Wakarusa Chamber Recognizes Award Recipientsby Amy Wenger on October 1, 2014
Leaders and members of the Wakarusa community and commerce sector gathered for their annual recognition event on Monday, September 29, in a celebration which recognized exemplary achievements in the local realms of business and education.
The affair was sponsored by the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce, and was held at Nelson's Banquet Hall in Wakarusa. Ed Kinney served as the Master of Ceremonies, while Cindy Hill, Nadine Lengacher, and Deb Shively all took turns with various hosting duties and award presentations. The opening invocation was offered by Joel Gentz, senior pastor at Bethel Missionary Church.
Sarah Stump, a junior at NorthWood High School. served as the guest speaker for the evening's festivities. Sarah's inspirational story centered on her life, and the positive, spiritual approach she embodies each day, having been born with just one functional arm. Sarah spoke of her faithful bond with Paige Taylor, whom she became friends with thanks to the enduring power of Skype. Paige, who resides in New Zealand, and Sarah share a similar condition, and finally had the chance to meet in person almost a year ago. Sarah is also the reigning Elkhart County 4-H Fair Queen, and talked about how her mission is to inspire young woman to accept that God has created everyone to be "imperfectly perfect," and that people have limitless opportunities and capabilities if they follow Christ's lead.
Three esteemed entities were chosen to be named Business of the Year. To be considered for this award, the business must demonstrate "a diverse support of the Chamber" and accomplish a respectable reputation of "longstanding membership, sponsorship dollars, committee representation, and event volunteering."
Business of the Year - Glen's Tire
In a trio of establishments being selected for Business of the Year distinction, Glen's Tire was the first one honored. The business dates back to 1997, when Glen and Sue Zimmerman opened a tire shop in the building which now houses Hot Headz Salon and Spa on East Waterford Street. By 2000, the business had grown enough to allow for the construction of a new facility, directly across the street at 609 East Waterford Street. A second location was unveiled in Nappanee in 2009, and the Zimmermans now have a dedicated workforce of 20 employees.
Glen is a longtime resident of Wakarusa, having lived in the area since the age of 12. He first began tinkering with tires at the age of 16 before parlaying his talents into a family enterprise. He and Sue have four children, Britney, Cory, Andrew, and Bradly, and are active members of Pleasant Grove Mennonite Church in Goshen.
Business of the Year - Provident Tool/Turnomat
Provident Tool reached the 20 year milestone of business in Wakarusa this past May, and company president Craig Henkler was on hand to accept the award. Henkler and his wife, Candy, have been residents of the community since 1987 and have been married for 37 years. Candy handles the bookkeeping for Provident Tool, and the couple has three grown sons - Matthew of Chicago, Trevor of Mishawaka, and Aaron of Lafayette. Provident Tool acquired Turnomat, LLC, in 2010, relocating the operations from Farmington, New York and bringing the business to Wakarusa. Turnomat specializes in the manufacture of linear motion products, and is under the management of Candy's father, Harry Rombke, who still works a busy schedule at the age of 83.
The Henklers are also familiar to Wakarusa residents for their other talents, including their apple orchard, blueberry bushes, and rows of grapes, which they use to create wine to take to family and friends. Candy is also a piano teacher, and is also the organist and pianist for their home church at Grace Lutheran Church in Elkhart. Craig is also a beekeeper, and they have been the suppliers of homegrown apple cider for some of the town's fall-themed events.
Business of the Year - Rieth-Rohrer-Ehret-Lienhart Funeral Home
This longtime institution in the downtown Wakarusa corridor has been truly a family run enterprise for more than 50 years, and has employed several generations of consultants in providing for the concerns and spiritual well being of families who have lost loved ones. The Ehret family, including patriarchs Jacob, Cornelius, and Dwight are credited with originating the family business, then in 1963, Robert Ehret unveiled a new facility in Goshen, naming it Rieth-Rohrer-Ehret Funeral Home. In 1967, the company bought the Lienhart funeral parlor in Wakarusa from Dewey Lienhart, and by the early 1990s, the name of the Wakarusa location had been changed to its current title of Rieth-Rohrer-Ehret-Lienhart.
Robert's son, Jerry, joined the family business in 1981, followed by Jerry's son in 2009. Their mission statement remains, "to respectfully provide care, service, and remembrance with excellence."
New Chamber Member - Quality Window & Door
When Dan and Gloria King launched Quality Window and Door out of their family home in 1987, they were said to have "limited resources, yet unlimited determination." All these years later, the business is still very much all in the family, but has become far more than what the homestead could contain. In 1995, the Kings renovated their 100 year old barn to convert it into offices and a showroom, later adding on a spacious warehouse in 2004 to accommodate storage of doors, windows, and related materials. Today, Quality Window and Door is regarded as one of the premier suppliers of Marvin Windows and Doors in the entire state of Indiana.
The Kings have been joined by their children and spouses in leading the business endeavors, including daughter Carmen and her husband Shane, as well as son Nathan and his wife, Angela. Of the 12 employees on staff for Quality Window and Door, most have been serving their community and their company for ten years or more.
Educator of the Year - Brad Eby
Brad Eby might be a living testimony to one of the most famous movie lines of all time - "there's no place like home." Having been raised and schooled in the Wa-Nee community, it might have seemed bittersweet to leave Indiana after college. Eby worked as a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma for eight years before making the decision to return to Wakarusa and raise his family, which now includes Connie, his wife of 20 years, and their three children - Terin of Indianapolis, Erica of Nashville, Tennessee, and Kirk, a NorthWood High School student and member of the NorthWood Panthers football squad.
Presently, Eby serves as the 8th grade science teacher for NorthWood Middle School. He has been a basketball coach for a team of 7th grade girls for the past 28 years, with 25 of those years transpiring at NorthWood Middle School. Eby is a member of the Wakarusa Lions Club and has assisted with the Wakarusa Baseball League for a number of years. He and his family attend Nappanee Missionary Church. A former student submitted a few anonymous thoughts on Eby's legacy, writing, "Brad considers it a privilege to work in a town where parents watch youth baseball in a respectful manner, where you dodge pumpkins and giant Christmas trees in the center of town, and where doing the right thing is expected."
Friend of the Chamber - Troy Schwartz
According to the Chamber's executive secretary, Deb Shively, Schwartz's first official date of appearing at a Chamber meeting was back in the spring of 2003. He's been a permanent fixture ever since, so to speak, given that he oversees the daily operations of Schwartz Electric, Inc. Prior to the announcement of Schwartz's award, Shively narrated a humorous slideshow of Schwartz, shown at various community functions, in which he looks as though he has somewhat "photobombed" each event with his presence. The show ended with a comical suggestion that Schwartz's efforts be rewarded with a spot atop the town'sChristmas tree, in which a picture of his electrified star-shaped image was shown in full holiday regalia.
As the evening drew to a close, a number of prize drawings were held, including Tervis tumblers from the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce, the book "Lead...For God's Sake," by Todd Gongwer, three custom glass art creations from Ed Kinney, a Magic Bullet from Miller's Senior Living, a Sonos Play:5 Wireless Speaker System from Pro IT Solutions, and an iPad mini with case from J & N Stone.