Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Honors Community Leaders

The Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce hosted their 66th Annual Awards Banquet Saturday, March 4. The event was attended by over 300 community members at the Comfort Inn Conference Center in Mt. Pleasant, to celebrate local leaders, volunteers, and area businesses. The event included a presentation of a variety of awards recognizing individuals in the community who have given of themselves to better the area.

Long-time Mt. Pleasant resident and community leader Don Hire received the 2022 Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award at the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce's 66th Annual Awards Banquet on March 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce)2022 Outstanding Citizen of the Year: Don Hire

The biggest honor of the night went to long-time Mt. Pleasant resident and community leader Don Hire. Hire said he had no idea ahead of time that he had been selected to receive the award. He was in attendance to support other deserving community members being honored—people whom he said are the reason he has been so involved in the community over the years in the first place.

“There's a lot of really great people that I get a chance to meet, and I have had a lot of friends through the work with different organizations,” he explained. “There are many good people here in the local area; it’s just basically a joy of working with these fine people.”

Hire has a long history of service to the Mt. Pleasant community, including playing an active role in the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant and serving as a volunteer for their various fundraisers. He has also served as the Assistant Coach for Sacred Heart Academy’s softball and baseball teams, along with volunteering for their events. In addition, Hire has been a board member for the Pardee Cancer Treatment Fund of Isabella County, a Christmas Outreach volunteer, and an organizer for the Mid-Michigan Woodworkers.

“I really don’t stop and think about it,” he said when asked to reflect on his years of dedication to the community. “It’s just in me, I guess, to just go ahead and do things that they need me to do.” 

Hire said he knew the Mt. Pleasant area’s atmosphere of community building was unique right from the start.

“I lived in several other different locations, and this one sort of stands out as the one that seems to really work very closely together and accomplish a lot of things because of it,” he said of the community. “We found a home and stayed here.”

Hire added that giving back in so many different ways connects to something a former supervisor once told him: “Do a job. Do it right. Do it complete.”

2022 Rising Star Community Impact Award winner Sarah Christensen poses for a picture with Amanda Schafer during the 66th Annual Awards Banquet on March 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce)2022 Rising Star Community Impact Award: Sarah Christensen

Sarah Christensen, the General Manager of GreenTree Co-op Market, was also honored for her dedication to the community, including her role in the opening of GreenTree's new location downtown.

Christensen said she gives a lot of credit to the GreenTree board of directors, the store staff, and the mission they all strive to uphold.

“I think being a community-owned business is really unique: that people can come together with an identified need and build what they want or what they need from their community,” she said. “Everything that we do—all the wages we pay our employees or profits that we make—are returned to our community. And I think it's just such an inspiring business model to be a part of.”

“I definitely feel honored and appreciated and grateful,” she added. 

“When you hear all of the work that people have done in years of volunteering and dedication, and then to be acknowledged as one among those feels really special.”

Amy Perschbacher, the owner of Ronan Psychological Associates, accepts the 2022 Small Business Award during the 66th Annual Awards Banquet on March 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce)2022 Small Business Award: Ronan Psychological Associates

Ronan Psychological Associates received the Small Business Award honor this year after being nominated by community members for their quality service, volunteerism, and efforts to give back to the community. 

Owner, Amy Perschbacher, accepted the award on behalf of her staff, as well as in honor of her mentor, George Ronan, who she said has always exemplified the concept of helping others.

“This is his,” she said, referencing both the Ronan Psychological Associates’ numerous mental health care efforts in the community and the award itself. “Passion and the compassion for humans and rights and all of that—that comes from him. That is what he instilled in me.” 

Perschbacher also said service to the community is key to living a full and healthy life.

“We are made to be part of a community. We all have the ability to give to our community and it can be something very simple as picking up a piece of trash while you're walking down the street and putting it in a receptacle or something as large as creating a business that helps others.”

Perschbacher, who additionally serves as Mt. Pleasant’s mayor, said the awards event was a great experience.

“I love going to those events because I love seeing people being recognized for the service that they do in the community!”  

Krapohl Ford and Lincoln received the 2022 Large Business Award at the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce's 66th Annual Awards Banquet on March 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce)2022 Large Business Award: Krapohl Ford and Lincoln

Mark Smith accepted the 2022 Large Business Award on behalf of Krapohl Ford and Lincoln where he is co-owner and general manager. He said his organization’s spirit of quality service and of giving back to the community simply continues a long-standing family tradition of doing business in the area.

“They started the place in 1950,” he said, referencing the founding of the dealership by the Krapohl family.  “And, you know, we really just kind of are following their lead. They always believed in strong service and in community involvement. And so it's really just continued on ever since then.”

Krapohl Ford and Lincoln was nominated for the award by community members.  Over the years, the business has been involved in partnerships with the Mt. Pleasant Women’s Initiative, Special Olympics Michigan, Toys for Tots, and Community Cancer Services of Isabella County—as well as a host of other community fundraisers and sponsorships. 

Smith says giving back and doing business with people in the area is meaningful to him.

“I grew up here,” Smith said. “The people we do business with, we see around town. I go to their businesses; they come to mine. There's just a connection. You see the customers at the soccer fields or the Little League fields watching their kids or coaching their kids. So we're doing business with people we know.”

Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce2022 Eagle Awards

The Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce 66th Annual Awards Banquet event also recognized community nonprofit and service organizations with Eagle Awards, noting individuals who “soar above and beyond, giving of themselves to support their organization and the community.”

This year’s winners include:
  • Art Reach of Mid Michigan - Kelli Walton
  • Community Compassion Network (CCN) - Ted McIntyre
  • Community Cancer Services of Isabella County - Diane Fleming
  • Friends of Broadway Theatre - Jason Kenney
  • Chippewa River District Library (Friends of the Veteran's Memorial Library) - Alice Jenicke 
  • Isabella Community Soup Kitchen - Bob Briggs
  • Life Choices of Central Michigan - Candy Catlin
  • McLaren Central Michigan Volunteer Services - Arnie Hammel
  • Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation - Cheryl Gaudard
  • Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum - Jake Rowley
  • Mt. Pleasant Jaycees - Brittany Reger
  • Mt. Pleasant Michigan Kiwanis Club - Barbara Leonard
  • Mt Pleasant Michigan Lions Club - Joseph Barberi
  • Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant, MI - Paula Arndt
  • Mt. Pleasant, MI Optimist Club - Steffany Stine
  • The Care Store - Mary Barz
  • United Way of Gratiot & Isabella Counties - Faye Cole
  • William and Janet Strickler Nonprofit Center - Jill Schray-Simons 
  • Zonta Club of Mt. Pleasant - Mary Martinez
Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of CommerceOther Community Awards:
  • Mt. Pleasant’s Trillium Fine Clothing for Women was recognized as a Legacy Award winner. The downtown business has been an active Chamber of Commerce member for 70 years.
  • Rod Reid, a Business Services Representative at Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works, received the 2022 Ambassador of the Year Award for his work as an ambassador with the Chamber the last two years.
  • The Charles E. Anthony Award was given to Jennifer Marar for being an outstanding Chamber Board Member. The Award is given each year to a Chamber Board Member whose volunteerism reflects dedication similar to that of Chamber volunteer Charles Anthony.
  • Bart Blystone was also recognized for being the Outgoing Board Chair. Blystone has been on the Board of Directors since 2019 and is known for caring deeply about the community, serving on several boards during his tenure as the Chamber of Commerce Board Chair.
Liz Conway, Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, said the evening was a success overall, with over 300 people in attendance. She also explained why she feels a night recognizing various community members is so important.

“I want people to know that we see what they're doing and the work that they're putting forward, and we're grateful for everybody and their contributions to making our community a better place,” she said. 

The event was first held in 1957. In addition to the annual awards banquet, the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce also hosts a variety of networking and professional development events throughout the calendar year. Learn more about upcoming events and opportunities by visiting their website.
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Read more articles by Sarah R. Adams-Slominski.

Sarah R. Adams-Slominski is an award-winning multimedia producer and writer with over 20 years of experience. She has also designed and taught multimedia and communication courses for university students, as well as media relations and marketing seminars for clients she coaches across the United States. In 2020, she began work on a doctorate and is now concentrating on dissertation research in educational technology and new literacies while working as a freelance writer, editor, and adjunct college instructor. When she has some downtime, Sarah loves reading, cooking, and swimming—as well as hanging out with friends, family, and her fiancé at home with two giant cats.