May 13, 2024 at 2:54 p.m.

Lifetime LeMasters

Couple honored for decades of service
Leland and Judy LeMaster thank the community after receiving The Spirit of Vicki Lifetime Achievement award Saturday at the Jay County Community Awards at Spoke & Wheel Event Center in Portland. The LeMasters were honored for their years of volunteering, helping with Optimist clubs as well as launching the Mighty Marvel Optimist Club for residents with mental disabilities. (The Commercial Review/Bailey Cline)
Leland and Judy LeMaster thank the community after receiving The Spirit of Vicki Lifetime Achievement award Saturday at the Jay County Community Awards at Spoke & Wheel Event Center in Portland. The LeMasters were honored for their years of volunteering, helping with Optimist clubs as well as launching the Mighty Marvel Optimist Club for residents with mental disabilities. (The Commercial Review/Bailey Cline)

Those who prefer to stay out of the spotlight can be the ones most deserving of praise.

Leland and Judy LeMaster were honored Saturday with The Spirit of Vicki Lifetime Achievement Award during the Jay County Community Awards at Spoke & Wheel Event Center.

Portland Fire Chief Mike Weitzel won Citizen of the Year, marking his second time to earn the achievement after his first award in the category for 2020. Dunkirk Mayor Jack Robbins also nabbed a second Dunkirk Community Commitment award, having previously won the accolade for 2019.

Wheel & Spoke Antique Mall won the Business of the Year Award. (Under previous ownership, the antique mall won the Innovator of the Year Award in 2017.) Joyce/Dayton Corporation was honored as the industry of the year.

Jay County Development Corporation was among the new winners this year, taking home the Not-for-profit of the Year Award and drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.

Other new faces that also received recognition Saturday at the awards sponsored by Jay County Chamber of Commerce were:

•Small Community Commitment - Pennville Community Park Board

•Innovator of the Year - Toddlertown Early Learning Center

•Young Professional of the Year - LeeAnn Miller

•Community Group of the Year - 2 Guys Pies

The LeMasters earned the lifetime achievement award for their time as volunteers with the Morning and Evening Optimist clubs. They also spearheaded Mighty Marvel Optimist Club, a group for local residents with mental disabilities.

“Leland and Judy have made tremendous impact in our community through their countless hours of volunteering,” said chamber board president Josh Stewart while introducing them as finalists. “They tirelessly remain dedicated to the youth of Jay County. The countless hours they have contributed to our community is priceless.”

Stewart noted the LeMasters prefer to stay “behind the scenes,” but he encouraged their recognition Saturday.

“Their efforts do not go unnoticed, which is why they are nominated. Your community loves you,” he added.

Leland LeMaster shared his gratitude for Jay County Chamber of Commerce and the community around him. Judy LeMaster expressed thanks for receiving the award named after the late Vicki Tague, the former Jay County Chamber of Commerce executive director who won the honor herself in 2016.

“It’s truly an honor to receive this in Vicki’s honor,” said Judy LeMaster. “She was a great person, and Jay County is truly a place to raise your kids, and that’s what we’ve taught ours — to give back to the community that you live in.”

Weitzel, who has served as Portland’s fire chief since the beginning of 2016, was voted Citizen of the Year for his volunteer efforts and leadership in various roles. His community involvement includes work with Portland Main Street Connect and United Way of Jay County.

“Mike is an all-in, give-it-all-you-got person,” said Ja-Mar TV, Appliances and Bedding owner Shauna Runkle. “He is stepping up and doing what he can in many areas of the community. He does all this because he wholeheartedly and truly cares about the people of Jay County.”

Wheel & Spoke Antique Mall of Portland earned Business of the Year, having given a facelift to the space. The business’ efforts have attracted new shoppers and visitors to Portland, noted chamber board member Mark Valentine.

Joyce/Dayton took home the Industry of the Year Award. The company broke ground in April on a nearly $9 million project, marking the 11th expansion of its manufacturing facility in Portland. Joyce/Dayton was also named to Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s Best Places to Work in Manufacturing for 2023.

Jay County Development Corporation was named Not-for-Profit of the Year for its commitment to “improving Jay County year over year,” said chamber board member Zach Chenoweth. He noted its work with local entities in applying for grants, attracting and retaining industries, supporting local businesses and its efforts toward the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI).

Jay County Development Corporation executive director Travis Richards, who won the Young Professional of the Year Award for 2022, asked for a show of hands from those who have been involved with JCDC or the other nominees for not-for-profit of the year, Jay County Drug Prevention Coalition and The Portland Foundation. Hands flew up across the room.

“Look around. Community’s a team sport. Nobody does it alone,” he said. “JCDC can’t do what we do without all of you (who) just raised your hands.”

The first Dunkirk mayor in decades to be re-elected, Robbins received the Dunkirk Community Commitment award for his dedication and work for his city. He has been pursuing projects for the benefit of Dunkirk’s residents, with work wrapping up on a new stormwater project and hopes to begin master utility planning and other infrastructure improvements soon.

Pennville Community Park Board’s recognition with the Small Community Commitment award came from its dedication to “keeping Pennville alive,” said chamber board member Gentry Clark. That includes park board’s efforts with hosting Pennville Soccer Club, Barbeque in the Park and bingo, offering discounted sports physicals and creating a Junior Park Board. The park board completed a five-year plan and has been securing funds for its park improvement project.

Toddlertown Early Learning Center of Portland opened its doors to the community in February. Owners Susan and Wade Kohler recognized a need for more child care in Jay County and took matters into their own hands, their nomination said. At 8,600 square feet, the center has space for up to 78 children.

Miller, the owner of Reclaiming Design in Portland, won the Young Professional of the Year Award. Her passion for the job, as well as her style and helpfulness, are key components of what her customers enjoy most from her business, her nomination said. She is also involved with Main Street Connect and the Arts Place board of directors.

Emmet Betz, 10, Bennett Betz, 8, and mother Jenn Betz — 2 Guys Pies — were named Community Group of the Year. They started selling pies in June to raise money for families that have experienced a farming-related injury or death, having lost father and husband Andrew Betz eight years ago in a tractor accident.

Other finalists were Gary Stewart for Lifetime Achievement; Ray Cooney and Tami Vormohr for Citizen of theYear; Beauty Bar and Strohl Appliance and Electronics for Business of the Year; Ohio Valley Gas and Pennville Custom Cabinetry for Industry of the Year; Scott Nuttle and Rob Bechtel and Sculpt Fitness for Dunkirk Community Commitment; Bryant Park Board and Mark Leavell for Small Community Commitment; Blessing’s Photography by Dawn Alicea, IU Health-Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic and Paws and Claws Pet Care for Innovator of the Year; Gentry Clark, Klarisa Hemmelgarn and Tanner McClain for Young Professional of the Year; and Kids Purpose Project and Secret Families Christmas Charity of Jay County for Community Group of the Year.

PORTLAND WEATHER

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