Business leaders honored

ELKINS – Orchard Hall in Elkins was packed with more than 250 attendees Wednesday for the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce 2013 Annual Award Dinner.

The evening offered an evening of fun, including award presentations, a South of the Border meal and the secrets of salsa success from guest speaker Robin Hildebrand, owner and CEO of Blue Smoke Salsa.

Hildebrand said she grew up in a family of seven boys and seven girls.

“My parents taught us how to be survivors and rise above obstacles,” Hildebrand said. “When I created my salsa, it was never with the intent of opening a business. I came from a family of home gardeners who did a lot of home canning. When I created the salsa I was on maternity leave with my second child.”

She said she created the salsa to use her leftover tomatoes. Her XXX Hot Salsa just won a National Hot Pepper Award.

“When I first created my salsa, I gave it to my brothers and my friends,” Hildebrand said. “The name Blue Smoke came from when I was a little girl. My brothers would rub hot peppers on my lips. I told my dad I wanted him to help me find the hottest pepper in the garden. I wanted it to be so hot that you can see the blue smoke.”

Hildebrand said her father told her she meant blue flame, which is the hottest part of a fire.

“After that, my brothers would tease me and say I should look at hot foods to find the blue smoke,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand said she had the first commercial kitchen approved in a basement in West Virginia. She encouraged the audience to join their local Chamber of Commerce, saying it represents the emotional heartbeat of local businesses.

“The number one ingredient in my salsa is my passion for my product,” Hildebrand said.

Following dinner, winners and runners up in 12 award categories were announced.

The Above and Beyond Service award is presented to a business, organization or individual who is a member of the chamber, for their commitment in delivering above and beyond customer service earning them exceptional high marks in customer satisfaction. The award was sponsored by Performance Motors and the Elkins Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, and was presented by Christy Hines to the Elkins Fire Department, which responded to 565 calls in 2013. Of those calls, 18 were building fires, including the fatal Chamberlain fire which shook the entire community.

“The calls were answered by a paid staff of four, including Fire Chief Tom Meader and volunteers,” Hines said. “These firemen not only act on emergency calls, but go above and beyond with their fire alarm program, visiting each of the schools during fire prevention week to educate the children on fire safety and assist whenever possible throughout our community.”

Runner ups in the Above and Beyond Service award were Jeanne Heavener, of the Durbin Greenbrier Valley Railroad’s Cheat Mountain Salamander, and Tomblyn Funeral Home.

John Smith of Durbin Greenbrier Valley Railroad made the presentation of the You Made It Happen Award. The runners up were Frontier Communications and Elkins Mayor Van Broughton.

The You Made It Happen Award is presented to a chamber member who made significant contributions and commitments to the county in the past year. The winner of the 2013 award was the Elkins City Police Department.

“This department provides 24/7 protection to the 7,000-plus residents of the City of Elkins,” Smith said. “At this time, they have nine officers with Capt. Steve Richards as the acting chief. The department has two drug dogs, and they have made 77 arrests so far this year. The department works tirelessly to curb the growing drug problem and maintain the safety of the low-crime community in which we live.”

Jim Bialek of Bialek Insurance Agency presented the Young Leader of the Year Award, which is given to an outstanding leader in the community under the age of 40, who has made significant strides to improve the Elkins-Randolph County area with their talents, progressive thinking and volunteer efforts in the community.

Hoy Ferguson, former educator and current commercial lender with Davis Trust Company, received the 2013 Young Leader of the Year Award.

“Ferguson exhibits a spirit of civic involvement and is an active member of many community organizations,” Bialek said. “He is treasurer for Elkins ONTRAC and serves on the board of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and Elkins Rotary. He chairs the annual Highland District Friends of Scouting Dinner and coaches for Seneca Soccer.”

Runners up for the Young Leader of the Year award were Matthew Stalnaker of Pioneer Insurance Agency and Kadra Casseday, art educator.

The 2013 winner of the Educator of the Year award was Shellie Burda. The award is sponsored by Elkins Fordland and was presented by Jeremiah Wentz. This award is given to a respected Randolph County teacher or administrator who serves in an educational capacity and who helps ensure educational excellence.

“Our nominee is an Advanced Placement certified educator and has been teaching in Randolph County for 12 years,” Wentz said. “At Elkins High School, she serves as a National Honor Society and Junior Class advisor, assisting with homecoming activities, prom and graduation.”

Runners up for the Educator of the Year Award are Amy Yeager, kindergarten teacher at Midland Elementary, and Christina Thomas, guidance placement coordinator at Randolph Technical Center.

One of the Chamber’s new awards is the Professional Service Award. It was sponsored by Mountain Valley Bank and announced by Richard Harvey. The award is designed to honor and recognize an individual who has shown a strong commitment to social responsibility, exemplifies civic and community involvement and owns or is employed by professional services.

The runners up for the Professional Service Award were Ray LaMora Jr., owner of LaMora Insurance, and Jennifer LaMora-Morgan, a real estate attorney at Busch, Zurbuch & Thompson.

The winner of the Professional Service Award was Beverly Johnson.

“Johnson has always been in the service industry, with her first job ever in a bank,” Harvey said. “She soon became employed in the professional service industry working as an underwriter for an insurance company before beginning what has become a 30-year career in real estate.”

Harvey said Johnson is a passionate advocate for all women with breast cancer and an inspiration to all cancer survivors.

“Johnson will be five years cancer free on April 29,” Harvey said.

Another new award for the chamber is the Health/Medical Service award, which is designed to honor a healthcare champion who has made an impact in the community by offering or providing outstanding healthcare. The award is sponsored by Citizens Investment Services and was presented by Rebecca Schoonover of Citizens Bank of West Virginia.

Runners up for the award were Dr. Eric Anger and Chad Shoemaker of Elkins Physical Therapy and Sports Injury Clinic.

The winner of the 2013 Health/Medical Service award was Randolph County EMS.

“The EMS covers more than 1,100 square miles with five ambulances and a crew of 25 full-time and 25 part-time staff members,” Schoonover said. “They responded to more than 6,500 calls, including the accident involving a log truck and the Cheat Mountain Salamander in October.”

The Business Man of the Year Award is sponsored by Huntington Bank and was presented by Samantha Davis. The award is given to a Chamber member who stands out in the community by having high standards, including innovative progress, customer service, ethics and a positive image.

The runners up for the Business Man of the Year award were Chuck Preusch of Reliable Roofing and Ryan Summerfield of the Randolph Funeral Home and Cremation Services.

The winner of the 2013 Business Man of the Year award was Nathaniel Bonnell, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Citizens Bank of West Virginia.

“Bonnell is a member of the Leadership West Virginia Class of 2014 and vice president of the board of directors of the Randolph County Children’s Advocacy Center,” Davis said. “He is tech-savvy and created the computer program used for the annual LIVE UNITED Telethon.”

Davis Trust Company sponsored the Business Woman of the Year award. It is given to a Chamber member who stands out in the community by having high standards, including innovative progress, customer service, ethics and a positive image. The award was presented by Hoy Ferguson of Davis Trust Company.

The winner of the 2013 Business Woman of the Year award was Dr. Tonya White.

“Tonya actively supports our local animal shelters and rescues by offering reduced pricing for exams, spays and neuters for homeless animals,” Ferguson said. “She also supports local schools and youth athletic programs as well as the American Cancer Society through the Randolph County Relay for Life.”

Runners up for the Business Woman of the Year award were Sherry Hammer, owner of Hopscotch, and Tammy Dolly, owner of Tammy’s Floral.

Reta Griffith, of Frontier Communications, and Kenny Sexton, president of the American Mountain Theatre and part owner of the Isaac Jackson Hotel and 1863 Grill, were runners up for the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Chamber Member of the Year.

The Chamber Member of the Year award was presented by Cindee Campbell, for outstanding performance by a chamber member furthered by the Chamber’s mission, objectives and programs.

The winner of the 2013 Chamber Member of the Year award was Whitney Phillips of Carte Hall &


“Our award recipient volunteered countless hours to the chamber in 2013,” Campbell said. “Her volunteerism was invaluable to the chamber in 2013, as it only took a phone call and she was on her way to lend a hand.”

Steve Kerns was the recipient of the Citizens Bank of West Virginia Citizen of the Year award.

“Kerns began his efforts nearly 15 years ago by founding the Tygart Valley Youth Group,” Franklin M. Hinzman said. “He led the members to begin collecting aluminum cans to be recycled. In April of 2012, their efforts, along with the help and support of Randolph County citizens, won the Department of Environmental Protection’s Award for environmental excellence.”

Runners up for the Citizen of the Year award were Bob Cowgill, champion for Operation Christmas Child, and Harvey Taylor, president of Tygarts Valley Little League.

  • The Old Brick Playhouse and Greenfield Cabinetry were runners up for the Business of the Year award, sponsored by The Inter-Mountain. The award is given to a business that is a chamber member and is actively involved in the community.

Heather Henline, publisher and general manager of The Inter-Mountain, presented the award to Advanced Hearing Solutions.

“We are proud to boast that our honoree serves five communities across the Mountain State,” Henline said. “Since opening their doors in 2010, this company’s mission was not only to sell great products but to help people, be involved in the community and have a positive influence on the communities in which they serve.”

  • Tom Williams presented the Award of Distinction to Kathy Leombruno. The award is given to an exemplary individual who has made significant civic, charitable and community contributions and volunteer numerous hours to enhance the quality of life for people in Randolph County.

“Kathy Leombruno spends countless hours after 9 to 5 wearing many volunteer hats,” Williams said. “For decades, she has had a long-standing reputation of dedication to community service and has been the inspiration of many new event and fundraising ideas.”

Runners up for the Award of Distinction were Ed Griesel and Cliff Marstiller.