Marietta chamber honors community members

Bob Ferguson, of Marietta, is recognized as the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce Gabe Zide Citizen of the Year Monday. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

MARIETTA — Veterans of community service and business operations were lauded Monday night through the annual Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce dinner.

The event boasted a guest list of approximately 750 local residents, business owners, volunteers and officials who joined in the annual meeting-turned celebration.

“As a chamber, you’re required to have an annual meeting, but we make it a huge celebration where we recognize not only the businesses that are developing our economy but also the volunteers and civic organizations that bring us together,” said Chamber Executive Director Carrie Ankrom.

* Agricultural Award

The Washington County Council of Cooperatives recognized Monday the growth of what has become a county staple, Wittens Farm Market and Greenhouse.

Tom Crooks, co-owner of Stonewall Group, is recognized as the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year Monday. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Now in its 60th year, the business’s owners, Julie, Tom and Scott Witten were cheered for their contributions not only to the annual Marietta Sweet Corn Festival, but for the partnerships with summer feeding programs, community education programs and the employment of many seasonal workers throughout the area.

“They believe in hard work, they believe in perseverance, they believe in giving back and they believe that we can shape our future,” said Chamber Chairman Terry Rataiczak.

Jennifer Greene, director of marketing and member services for the Washington Electric Cooperative,

“A belief in community and education has been one of the driving forces behind their business,” said Greene.

To raucous applause, Julie added her thanks to the night.

“We just really want to say thank you, thanks to the community for all supporting us and really watching us grow through the years,” said Julie. “And that no matter where we are, I know we have a lot of locations, we’re always most honored to call Marietta home.”

* Gabe Zide Citizen of the Year

He was once coached in Little League baseball by Gabe Zide and then, in turn, coached Zide’s son, said Bob Ferguson, this year’s citizen of the year.

“So this award has special meaning to me,” he said. “This award belongs to the people that give their all to the communities where they volunteer. That’s who Gabe was.”

Ferguson’s volunteer resume stretches back years from a board member for organizations like Harvest of Hope, Glenwood and the YMCA to a guide for college-aged young men to even leading the chamber itself.

“I have the philosophy that if you’re going to be in an organization you do it right and you give it 100 percent,” he said. “It’s an honor to have been recognized for that.”

* Business Leader of the Year

Last year’s recognized business leaders, Brian and Christy Chavez owners of the local oil and gas company

Condevco, Inc., were excited Monday to recognize a fellow industry partner as this year’s business leader.

“I am dumbfounded,” said the recipient Tom Crooks, co-founder of Stonewall Group. “I’ve had the distinct honor of working … on Shale Crescent USA to build a dream, build a brand, to make this area an even better place to live.”

He recalled a memory of his father, after retiring as a physician, who had marked next to patient’s names initials “DNTY” in his notes.

“That meant did not say thank you,” said Crooks. “So I don’t want to get off this stage tonight without saying thank you.”

* Ambassador of the Year

She first became acquainted with the local business community as an employee of Sweet Gestures Candy Bouquet when the shop was on Front Street but in her 25 years as a Marietta resident, Valerie Adkins said she’s only grown a deeper love and enthusiasm for the area and its people.

“I was surprised, to say the least,” she said following recognition as the chamber’s ambassador of the year. “I’ve only been a volunteer ambassador for 19 months, I thought you had to be here a very long time and done big things to get something like this.”

But her contributions, her championing of the Marietta Area, were why she was selected this year.

“For me, my role is to tell everybody I can what a great place it is to work and live and be in Marietta,” she said.

* Betty L. Hadler Zonta Woman of the Year

Karen Waller, of Belpre, was described Monday as a dedicated woman who goes above and beyond the call of duty for volunteer organizations, civic groups and in public education.

“I was very surprised, but I believe we’re working together to build a better business climate,” she said, noting that while she had no formal experience as a business owner, the people skills developed over 37 years in public education, 30 in counseling, crossed over. “Communication with people is the same. But the chamber has taught me a lot about the business world and we work as a team to listen to people’s needs and try to fill them.”