A NIGHT OF HONORS
WRITTEN BY: DAVE SCHULTZ (Bluffton News-Banner)
This time, they all knew what was coming.
The Wells County Chamber of Commerce held its 106th annual dinner and awards program, with the top honors going to John Reinhard as the Citizen of the Year, Outdoor Concepts (Steve, Gayla, and Landon Gerber) as the Business of the Year, and Ginny Vogel (Bluffton-Harrison Elementary School), Dee Yonker (Lancaster Central Elementary School), and Chris Painter (Southern Wells Junior-Senior High School) as the Educators of the Year.
All of them had been notified of their selection for the honors a few weeks ago, and all were prepared for Monday night’s event. Reinhard and the Gerbers addressed the crowd while videos were produced to honor the educators.
Reinhard was introduced by his son Michael, who saluted his father for his service to the community as a preacher and as an educator.
Some people have a public face and a private face, Michael Reinhard said. His father is the same man wherever he is.
“I can confirm that he has one face — the face of peace, the face of compassion, the face of Christ.”
Reinhard, who was a guidance counselor at Norwell High School when he retired from education in 2016, said he was somewhat amazed with his honor. Looking over the list of those who have been named Citizen of the Year, he was reminded of the song from the “Sesame Street” children’s program: “One of these things is not like the other …”
What Reinhard wanted to impress on his audience, however, was the necessity of being of service to the community. He paraphrased the words of Jesus in the 10th chapter of Matthew: “A cup of cold water, given even to the least, will be rewarded.”
“The Citizen of the Year Award is a concept,” he said, referring to the idea of service to the community, “and I am pleased to represent that concept.”
He said to live in Wells County is to live in a community “that cares an awful lot.” The question that each of us needs to ask every day, Reinhard said, is a simple one:
“To whom can I give a cup of cold water today?”
The presentation on the Gerbers gave a history of Outdoor Concepts, from its beginning as Gerber Lawn Service to Steve’s Lawn and Garden to its current iteration, Outdoor Concepts. The most significant thing, said Angie Topp as she introduced the Business of the Year, is that the Gerbers use their business as a ministry.
In fact, they each cited Bible verses in their remarks. Steve Gerber quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight”).
Gayla Gerber quoted Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
“Give God thanks,” Steve Gerber said, “whether you are 20 or 50 or 80 years old. Follow your dreams.”
Also during the Monday night’s program:
- Erin Prible, executive director of the chamber, and Chad Kline, Wells County’s economic development director, reported on the significant events of 2019. The chambers’s theme for 2020 is “Together We are Stronger.”
- The Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award went to Nick Huffman of the Steffen Group.
- Sarah MacNeill, director of the Wells County Public Library, will be the chamber’s president for 2020. She accepted the gavel from outgoing President Jim Brewer. Also in the chamber’s leadership for 2020 will be Rick Gentis of First Bank of Berne as vice president and Trent Bucher of the Honegger, Ringger & Co. accounting firm as treasurer. Brewer, who is employed at Ossian State Bank, will be the past president.
- A standing ovation was given to Ted Ellis, the former mayor of Buffton who is leaving the board of the chamber.
- Two men who have served on the Wells County Economic Development Council, Phil Swain and Steve Higgins, were honored for their service. Swain is the president of PNC Bank in Bluffton and Higgins is an executive with the Boy Scouts of America.
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