Community contributions recognized at 2018 Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala
A recently retired Crawford County elected official, who is settling into his life as a citizen, was recognized with the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year Award on Friday, March 1.
The Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2018 Chamber Awards at its Annual Chamber Awards Gala at the Kirtland Health Sciences Center.
Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield, who retired on Dec. 3, was honored with the Citizen of the Year Award.
“Wakefield served for 40 years in law enforcement. Now that he has retired from his position as sheriff, he is still involved heavily in the community as a board member of the Grayling Chamber, Local Shrine Club and Master Mason of the Masonic Lodge, Eagles Club, Michigan Sherriff’s Association, Northern Michigan Law Enforcement Training Group at Camp Grayling, Northern Michigan Mutual Aide Task Force, and Crawford County United Way,” according to nomination information.
“Since 1983, he has helped in keeping the citizens of Crawford County safe. Wakefield is also a Vietnam Veteran. He truly cares about his community and shows this by his examples of service. He is a very approachable person and takes criticism well. He is also very strong in his beliefs with, ‘In God we Trust’ on the back of the patrol cars – we need a little more of that in today’s society,” according to nomination information.
“After returning from Vietnam, working for General Motors and then the Howell Police Department, Wakefield came to visit his parents in Higgins Lake and his dad suggested that he might try to find a job around there. In May of 1983, Crawford County Sheriff Joe White hired him as a patrol deputy and remains serving the community today,” according to nomination information. “Wakefield’s family has a long history of patriotism and faith in our country. His father was an Airborne Medic in World War II, his mother was in the Army in World War II, he is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and he has an uncle who is still missing in action in Korea.”
Other nominees for Citizen of the Year were Caleb Casey, Tom Cojocar, Bill Hart, Kevin Jansen, Rebecca Knepper, Nicole Mygrants, Rose Mary Nelson, Katie Olson, Tom Steffen, and Randy Thompson.
The 2018 Chamber Member Business of the Year was presented to Matt LaFontaine Automotive.
“Matt and Christine LaFontaine’s daily treatment of employees, customers and business is topnotch. They go above and beyond to create a great working environment and hire local people – feels like family. Just their business alone is a testimony to the investment they have made to this community, let alone all the private support Matt and Christine have made, such as helping with the Great Grayling Cleanup to better this whole community and enhance the appearance to visitors as a place of destination,” according to nomination information.
“They have invested millions of dollars in purchasing their business and continue to invest with renovation on current buildings and purchasing and renovating new buildings throughout the community. This investment has brought in a great opportunity for not only new business, but employment to the community, and a majority of all construction projects being done with local businesses in Grayling. It feels like they have been around forever and in actuality they have only been here a short while, but they have immersed themselves into this community and the people that they serve,” according to nomination information. “Matt and Christine LaFontaine have been in the automotive business for over 30 years. Aside from the multi million dollar investment of purchasing Scheer Motors in May of 2016 and multiple expansions, they have invested over a million dollars in infrastructure, IT systems, equipment, tools, training and new hires to their team in the past two and a half years.”
Other nominees for Chamber Member Business of the Year were the Grayling Restaurant, Northern Michigan Escape Rooms, Northland Area Federal Credit Union, and Tip’n the Mitten.
Flowers by Josie/Thanks a Latte were recognized with the 2018 Longevity Award, a new award presented this year.
“They always go way beyond what is asked for from their customers. Their employees seem very happy and love their boss. His assistant and all around helper Lanice Rutter has been with him almost from the beginning, and his friend and helper Juan has been working with Ernie since the 80’s. Ernie keeps his place beautiful and inviting, always doing improvements inside and has redone the outside twice. No matter if business is up or down, Ernie has open arms to help out when needed. He has a positive and supportive attitude, is a Grayling supporter, and he loves the people of Crawford County. He would be supported by every business on Michigan Avenue,” according to nomination information.
“Flowers by Josie, owned by Ernie Dawson at the present time, actually had its beginnings in the flower shop owned by Esther Bryson in her home on Spruce Street. When she sold her business to Josephine McEvers in 1961, the shop was moved to the McEvers home at 302 Maple Street and became Flowers by Josie. Ernie Dawson and Bob Cole purchased the business from Harry McEvers following the death of his wife, Josie, in April 1976. They operated the shop at the Maple Street address for one year with one employee, Arleen Murphy, who had been with Josie for many years. The former Grayling State Bank building, which now houses the business, was purchased in March of the next year from the Kraus family. The building had been vacant about seven years previous to the present business Flowers by Josie/Thanks a Latte. Ernie Dawson, the present owner, has been in the location since 1977. In 2006, Josie’s added the coffee shop – Thanks a Latte. Flowers by Josie/Thanks a Latte has two full time and five part-time employees. Ernie holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in business Administration from Michigan State University,” according to nomination information.
Other nominees for the Longevity Award were the Grayling Promotional Association, McClain & Son Construction, and Wellington Farm Park.
The Crawford County The Commission on Aging and Senior Center was recognized with the 2018 Chamber Member Organization of the Year Award.
“Leading the revitalization of the community garden, offering opportunities for varying levels of physical activities for older adults and others in Crawford County, offering special themed meals in addition to regularly scheduled lunch and dinner meals, hosting educational opportunities on many different topics that are of interest to older adults including health, finances, avoiding identity theft, navigating Medicare and Medicaid, preparing advance directives, and retirement planning. They are always looking for opportunities to partner with other organizations in the community to make Grayling and Crawford County not only a better place for older adults but all residents, such as participation in the Loop-It Project, sitting on the Crawford County Community Health Improvement Committee, and Creation of Resource Guide. They are always at the table when it comes to improving Crawford County and are good stewards of the resources that are entrusted to them. The members of the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center staff and their 100 plus volunteers are kind, friendly and responsive,” according to nomination information.
“The Crawford County Commission on Aging was established by the County Board of Commissioners on April 10, 1973 with the mission to advocate and promote the wellbeing and independence of all older adults of Crawford County. During their 45 years of existence, they have provided the core services of Congregate and Home Delivered Meals, In-Home Services and Senior Center Activities. In the last several years, they have served an unduplicated 35 percent of older adults age 60 and over in Crawford County,” according to nomination information.
Other nominees for Chamber Member Organization of the Year Award were Grayling Main Street, Mt. Hope Lutheran Church, and River House Inc.
The Grayling Youth Booster Club was recognized with the 2018 You Made It Happen Award.
“Grayling Youth Booster Club has found ways to keep their fundraising fresh, innovative, and interesting for the Grayling community for decades. This past year, they implemented ‘Grayling’s Got Talent,’ which drew a large crowd for to the AuSable River Festival’s Main Stage for its inaugural year. Showcasing local talent acts, the performance was enjoyable for both entertainers and the audience alike. Innovation is always a challenge, and keeping things fresh, new and inventive isn’t easy to accomplish, especially from an organization that holds so much history. The event was well organized, seamlessly coordinated, and a wonderful event for all involved,” according to nomination information.
“This event was created as a way to connect Grayling Youth Booster Club with the Main Stage during the busiest week in Grayling. Although they charged a small fee for entry, the program was not designed as fundraiser but as a way to draw the attention of families who may not be aware of their mission while connecting and giving a platform to locals who possibly haven’t benefited from the programs they’ve supported. Grayling Youth Booster Club’s mission is to ‘promote the interests and achievements of youth in Crawford County.’ Many assume that their reach is athletic related only, but they love to support and hear from any programs/boards – new or old – that benefit kids in the area,” according to nomination information.
Other nominees for the You Made It Happen Award were Judy Clyma, Carey Jansen and Springs Window Fashions.