By Kierra Pixler, Managing Editor
Standing ovations, some choking up and laughter were highlights of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet this past Thursday. It was at the Bell County Expo Center and recognized 12 individuals and businesses for their commitment to Belton’s past, present and future.
Attendees enjoyed music played by the Belton High School Orchestra String Quartet, while socializing before the welcome/introductions were announced by Randy Pittenger, President/CEO of the Chamber.
“We are here to celebrate community partnerships, honoring some of our awesome servant leaders, and recognizing the value of investment in our community,” Pittenger said. “We are better together! As we invest our time and resources together we will continue to make the Belton area a great place to live, work, shop, play, and raise a family. Thank you for your investment in our community. I love Belton!”
The keynote speaker of the night was UMHB Professor Larry Locke. Locke holds advanced degrees from Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Before coming to UMHB in 2010, he worked as banker, corporate lawyer and pastor.
Kayla Potts was recognized for her incoming chair for the chamber. As an owner of two businesses, Potts said that she is excited for the future and is dedicated to the city of Belton.
Pittenger presented Andy Davis with the Beltonian of the Year award. For the past 30 years, David has served as the Pastor for First Baptist Church Belton. Andy has chaired on the Military Affairs “Meet Belton for Military Families” effort since its inception long ago. Through his leadership, Belton’s business community, schools, churches, and organizations have worked together to provide these special events providing military families living in Belton ISD opportunities to learn about our community and suggest opportunities for to improve services to them.
“As described in the award criteria, Andy has demonstrated longtime achievement in volunteer service to the Belton Community,” Pittenger said. “His service has covered the range of education, church, service organization, youth programs, and multiple areas that have improved the quality of life in Belton. The 2018 Beltonian Award comes at a time when our community has recently celebrated the milestone of his 30-year anniversary with FBC. It is fitting that our Chamber of Commerce joins in thanking Andy Davis for a lifetime of service to our community.”
This year’s Citizen of the Year award went to Luke Potts. A business owner and servant leader, Potts was recognized for his community leadership and the extra effort that he puts forth to see others flourish. Pittenger commended Potts’ “strong servant heart” and stated that is exactly what distinguishes Luke Potts as 2018 Citizen of the Year.
Emily Kirkpatrick of Farmer’s Insurance-Emily Kirkpatrick Agency was recognized as the 2018 Ambassador of the Year. She has put in countless hours hosting ribbon cuttings, banquets and business after hours. Her creativity and resourcefulness is makes her an asset and a deserving recipient of this award.
The 2018 New Chamber Member of the Year award was given to Tanner Roofing, wonder by Eddy and Gwen Tanner and Audra Harvell. Tanner Roofing is a family owned and operated roofing contractor serving Central Texas since 1956. Early in 2018, they made a decision to join the Chamber and become even more actively engaged in the community. The family knows better than most the importance and value of community. Raising a special needs child has led them to not only seek out and connect with others, but to also lead efforts to support families with special needs. Tanner Roofing is a leader in workforce and economic development, creating jobs and helping our local economy grow.
My Giving Tree Gift Shop and Art Gallery, owned by Leila Valchar, took home the 2018 Small Business of the Year Award. The name was inspired by Valchar’s favorite childhood book “The Giving Tree.”
“Leila is a passionate advocate of shopping locally, and promotes Texas, American, and locally made products. She is all about economic development and helping small businesses succeed,” Pittenger said. “She exemplifies the values of serving with enthusiasm and compassion, being a trustworthy and responsible steward, and promoting our mission of marketing and business development.”
When approached by Pittenger about being the recipient of the award, Valchar was overwhelmed with glee and emotion. Valchar’s ingenuity, hard work and innovation has created a successful and growing business.
“It is extremely rewarding to be honored like this by your community,” Valchar said. “I have to say this is a highlight in my life and will be a cherished memory. I hope that I am an example to my children, on what you can achieve by believing in yourself, working hard and not giving up. I love people and I have always been giving of myself. It’s just such a part of me, it’s in my DNA. When you give of yourself without any expectations it is very fulfilling and it makes me happy. I truly love this town and can’t help but be passionate about it. And I have always believed a community that is successful in working together and helping each other can do great things!”
CGI Technologies and Solutions won the 2018 Large Business of the Year award. Since their arrival in 2011, CGI has been a strong advocate for the community. As a large employer, CGI has created numerous jobs for our area, bringing opportunities for our local citizens while luring people from far and wide to move here. Not only has CGI invested in job creation, but they have made an ongoing commitment to making the Belton an even better place to live, work, shop, play and raise a family. They recognize the importance not only of a quality workplace, but also of the quality of life when people are selecting where to move.
Pete Fredenburg and the UMHB Football Coaches proudly accepted the 2018 Community Award of Excellence. Head Coach Pete Fredenburg has been previously recognized with numerous prestigious honors including National Coach of the Year and an induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Representing their team and staff were Head Coach Pete and Karen Fredenburg, Defensive Coordinator Larry and Sandy Harmon, Offensive Coordinator Steve and Molly Lee, and Operations Coordinator Karen and Alex Goff. Karen was Pete’s first hire and has been by his side since.
Pittenger presented one last unexpected award. The 2018 President’s Award of Excellence was given to Matt Gunter in recognition of his extraordinary service and dedication to the Chamber in 2018. During the past year, Matt has not only served as the Chairman of the Board, but he also filled the role of interim President/CEO, sacrificing time away from his business and family to meet the administrative needs of the Chamber. Full of surprise and gratitude, Matt and his wife Laci took the stage to accept the award.
At the closing of the ceremony, Pittenger had a special announcment.
“We are excited about our 100 year celebration of the 4th of July parade in Belton,” Pittenger said. “We are especially excited about the music festival street party that will kick off our week of celebration on Saturday, June 29. You’ll be hearing more about that in the coming weeks and months. But get excited, great things are coming!”