Nearly 200 people attended the Wrangell Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner Saturday, March 15 at the Nolan Center. The chamber recognized community members and businesses for their accomplishments and introduced some of the upcoming events it’s sponsoring.

Click here for iFriendly audio.

The theme for this year’s dinner was “A little bit of Irish and a whole lot of fun.”

The Nolan Center was decorated in a St. Patrick’s day theme with green centerpieces and 192 shamrock cake pops made by office assistant Shawna Buness.

Chamber of Commerce dinner - Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK

Chamber of Commerce dinner – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK

Office manager Cyni Waddington says this event is the only annual fundraiser for the Chamber.

“At the annual dinner, we have to conduct a very short business meeting and then we just like to do honoring [sic] members of the community. We honor citizen of the year, the business of the year, our young leader of the year. This year we are honoring our retiring teachers which is really special,” said Waddington.

There are five teachers leaving at the end of this school year.

Waddington introduced each of the teachers and presented them with certificates of thanks.

She says educators do an incredible service to the community.

“I also realize that teachers most certainly don’t do what they do for recognition. They do it out of pure passion and love for educating, coaching, encouraging, caring, training our young leaders of tomorrow,” said Waddington.

“These people that are retiring this year are going to be difficult, I would say impossible, to replace—a collective over 100 years of educational experience walking out the door this year and good years they’ve been,” said Buness.

Monty Buness is the secondary principal and athletics director. He says he’s learned a lot from his fellow teachers over the years.

“And the best advice and the best thing they did was to provide me with a great example of what it takes to be a good teacher, a fine educator, a good coach, a good friend, a professional, and someone who is always standing up for the rights of kids and everybody else,” said Buness.

Two students were recognized at the dinner as youth leaders in the community.

Massin was lauded for her work with public safety. Again, Cyni Waddington:

“She’s been helping with the fire department basically since she was born, and now is a student firefighter. She is a Wrangell High School cheerleader and truly loves it; and you can see it in her smile. She is now working at the movie theater and is always helping with fundraisers and is currently fundraising to go to Close-Up in Washington DC next year,” said Waddington.

The second student was Miller. Waddington says she has a passion for music and much more.

“She leads Wrangell High School as a student body vice president, helps organize on the transportation committee, is the Wrangell High School national honor society president as well as the Wrangell High School music honor society president, captain of the varsity volleyball team, voted homecoming queen by her peers, and is a senior leader in the Wrangell High School pep band. She was also Wrangell’s sole representation at the Southeast Alaska music honor fest this year and is a member of the Southeast honor choir,” said Waddington.

The Chamber recognized Lucy Robinson as citizen of the year. She is the head of the running group, Southeast Beasts. Robinson says she’s surprised by the honor because of all of the worthy people in the community.

“I do want to say one thing. I started Southeast Beasts in 2012. It’s a running group for those of you who don’t know and all the runs that we do are all focused on local charity. So, if somebody is sick and needs some sort of assistance medically, all of the proceeds go toward that. My goal is to hopefully become a non-profit; so I’m starting to work on that, and then of course world domination after that which is, of course, pretty easy,” said Robinson.

World domination may be coming quicker than she thinks. As citizen of the year, Robinson will serve as grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade.

There were several nominees for business of the year including Alaska Special Seafoods, the Wrangell Cooperative Association, Superior Marine, and Breakaway Adventures. The award went to the Stikine Inn and Restaurant.

Finally, the chamber held a member appreciation for Bill Privett. Cyni Waddington described Privett as a true volunteer with this quote:

“A volunteer is a person who can see what others cannot see, who can feel what most do not feel. Often, such gifted persons do not think of themselves as volunteers but as citizens, citizens in the fullest sense, partners in civilization,” said Waddington.

There is one other quote Waddington shared during the event that encapsulates the evening in a few simple words.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us all.”