I’m tired today…but still smiling over the Chief’s win last night!! Breathing a little easier after losing 4 games early in the season. I imagine most of Chiefs Kingdom feel about the same. And wow…what about that wind on Wednesday…living in Kansas we’ve seen strong winds but that was one of the longest sustained straight winds I’ve experienced! I drove home from Topeka that afternoon and my car at times was shuddering. My warning light kept coming on…“Driver needs to rest”! It was a wild day and a strong storm…and we’ve retrieved all our outdoor Christmas decorations!

Following Wednesday, we had a good day at the office Thursday when we welcomed Chamber members (pictures here)…about 60 came by to enjoy a brunch and visit. Last year, of course, no one could host Christmas parties…it’s been good this year to reconnect. It feels better/good to wish everyone a Merry Christmas in person and hear how things are going…it is the way we are wired here in the Midwest.


The gift that keeps on giving – seems to continue to make a resurgence. Franklin County made State news yesterday by having the first case of the Omicron variant in Kansas. Health officials are saying Omicron is not as virulent as the Delta strain but more contagious. Brenda Pfizenmaier, Director of the Franklin County Health Department, said this week eventually COVID will be declared an endemic…defined as being a pandemic with which society learns how to cope. It seems we are there now to me. I realize numbers are up again in Franklin County…here is this week’s report. Currently we have 137 active cases and 3 hospitalizations. Vaccinated individuals are obviously more protected…only 6 breakthrough cases with none hospitalized.

Not COVID related but also from Brenda and the health department…Franklin County is currently engaged in our 3-year county health plan update. She wants as many local individuals to take the survey as possible…you can do so by clicking here. This year, it is a partnership effort with AdventHealth, Neosho County Community College, Elizabeth Layton Center, and ECKAN. The information is used to determine where the emphasis needs to be placed to make Franklin County a healthier, safer, better community in which to live.

Chamber Currency:

Chamber Currency is another way our community supports local businesses. During this holiday season in the last 2-weeks, six of our major local employers have purchased over $30,000.00 of chamber currency to be spent here in town! This is amazing!! Any Chamber member can accept the currency…when brought to the Chamber, we write a check to the business for the value of the currency. I know it looks like Monopoly money…but I guarantee it spends like real dollars. And…most importantly – it is only good here in Ottawa! Thank you to all who purchase the currency for gifts and bonuses to be spent here in town…you are amazing.

Community Annual Awards:

Our annual award ceremony is scheduled for January 27…we are now taking nominations for our community’s highest honor of the Russel Crites Award. Also, the Community Builder, Entrepreneur of the Year, the Horizon Award, and the Smile of the Year. You can nominate anyone by clicking here and filling out the appropriate form. This year our banquet will be sponsored by and held at Ottawa University…what a great community partner! Dr. Reggies Wenyika has agreed to emcee the event…worth the price of admission to listen to Dr. Reg!!

Chamber Building:

I learned a bit of local history that I found interesting…and which I had never heard before. In the late 1800’s, the building which is now the Chamber building was originally built as the Ottawa Post Office and referred to as the Shiras Building…Peter Shiras had the building constructed. It was called the “grandest building in Ottawa” by the local press. It remained as the Post Office for a number of years until 1914 when the building across the street was built. For years in local news stories it was referred to as “the old Post Office”…which I think is interesting given we now refer to the build on the corner across the street as “the old Post Office”. Eventually, the now Chamber building became the Ottawa Business College, housed several different retail stores, was a bank for many years, before becoming the Chamber offices in 1976. This information all came from the Franklin County Historical Society…another valuable local resource.

Staff News:

Every week I update you on news from my family…recently several have given me grief for never giving updates from Sherri and Ryland. First let me say what a great team…we are so lucky to have both working at the Chamber and advocating for Ottawa. They make it a pleasure to go to work every day. Recently Ryland became engaged…Makayla Hahn is now his fiancé. I’m still not sure how they met and fell in love during a pandemic when all were confined to stay at home…but they did. We love Makayla…here is their picture.

Sherri and her husband Dan were recently blessed with their second grandchild…a baby girl named Berklee Rae. She is such a sweetheart!! Here are a couple pictures plus one of their oldest grandson, Ethan. Sherri and Dan recently got to spend time with Ethan in North Carolina and are very anxious for them to come here for Christmas when they will have both grandchildren together.

And of course I have a few pictures of my grandkids…we went to Cedar Vale last weekend for a Christmas program and basketball game. Also this week, I met Chelsy and Marc in Topeka to babysit baby Johnna while they went to an appointment…that was a fun afternoon (pictures here).

We are having our family Christmas this weekend…I’m sure I’ll have pictures for next week. talk to you then.

Onward ~ John

John Coen
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
[email protected]