar recently won the Iditarod Trail Invitational. He rode 1,000 miles on a bike to win this challenging event. Dr. Logar is often seen around our county biking, hiking and enjoying all the outdoor activities this county has to offer. He has proven that his athletic ability can sustain those athletes, even as they grow in age and ability.” Logar accepted his award and thanked his wife and kids. He said, “People ask how I train; I training in a place other people vacation,” he explained. The variety Tucker County has to offer in this situation is unparalleled by any other location.
The final award for the evening came after the last prizes had been distributed. This award is sponsored by Citizens Bank and was announced by Debbie Ritter. This prestigious award is known as the Tuckineer (Tucker/Mountaineer) and the recipient seldom knows ahead of time they are receiving it. As Ritter took center, she began reading a list of accomplishments of an individual and his dedication to serving the citizens, businesses, facilities, and environment of Tucker County. The fascinating facts continued being read by Ritter before the announcement was finally made, that the 2019 Tuckineer was none other than Mayor Joe Drenning. Surrounded by his family with wife in tears, Drenning slowly rose from his chair and accepted this honor. “I am guilty of all those things,” Drenning said as the crowd chuckled. “This award is a great thing and I appreciate it. The only bad thing is there’s only one and the county is full of them (Tuckineers).” Drenning recognized many individuals in the room he felt was equally as deserving for this honor before making his closing remark. “So I will accept this award on behalf of everyone in this county.”