This last week I attended the annual Crystal Lake Chamber Dinner, just as I have for probably the last 25 plus years. It is always a great opportunity to see fellow business owners and to learn of all that the Chamber is doing – and pay tribute to those who have done some great work for the Chamber and the community in general.
What was a little different about this year, was that I was surprised with recognition and an award that I had not truly expected!
The award that I was presented – the Carl E. Wehde Award, is in honor of Carl Wehde – a longtime business owner, School Board President and Mayor of Crystal Lake for 12 years. Carl was very much the epitome of a community minded individual and after his passing, the Chamber established this award for individuals that likewise were very involved in the community. Since its inception, several individuals have been presented this award, including Mayor Aaron Shepley just last year.
This was indeed a very humbling experience for me as I would not put myself in the same category as Carl, Aaron or many of the other past recipients. And since it was such a surprise, I will admit that I probably did not do much justice to the short acknowledgement remarks that I made that evening… and so it is now that I am going to take the time to share some of what I should have included that evening:
This was truly an honor, and especially since I had the benefit of actually knowing Carl Wehde! Back when I first started in business – 34 years ago now, I had done a few small print orders with Wehde Shoes. Carl was very engaging and eager to work with a local business – you could tell his interest in supporting the local economy and his ethical approach. I also have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with his wife Verla many times over the years at the Chamber Dinners – and it was Verla that had presented me the award, so thank you!
Additionally though, I would suggest that much of what I have done in the community is a direct result of the impact that my Chamber membership has had on me, and the because of the many individuals that I have met and learned from in the Chamber. Individuals like Arlene Kerns, who was the Executive Director of the Chamber when I first joined, or Daphne Starr, who was one of the original Ambassadors of the Chamber. Bob Blazier had a huge impact on myself and so many others in the Chamber – in fact he was the President back when I was Chair of the Board back in 1993, and also when I was the Ambassador Chair in 2000. Gary Reece, the most recent past President, and Mary Margaret Maule the current President have also been an inspiration for me.
There are so many others as well over the years that have had an impact and I have had the pleasure of working with through the Chamber – much too many list all of them, but a few that I would make mention of are Mike Splitt, Jerry Shaffer, Mark Elmore, Patti Lutz, Kim Martens, Ken Koehler and Tom Stock. And the many Chamber staff who I have worked with, including Joan Knoll and Bonnie Miller.
I found early on in business, that the more you get involved in the community, the more you will ultimately benefit from it! I learned this as a Chamber member too – when I first joined, I did it only because that is what I thought you should do as a business owner. It was not until a few years later when I chose to become more involved, that I actually gained new connections and had the opportunity to learn from them. Next thing you know, I was on the Board – and then Chairman! From this experience I met many others around the county, and chose to also work with many nonprofits within the community. One of my most gratifying experiences has been as a member of the McHenry County Community Foundation’s Board – and also as Chairman. The Foundation’s Robin Doeden, John Small, Russ Foszcz, Cheryl Wormley and Mark Ehlert have been and continue to be inspirations for me. Over the years I have also been very active within the printing industry and have likewise sat on the Boards of two national associations – NAPL and NAQP, and have received recognition from them. Without my introduction to service that I had through the Chamber though, perhaps I would not have been as active in these organizations as well.
I would also be very remiss in not recognizing the support and encouragement from my wife Julie – she has truly been my greatest fan over the years and has joined me at so many events and dinners, as part of the “team.” I truly wish she had been able to attend the dinner and to also receive my thanks, although her recent hip surgery precluded this.
In looking back now, I realize that perhaps I have had somewhat of an impact within the community. But as I did make note of when I received the award, the more you give, the more you get, and this was indeed an example of that.
So once again, thank you to the Chamber for this recognition – it is truly appreciated!