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By Dan Rudy 

A toast to the community at annual Chamber dinner


Submitted Photo

At its annual fundraiser dinner Saturday, Wrangell Chamber of Commerce president Kim Lane and executive director Cyni Waddington present raffle-winner Cathy Olds (center) a pair of round-trip plane tickets provided by Alaska Airlines.

The Nolan Center was all decked out with hearts and other Valentine's Day decoratives Saturday night, as 160 people came together for Wrangell's Chamber of Commerce Annual Fundraising Dinner.

The Chamber premiered its new video promoting the annual Fourth of July celebration. Chamber director Cyni Waddington also announced the theme for this year's Independence Day festivities: "Hometown Heroes," recognizing the contributions of military personnel.

"We always try to make it something that relates to 'home'," she explained. "Because everybody likes to come home for the Fourth."

This year the Chamber also announced it would reconfigure its birthday calendar scholarship so it can fund tech prep courses being offered to Wrangell High School students. The scholarship offers college credit for certain career-related classes at a reduced cost of $25 per credit.

Previously only one student was able to receive the Birthday Calendar Scholarship funding. It usually went to a student who was already set to receive substantial financial assistance. The $2000 raised each year will now go into an account set-up for Wrangell High School Tech Prep courses.

If students wish to receive financial assistance for the Tech Prep program, they must apply, be approved, and complete the class or program.

During the dinner, time is taken to recognize various leaders and businesses in the community. This year's young leaders of the year were Amy Ferdinand and Kacie Galla. Waddington explained Ferdinand has persevered through personal hardship "with dignity and grace," and Galla was chosen for the award because of her tireless involvement in activities at school and in the community.

A special youth leadership award was presented to Michael Lockabey Jr. for the example he's set, becoming a stakeholder in the community's fishing industry at such a relatively young age.

Receiving a community appreciation award for excellence in teaching was fourth-grade teacher Brian Merritt, recognizing his engaging, imaginative work with education.

"It was really special to give that to him this year," said Waddington.

Barb Neyman was named Citizen of the Year, for her many commitments to the towns' youth. A long-time member of the July 4 events planning committee, as Citizen of the Year, Neyman will get to serve as its Grand Marshal for the parade.

"She is most deserving of that title," Waddington commented.

This year's top business award went to Superior Marine Services. Its owner Don Sorric said he accepted the award not only on behalf of his business, but for the other vendors working at the Marine Service Center as well.

"Basically, it's all of us down there," he said. "I couldn't think of a better place for this to have happened. I'm proud of everybody."

Superior Marine was chosen by the committee in part because of the numerous letters of praise the Chamber's awards committee received touting its services.

"When that many letters comes in for one particular business, it sort of speaks for itself," said Waddington.

Breakaway Adventures received the Chamber's "Members Appreciation" award. Waddington explained owner Eric Yancey is always quick to contribute his services for the community's residents and its events.

Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Jimmy Pritchett, Don Sorric and Ray Rodgers accept the Wrangell Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year award on behalf of Superior Marine Services at Saturday's fundraiser dinner. In his acceptance speech, owner Sorric said the award reflected the efforts of boatyard vendors as a whole, in addition to his own business.

"We need something, he's there," she said. "He also is another of those businesses that gets nominated frequently."

The dinner serves as the Chamber's only fundraiser for the year, with money raised going to support its operating expenses. Funds collected at the Chamber-sponsored Salmon Derby and July 4 festivities only go back toward those events.

In addition to the annual dessert auction, people bought into a key raffle. Cathy Olds purchased the winning key, winning a pair of Alaska Airline tickets.

"This is the first time we've been able to offer this incentive to guests," explained new Chamber president, Kim Lane. "Many thanks to Alaska Airlines for this awesome, awesome donation!"

Much local assistance went into making the event possible: Jake Harris and staff from the Stik Restaurant catered the meal, while roller derbiers from the Garnet Grit Betties helped out with serving, photography and the auction. Paula Keith baked and frosted the 150 cupcakes available to attendees while Alice Rooney played piano.


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