Abe winners make others' lives better

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

The Vandalia Chamber of Commerce each year picks two individuals to honor for their contributions to the chamber and the community. The two people picked this year represent what the Abe Award means.

Sharon LaDage is probably most well-known as an educator. The Vandalia native taught English at the junior high and high school levels for 34 years, and also served as the Vandalia Community High School yearbook adviser and gifted coordinator for the Vandalia School District.

LaDage has also served on various faculty committees, sponsored extracurricular academic activities and presented writing workshops for the Regional Office of Education.

But she’s also been active outside the academic arena. LaDage has been involved in various community organizations, including Beta Sigma Phi sorority and Vandalia Main Street. Since retiring in 2002, LaDage has also become involved in Evergreen Outreach and the Vandalia Community Schools Foundation, recently taking over as chairman of the Vandalia Community Schools Alumni Association.

Like her husband, Bill, also a former educator and Abe Award winner, LaDage has exhibited a commitment to helping to improve the lives of others in the community.

In his 20-plus years as a member of the chamber, Dave Bell has served the organization in many ways, including a stint as president, involvement in the committee formed to build the welcome sign at the Vandalia Tourist Information Center and participation in the effort to create and maintain a chamber Web site.

Bell, the publisher of The Leader-Union, has also been active in the area in other ways – including his membership in the Vandalia Rotary Club and on the steering committee that is spearheading the effort to build a new home for the Family YMCA of Fayette County.

He and his wife, Jane, both of whom are former college athletes, have also worked directly with students at VCHS as they've coached the boys track team.

In selecting LaDage and Bell as Abe Award winners, the chamber has continued its tradition of recognizing individuals who give of themselves to make life better for others.