Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Memorial Day weekend is always the “unofficial official” beginning of summer…originally designated to remember all who have given their lives in service to our country, it has long since morphed into a weekend to honor and remember all who have gone before and played significant roles in our lives and the lives of our families. My grandmother always referred to it as Decoration Day…the day we decorated the graves of family members. Our extended families are all gathering on Sunday for camaraderie and remembering. 
 
School is OUT for the Summer:
 
Well…as of today, school’s out for the summer!! I know both kids and teachers are glad to be done…at least I know a teacher in my house who is ready for summer break. COVID was challenging to keep everything and everyone going…as it was for all – but think about managing all those kids, staff, sanitizing buildings constantly, COVID testing and quarantining, etc., etc. USD 290 was one of the few districts in Kansas which held school continuously in 2020/21 school year…many districts in the metropolitan area didn’t physically go to school until the final few weeks. What a tremendous challenge on families to provide guidance for children while trying to do their own professions and jobs…and teachers to prepare lessons. Kudos to our district leadership for all you did in 2020/21 to provide school for our kids!! 
 
Graduation was last Saturday…here is a picture of the OHS Seniors on what turned out to be a beautiful evening after rain most of the day. If you’re interested here is the list of all the graduates this year. 
 
2020 Awards Banquet:
 
Wednesday, Chamber members gathered to recognize and appreciate our local leaders which stepped up in 2020…80 gathered for lunch and good conversation at the Goppert Recreation Center. Dr. Reggies Wenyika opened our luncheon with a blessing thanking God for a celebration of gathering together…it did feel like a celebration to see everyone gathered, shaking hands, smiling and visiting. Gathering is something prior to 2020 we always took for granted…not anymore.
 
Every year, typically presented at our annual banquet, the Chamber recognizes community leaders who went above and beyond the bounds of normal leadership for the Ottawa and Franklin County community. The Favorite Smile Award honors someone who is always pleasant and is a constant ambassador for our community…this year’s honoree was Tiffany Evans, director of Ottawa Memorial Auditorium.
 
The Entrepreneur of the Year was Mary Raley for starting Maggie’s Popcorn and Nuts…and now this year adding an ice cream parlor. The Horizon Award acknowledges an “up and coming” leader…for 2020, Mallory Hull who chairs the Chamber Ambassador Committee and also serves on the Executive Board of the Chamber was chosen.
 
Our community’s two top honors, the Community Builder Award and the Russel Crites Award, identify someone who has brought the community together and made us better…and in the case of the Russel Crites award, has gone above and beyond normal service and duty for the community.  This year’s Community Builder is Dr. Reggies Wenyika for growing Ottawa University and more closely integrating the life of the University with the life of the community…thanks and great job Reggies!! 
 
The Russel Crites recipient is an individual who I’ve had the honor of serving with on the hospital board for many years…Dr. Ken Frank. Ken is a servant and local businessman, but more than that this year. He was honored for his vision and commitment to the community by investing in the PrimeTime Grill and Fusion Alley, bringing jobs and recreation to Ottawa. Ken developed an investment group and brought bowling back to Ottawa…and did it at a time when we needed something with which to be inspired. Thanks Ken for your vision and leadership!!
 
Congratulations to all the honorees!! Here are pictures of 2020’s community leaders!
 
Gregg Colbern:
 
The community gathered to celebrate a longtime community leader and local electrician who is officially retiring (picture here). John Campanelli, who purchased Performance Electric from Gregg and David Rossman several years ago, provided barbeque and fixings for all who came to congratulate Gregg…the room was full of friends, family, co-workers and I think every local contractor in the area. It was a good celebration for someone who deserves to slow down and take it easy…congratulations Gregg!!
 
American Eagle Outfitters (AEO):
 
AEO is an amazing local corporate citizen. You remember during the pandemic, they infused $27,000.00 into Ottawa by purchasing Chamber Currency and then providing it to their employees to spend…additionally the organization donated $10,000.00 to Hope House most recently. AEO also supports the community by challenging its employees to volunteer for local initiatives. Last Friday, the company brought 3 work crews to Legacy Square on 2 separate days to help pull weeds and spruce up the public facility…here are pictures of some of the volunteers. Their local efforts and contributions are led by Anna Bricker…also a current member of your Chamber Board of Directors. Thanks to AEO and Anna for your commitment and service to Ottawa!!
 
Royals:
 
Not the British ones…the Kansas City ones. Last Friday, Cherry and I finally got back to Kauffman Stadium for our first game in 2-years…it was great to be in a ballpark again (pictures here). In 2020, Cherry and I attended 2 spring training games at the end of February in Surprise, Arizona…who knew at the time they would be the only games we attended all year – and the last for the next 15-months. I love being in a stadium enjoying the sounds and smells…there’s nothing purer than the sound of a bat cracking a ball on a summer evening. Watch these guys this year…this team isn’t as good as the 2015 team…but they’re comers. This 2021 team might surprise us…wouldn’t it be would be fun to get back to the playoffs!!
 
Here is a picture of another ballplayer…and a second baseball game we attended this week at Appanoose Grade School in north Franklin County. Not quite the sophistication of play…but there is nothing more American than kids and baseball!
 
Hope you are planning a relaxing Memorial Weekend that involves family, friends and unwinding. 
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000