I couldn’t wait to give out the awards Friday night! For weeks, we had to keep a lid on both our guest speaker and award winners which was so hard because they were all exceptional! I was truly honored to be able to hand these out to some truly deserving people.
Over 300 people attended our Annual Banquet held on Friday and seven awards were presented. The Chamber has a long history of awarding admirable community and business leaders. I mentioned before, but indeed need to mention it again. The over 20 nominations from the membership this past year is truly a testament to the quality of people living and working in this community. Committee members and the Chamber Board of Directors voted on those nominations and the winners were announced that night – several receiving standing ovations.
The Williston State College Foundation bestowed the first award – the Leonard P. Nelson Philanthropy Award. Terry Olson, Executive Director of the Williston State College Foundation presented Lois Scheele with that award for donating over $5 million to the Mondak Animal Rescue. The Chamber presented the next six awards. The award winners are:
- Chamber Connector Award – Kristin Oxendahl (Salvation Army of Williston)
- Community Engagement Award – Bras For A Cause accepted by Marti Pankowski, Founder
- Williston Leadership Award – Steve Slocum (First National Bank & Trust)
- Ward Koeser Advocacy Award – David Montgomery (Williams County Commission)
- Patriot Award – Theresa Scully (Veterans Assistance Clinic)
- Distinguished Western Star Award – Cyndy Aafedt (El Rancho Hotel)
The Chamber’s oldest and highest award is the Distinguished Western Star Award. It is presented to an individual promoting Williston as a great place to live and work over a period of time. The 2016 awardee, Cyndy Aafedt, was recognized for being an ambassador and volunteer; donating her time, talents, and resources (often financial) to various Williston organizations.
Attendees finished off their evening with an entertaining and inspiring guest speaker. Kansas City Chiefs Mascot (KC Wolf) – Dan Meers, not only entertained the crowd in costume, but also inspired us with his speech and additionally, with the sale of his books gave a portion back to the beneficiary of this year’s silent auction: The North Dakota Association of the Blind, a participant from the 2016 Community Connections Expo. It was a tremendous evening and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the committees, volunteers, staff, and all those who helped us keep the secret!
I couldn’t be more proud of this community – and while there may have been several award winners recognized that night, I think we all win by having known them.