Chamber rolls out the red carpet for busineses, volunteers

MAHOMET — Only one word came to mind for Jill Guth, a broker for Guth & Associates, after winning the Mahomet Area Chamber of Commerce's Overall Business of the Year award — "stunned."

"I'm quite overwhelmed to be honest," she said. "I didn't expect it. Obviously, (I'm) very honored and humbled that the committee recognizes the work that we're doing and that it's not just about filling spaces but making Mahomet a better community."

Guth was just one of five businesses honored, along with two outstanding community members, during the chamber's Excellence in Business event on Monday. Chamber members nominated award winners, but ultimately, the chamber's three-person committee selected each of the winners.

The three-hour event celebrated more than 150 attendees, which was simply priceless for Chairman Angela Barden.

"My favorite part of the evening is just looking at the emotions of the winners when they come up," she said. "Some of them are very touched and didn't expect to get that reaction."

Scott Miller, owner of Bulldog Automotive, was one of those moved by his business's selection as Small Business of the Year.

"(I'm) very humbled," he said. "It means a lot. I didn't get into it for the notoriety, I got into it because I like what I do."

Emily Moon Kroner, owner of Lucky Moon Pies and More, was "tickled pink" with her business being selected as Start-Up Business of the Year.

"I was thrilled," she said. "I still am thrilled. I feel like Mahomet is changing very quickly and growing so fast and since I grew up here when it was just a tiny, tiny town, I feel like I'm really at the cutting edge of a new era for Mahomet. It was a big rush of emotion."

Dan Walk, owner of Walk Chiropractic, felt "overwhelmed" and "so thankful" after winning Health and Wellness Business of the Year.

"It means everything," Walk said. "That's one of the great things about having a small community is we have each other's backs, just like I have people's backs," he joked.

Jokes aside, Walk said he owed a huge thank-you to his family (wife Katie and daughters Ella, 10, and Emmy, 10 months) and staff (Angela Agius, Danielle Ellis, Sonja Gudgel, Amylynn Heiser and Kelsey Wedig) for all of their support.

Other business winners included Mahomet's beloved frozen yogurt operation, YoYo's, which earned Food Service Business of the Year.

Ann Paul, president of Mahomet Helping Hands, was honored for her more than 20 years of service to the local food pantry, becoming the Community Servant of the Year.

"I'm really pleased and honored to have that," Paul said. "Everybody appreciates what I do and I appreciate them."

Paul said the award now makes five total awards for her servant leadership, but being recognized by the chamber was by far "the largest one."

"This is one of the greatest awards I've got," she said.

Lyn Ferdinand of Mahomet Insurance Centre was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year for her 30 years of service to the chamber.

"It's very humbling," Ferdinand said. "It's just nice to be recognized.'"

The idea to honor more businesses than in years past, previously only Volunteer of the Year and Overall Business of the Year, was an important one for Barden and the chamber's committee.

"We have some wonderful business members, so we thought that it would be great to do," she said. "A lot of times, small businesses have never had the opportunity to win Business of the Year because they're too small, they just haven't had enough of a role within the community, so that was really important to us to have those categories available."

In addition to recognizing the businesses, the chamber also raised $4,055 during a dessert auction, led by auctioneer John Rawdin, for its scholarship program.

Awarded students, including Zachary Kietzmann (Illinois State), Erin Krumwiede (University of Mississippi), Carolyn McCue (Purdue) and Anna Taylor (Utah State), will receive $1,000 apiece thanks to the generous local businesses.

"We have a scholarship committee for the chamber and they review scholarship (applications) from the school, and we try really hard to match scholarships with business majors," chamber director Walter Pierce said.

In fact, the dessert auction is one of Pierce's favorite parts of the evening.

"I go to the back of the room and stand and watch some of those tables get the price up as high as they can," Pierce said of the cause.

But even sweeter was knowing just how much the recognition and an evening together meant to the local business community.

"On Facebook, Jill Guth shared a picture of her Business of the Year award sitting on her desk. That meant something," Pierce said. "As Evan (El Koury) and I were trying to load chairs in (the car) that evening following the event, Mary (Pettenger) from Winderson's Creations said, 'I can't imagine the work you guys do for that,' and I said, 'Yeah, but that's worth it,'" he added, "especially when you get a thank-you."

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