By Prisca Kim
On Wednesday evening, the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its Annual Chamber Awards meeting at the Grinnell Athletic and Recreation Center. The event celebrated local businesses, organizations and individual community members who have had a particularly impressive or notable year.
“The purpose of this event is to recognize wonderful community partners,” said Chamber Events Manager Rachael Kinnick. “It is also a great way to network with colleagues.”
One of the biggest winners Wednesday night was Michelle’s Dance Academy, run by Michelle Andrews, which won Business of the Year.
“I feel like my clientele is a huge part of what I do and I’d never be in the situation that I am without the clientele that I have and the support of the community,” Andrews said. “I think the Chamber has been a huge part of that and they are very supportive of all the businesses in town through all of our expansion. It means a lot to be even just recognized. I think it’ll really make me think about what an influence I am.”
The Chamber Board of Directors selected the award recipients after businesses and community members nominated candidates. Members of the Board also presented the awards.
“All were selected based on their exemplary work in said category as well as their ability to make a positive impact in the community where we live,” Kinnick said.
The College’s own Faulconer Gallery also received the Chamber’s recognition, winning the Attraction of the Year award after featuring over 5000 works of art last year, among other remarkable accomplishments.
“It means that even though we are a gallery that’s funded by Grinnell College, we are an extraordinarily valuable asset to our community and that means a great deal to us because we work very hard to reach all the communities that are part of our constituency,” said Faulconer Gallery Director Leslie Wright. “So, those are the kids on campus, but also everybody that lives in Grinnell and Poweshiek County and Iowa.”
Individuals also received awards for their personal achievements, as well as special dedication to the community.
One such individual was Gary Meldrem, Assistant Principle at the Grinnell Middle School, who won Volunteer of the Year for the service work he did with a number of local organizations, such as the Grinnell High School and the Galaxy Youth Center.
“I hope it provides more opportunity [when] people see this and know that I am willing to volunteer and help out and they’ll seek me out and I can do more,” Meldrem said. “[Community] means they take care of me and I try and take care of them.”
The major categories were rounded out by the Event of the Year award, which was split between the Grinnell Area Arts Council’s production of “Annie” and the Grinnell High School football team. “Annie” brought in over 2000 people in four performances and the football team broke six school records this year.
The meeting itself featured catering from restaurants including Grinnell Steakhouse, Pizza Ranch—which was also named Restaurant of the Year—and Relish. There was also a booth where attendees could bid on various gift baskets featuring items and certificates from stores in town. Local band Broken Record and students from Michelle’s Dance Academy provided entertainment for the night.