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Baums given ROTH award amidst multiple standing ovations

A record 250 people attended the annual Barry County Chamber of Commerce Awards dinner which, for the first time, was held at the new Bay Point Woods event venue.

Luke Froncheck

Staff Writer

When Larry and Earlene Baum took the stage during Saturday’s Barry County Chamber of Commerce awards dinner, Larry, who's still recovering from a stroke, could only speak a few words. “Hi” was his first, to which the audience responded with a chorus of greetings.  That was followed by Larry's simple and heartfelt three words, “I can’t talk.”

Although Larry was unable to articulate a speech to portray his emotions, his tears, and the thunderous applause from the captivated audience told the story of he and his wife Earlene’s true value to the Barry County community.

The Baums were awarded the Chamber of Commerce’s ROTH award which recognizes outstanding business professionals in Barry County who exhibit the attributes of responsiveness to community issues; the creation of opportunities for others to succeed; a demonstrated ability to teach, lead, and mentor; and the willingness to tout the merits of doing business in Barry Barry County.

We both are so appreciative,” Earlene Baum said. “We really love this community and it’s really hard for Larry because he can’t talk. Not being able to express what’s in his heart is really difficult. We just thank you so much.”

Last year's ROTH Award winner, Mark Kolanowski, who presented the award to this year's winners, called on the audience to imagine a Hastings without the Baums; to picture a Gilmore Car Museum that didn’t expand and attract 120,000 new visitors a year; to see parents of Hastings school children having to explain to their kids that they can’t play sports due to their financial shortcomings. Kolanowski asked audience members what their life would be like if they were a dialysis patient and had to travel out of the county three or four days a week to receive treatment. He asked them to imagine a Hastings without a place to go downtown to enjoy live music and where the housing shortage was not being taken seriously.

Imagine how many lives these two people have touched in such meaningful ways,” Kolanowski said. “While the list of contributions is long and impressive, our ROTH winners’ recent actions are most poignant.

One of the chief tenets we look for regarding business leadership is the ability to teach others. Even after Larry suffered a stroke last summer, Earlene and Larry continued to demonstrate a ‘nothing will stop us attitude.’ They have taught us how to care for each other and how to care for this community in good times and in bad. – no matter how daunting, do not let obstacles stand in your way.”

State Representative Julie Calley also awarded the Baums with state recognition for their actions in Barry County.

It’s my honor that I bring thanks from the State of Michigan because your giving has inspired not just this region but the state of Michigan for generations to come,” Calley said.

The award to the Baums came from the Chamber of Commerce, which said the accolade was given for their “providing long term and sustainable benefits for our community in the area of business, healthcare, education, housing and culture.”

Rob Ranes was the Master of Ceremonies for the annual event which brought in a record 250 people. For the first time, the event was held at the new Bay Pointe Woods event venue.

The annual Athena and Young Athena awards were also handed out during the ceremony. The awards, which are part of an international leadership program, are geared toward “the development, cultivation, and recognition of leadership that results in empowering women to achieve professional excellence and service to the community.”

The 2019 winner of the Athena Young Professional awarded was Emily Welker of Spectrum Health Pennock. She received the award, according to presentation remarks, for “her approach to everything in her life with passion, character and integrity. She is a role model for other young women in her field, leading by example and making a difference every day for the patients, providers and staff in her offices.”

The 2019 winner of the Athena Leadership award was Carol Svihl of Highpoint Community Bank, “for her tireless involvement in community service including St. Rose Catholic Church, Algonquin Lake Association, Spectrum Pennock Hospice and Barry County Relay for Life. She is a strong supporter of the arts with her involvement with the Thornapple Arts Council, Thornapple Players, Thornapple Jazz Orchestra and Hastings Community Music School.”

I’m thrilled to accept this meaningful award and to be placed in such high regard with women of Barry County who, when hearing their first name, we don’t have to ask their last,” Svihl said during her acceptance speech. “There’s Bonnie, Lani, Norma, Nancy, and Kimberly just to name a few and we all know who I’m speaking of.”

Svihl's words were met with resounding applause.

The Barry County Community Foundation also received recognition for its work throughout Barry County with the bestowment of the annual Community Impact Award. The accolade recognizes individuals, service groups, businesses and non-profit organizations that go above and beyond in their service to Barry County.

It’s hard to point to an organization that has more positive impacts on Barry County than this organization,” award presenter Tammy Pennington said. “The impacts of this organization will be felt for decades.”

I would never ever… ever want to live anywhere but here,” Foundation President Bonnie Gettys said. “It’s not the amount of money. It’s not whether or not we give millions of dollars. It’s what we all do collectively together that matters.”

Other nominees for the award included Delton Moose Lodge, Hastings Rotary, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, and Thornapple Credit Union.

Other awards handed out Saturday evening included;

  • The Chamber Champion Award which recognizes an individual who “goes above and beyond in support of the Barry County Chamber.” The 2019 winner was Tal Gearhart for his efforts and support of the Chamber Open Golf Outing.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year which recognizes individual business owners for their leadership, vision, community support and entrepreneurial spirit. The 2019 winners were John & Lindsey Vertalka of First Rehab & Sport Physical Therapy for “continuing to invest in Barry County opening a new location in Hastings and for their passion for what they do and desire to be engaged in the community.”

                  Other nominees included; Phares & Lori Courtney – Court-Side Screen Printing & Embroidery, Robert & Sue                   Deming – Deming’s Auto Collision, Mike & Patty Powers – Bay Pointe Inn, Ken Trumble & Zach Santmier –             Trumble Agency, and Carlos Zink – Barlow Florist.

  • Member Choice for Customer Service Excellence which recognizes excellent customer service nominated and voted on by chamber membership. The 2019 winner was Court-Side Embroidering & Screen Printing for “turning out a great product quickly and working hard to meet customer’s needs and deadlines.”

                  Other nominees included; Barlow Florist, Barry County United Way, Bay to Bay Building Concepts, Broadmoor             Motors – Hastings, Commercial Bank, Deming’s Auto Collision Services Inc., Diamond Dazzle Cleaning,         Greenridge Realty of Hastings, Hastings Family Dental, J-Ad Graphics, State Street Diner, Thornapple Credit    Union, and YMCA of Barry County.

  • Brick Award; which recognizes capital investment in Barry County demonstrating vision, commitment, growth and stability for our community, business climate and future success. The 2019 winners were Flexfab for an upgraded façade and renovated/modernized facilities at the main plant in Hastings and Bay Pointe Woods for the new large-scale event venue on the Bay Pointe campus.

                  Other nominees included; Delton Moose Lodge, Hastings Internal & Family Medicine, and the Trumble Agency.


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