Two individuals who have been involved extensively in community activities were honored with Abe Awards at Thursday’s annual banquet of the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce.
Receiving the non-chamber-member award was Joyce Mueller, a longtime volunteer in a variety of Vandalia organizations. The chamber-member award went to Doug Knebel, the community bank president for Midland States Bank, 2008 president of the Vandalia chamber and member of a number of civic organizations.
Also at the banquet, 2011 chamber president Dana Whiteman outlined her plans and priorities for the coming year.
Mueller, who did not know she was going to receive the Abe Award, was introduced by 2011 chamber secretary Greg Starnes. He noted that the common thread in Mueller’s involvements was that they “are all helping other people in our community.”
Among those groups in which she’s involved are Nice Twice, Vandalia Tourism Commission, National Road Interpretive Center, Our Place, Home and Community Education, United Methodist Women, Fayette County Museum and Evergreen Outreach.
“When in need, there are many residents who have been blessed by the selfless time and compassion so generously given by this individual,” said Starnes.
“She has spent time with those who have needed help in preparing and following a budget, avoiding drugs and alcohol, traveling to and from doctor appointments, doing their laundry, mending their clothing and even helping with their pets.”
After receiving her award, Mueller confessed that “it never crossed my mind that I’d get an award like this. I just enjoy each and every undertaking I’m involved in.”
She also praised Mary Truitt and Phyllis Rames for setting examples that encouraged her to get involved.
Similarly, Knebel is active in many community organizations – including Rotary, Vandalia Main Street, SAFE, Fayette County Hospital District Board and the Vandalia Country & Golf Club.
For the chamber, he is serving on the organization’s board of directors, is co-chair of the ways and means committee, and has previously served on the scholarship and new business breakfast committees.
The Vandalia native is a graduate of Greenville College in accounting and has worked in a variety of businesses prior to entering banking five years ago.
“A big part of my job is to get involved in the community,” Knebel said, “and that’s turned out to be the most rewarding part of what I do. It’s all part of giving back to this wonderful community.
“This is a big honor. Thank you.”
Current chamber president Dana Whiteman also addressed the audience, introducing a concept she called “The Chamber Promise.”
“We promise to help you build a strong business and a strong community,” she said. “To do that, we will:
• Let all who contact us know about your business;
• Provide networking and advertising opportunities;
• Offer a variety of training materials and classes.
“The chamber is a valuable resource center for you. When you need us, we are here.”
During the coming year, she said, the chamber will continue to hold
“Business After Hours socials, offer new ways for member businesses to market themselves and provide networking opportunities during monthly meetings," she said.
She also said that the chamber will continue to hold several major events during the year, including Thursday’s banquet, a Home & Garden Show (March 12) and a new business breakfast. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies will be held for new businesses, with those newcomers receiving a First Dollar Award.
“It’s going to be an amazing year,” Whiteman said, “thanks to the foundation that the past presidents have laid for us. I am anxious to continue to build for the future growth of this community.”
Wrapping up the program at the banquet was Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman.
He underscored the importance of citizen involvement. He challenged members of the audience to work with the city to support local businesses and to bring new jobs to the area.
“We’re going through tough times,” Gottman said.
“We have to be a team; we have to support each other. We all must promote Vandalia – here at home and all over the state.
"That’s how we’re going to build our community, our employment and our future.”