Saturday marked the 70th Annual Awards Banquet of the Chamber of Commerce.
The night consisted of dinner, desserts, honors and awards for standout individuals and or-ganizations in Cottage Grove.
To start the evening, Junior First Citizen Scholarships were awarded to two local high school students, Gwenyth Fisk and Dayna Jo Harris.
Chelsea Armstrong, a recipient of last year’s scholarship, praised the students for their balance of volunteerism, school and work.
“Being a high school student and working a part-time job is no small feat,” Armstrong said.
Larry Sullivan, Interim Superintendent for South Lane School District then presented awards to employees of the school district. South Lane School District Classified Employee of the Year went to custodian Brian Anderson, honoring his commitment to connecting with students.
“Brian Anderson was hired in 2005 and has been the heart of Cottage Grove High School,” Sullivan said. “He arrives before everyone and creates a homelike environment for staff and stu-dents. … It’s not necessarily the job of a custodian to connect with students and make them feel valued, but that is what he does.”
Also of the South Lane School District, high school teacher Michele Hilton received the Teacher of the Year award for her devoted aid to English language-learning students.
Sullivan read from Hilton’s nomination letter: “On top of a full-time teaching job, helping students each day, somehow she spends what little time she has left in her evening translating ma-terials so our students and parents have access to our information.”
Moving to broader community influencers, Russ McGuire was the Distinguished Service Award winner for his many years of volunteerism and project work in the community including the effort to construct the Cottage Grove carousel.
Nadine Kelly, who spearheaded the Cottage Grove Airport Welcome Center project, took home the Impact Award in recognition of her efforts. The airport is credited with a rise in tourism in the city.
“I’m figuring (air) traffic is going to double this year,” Kelly said.
Among local organizations, Community Sharing was awarded Nonprofit of the Year for its commitment to providing aid for families and individuals in need.
Diane Hazen from Family Relief Nursery said of the nonprofit, “[Community Sharing] is considered an outstanding model of mission achievement and community impact through innovation, leadership, partnerships and community empowerment.”
Business of the Year award went to local manufacturing company Kimwood Machinery Inc.
On behalf of the company, President of Friends of the Cottage Grove Carousel Committee Don Williams accepted the award.
“They’ve been a stable employer for 67 years,” Williams said. He praised the company’s “longevity in the business community and making it possible for many, many employees to have a paycheck and bread and butter on the table.”
While the night was filled with warm appreciations for each of the awardees, standing ovations were reserved for two standout individuals.
First among them was Ana Maria Dudley, who received the First Citizen Award. Dudley took the stage to rousing applause for her dedication to developing a secure network for Cottage Grove’s Latino community to seek educational opportunities and access to health care.
“How lucky I am to live a community where all of us can make an effort to make sure that all of our citizens, no matter what their status, can get help and that all of us are here to support them?” Dudley said. She directed her gratitude to the many community members who helped her. “I couldn’t do this without you,” she said.
Also receiving a generous round of the room’s enthusiasm was Richard Meyers, whose more than two decades of work as City Manager and participation in a multitude of community organiza-tions was recognized with the President’s Award for Community Excellence.
Meyers accepted the award while emphasizing his appreciation for the city’s involved citi-zenship. “All of the things that happen in this community are because of the community,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful place to call home.”
As the function wound down, Master of Ceremonies and Chamber Director Travis Palmer paid tribute to nominees, past award winners and the spouses of the night’s awardees. “We can’t possibly thank them enough,” he said.