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By Dan Rudy 

Chamber dinner as good as gold


Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Officers and board members of the Wrangell Chamber of Commerce strike a celebratory pose after the successful conclusion of Friday's fundraiser dinner. From left to right: president Christie Jamieson, Kim Lane, Cyni Crary, Tracy Churchill, Aleisha Mollen, Amber Hommel, Apryl Hutchnison and vice-president Dawn Angerman.

It was a full ballroom in the Nolan Center Friday for the Wrangell Chamber of Commerce's 26th Annual Fundraising Dinner.

The theme for this year was "Good as Gold," highlighting the partnership the Chamber has with its community members.

"It just stuck in my mind that Wrangell really needs to be proud of itself," explained Tracy Churchill, who had chaired the evening's planning committee. Despite its economic downturn following the closure of its mills, she said the community had made some wise decisions with its investment in the boatyard, Nolan Center and other amenities, which had allowed it to move forward.

Showcasing the town and its progress was the preliminary cut of a short video Churchill put together with local businesses. At first aimed at being a five-minute featurette, she explained there was too much enthusiasm on the part of Chamber members to be included.

"It just kept growing," she told attendees of the dinner. "It basically highlights you guys and what the Chamber does."

The short film featured interviews with various business owners, allowing them to summarize what they like about the community as different establishments and clubs were highlighted. The biggest attention-grabber of the video was Bryan Ottesen's aerial photography. Using a personal drone, the panning shots and fly-overs showed the town from a new perspective.

"We have plans for finalizing this video and really promoting it this summer," said Cyni Crary, executive director for the Chamber.

Annual awards recognizing various residents were distributed after the dinner.

The 2016 Business of the Year Award went to Ivy Patch Produce, owned by Katherine Ivy.

"Wrangell is very lucky to reap the fruit of this business," alluded Christie Jamieson, Chamber board president. "The business owner has brought food awareness up a notch," in particular by supporting local produce and the monthly community market.

"I do appreciate all the folks that helped me with the store," said Ivy. "I hope to improve the store and the experience and live up to this award."

This year's Citizen of the Year went to schoolteacher Laura Davies. Having moved here from Georgia, Davies has taught students at Evergreen Elementary for the past nine years.

Presenting the award, Chamber treasurer Aleisha Mollen said Davies was a role model and mentor, greatly respected within the community. She pointed out the teacher was also one of the school district's leaders in making use of technology in the classroom.

"I'm very lucky to have the job to spend that time with them," Davies said of her students.

Three Young Leader awards were given out to local students as well. Maleah Wenzel was presented with the Young Leader of the year award. Described by teachers as a natural leader, Mollen added she was an intuitive, articulate and high-performing student. Wenzel already has earned two prestigious scholarships, one from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a four-year scholarship to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Wenzel was unable to accept her award in person, as was fellow award-winner Reyn Hutten, away at this year's Close-Up program trip to Washington D.C. and New York City.

"She's very articulate. She did very well representing Wrangell at the Legislative Fly-in," Mollen said of Hutten.

The final youth award went to Kyla Teat, another student who is highly engaged with her school's academic and sport programs. After the award ceremony, it was announced she would be running for this year's Fourth of July Queen competition, as would her friend and peer, Alex Angerman.

Chairing this summer's celebration, Mollen said the kick-off for the two queen candidates' fundraising efforts would begin on May 31. This year's theme will be "Back to the Rock," and will include new activities like beach volleyball.

Other upcoming events will be the King Salmon Derby, this year slated for May 14 through June 12. May 7 and October 8 have been set as this year's two tax-free days, where sales taxes are not levied on local purchases.

Two new events have been added as well: a weekly open house and a wearable arts show in February. Every Thursday through the rest of 2016 the Chamber will be highlighting a different business with an open house, giving residents and visitors alike the opportunity to check into businesses they may not otherwise be aware of and giving business owners the opportunity to connect with the community.

The wearable arts show will be a sort of elaborate fashion show, incorporating local artists and revolving around themes.

Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Kyla Teat receives a Young Leader award from Chamber treasurer Aleisha Mollen.

"It's something I've seen all over the Southeast communities, except for Wrangell," Crary said. "If you want to be part of this endeavor, come and see me."

The annual dinner is also the Chamber's only fundraiser. Along with its dues, money raised during the evening goes toward funding its operations. Final figures on the amount raised are still being tallied, but the dessert auction alone raised $875-of the five desserts on offer, two cheesecakes together raised just under $500. And for the second time, this year the Chamber was also able to raffle away two round-trip tickets provided by Alaska Airlines.

Gifts and door prizes were provided by area businesses and individuals. The prime rib dinner was catered by the Stik Restaurant, with service provided by roller derbiers playing for the Garnet Grit Betties.


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