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Great Bend Chamber of Commerce
Annual Banquet & Awards

Held annually in February, the Awards Ceremony highlights the achievments of the prior year while celebrating the business community as a whole. Three awards are presented with a fourth at the discretion of the chamber board of directors. - NextGen Leader of the Year - Citizen of the Year - Business of the Year - Legacy Award (discretionary)

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102nd Annual Award Winners

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2023 NextGen Leader
Kris Sundahl


2023 Citizen of the Year
Mark Bitter

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2023 Business of the Year
Spectrum CPA

NextGen Leader: Kris Sundahl

When Kris Sundahl’s family learned he might not be able to attend the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce banquet, they had to get creative. The result was to tell him a big white lie. Kris was taken aside and informed that his mom, Nancy, was going to be named Citizen of the Year and that he must attend the banquet to present her with the award. And, of course, he couldn’t say anything to her because the name of the winner is kept hush-hush until the banquet. Little did he know that he would be honored with the NextGen Award at the annual chamber gathering. “He said he would be coaching basketball out of town that weekend and was iffy on getting back in time for the banquet,” Nancy recalled. “We had to do something to make sure he came. It is safe to say the NextGen honor would come as a very, very big surprise.” Criteria for the award include being a leader in the work environment, as well as in the community. The nominee must also create a meaningful impact on the community and be seen as a rising leader. “Kris demonstrates every day why he deserves this prestigious recognition,” Nancy commented. “He is a leader who adds meaning to life, whether at home or at work.” Kris, 45, is a financial advisor at Edward Jones, 2016 19th. He is a single dad with two sons – Jakoby, 12, and Dylan, 10. After he moved back to Great Bend in 2018, “he had the opportunity to work for Edward Jones,” Nancy said. “Kris also wanted to get involved in his community and joined the Chamber; he is still an ambassador. He wants to give back to the community that has given so much to him. “Kris has been successful at his job, in part, because the guidance of Sonya Rein,” she added. “Also, he has time to be available to his boys and participate in their activities. They also enjoy the outdoors and finding new places to hike and explore nature.” Kris has a long history of coaching many youth sports, noted his dad, Kevin. “But it is not just about the games; it is about life – the ups and downs, the wins and losses. “When things don’t go your way or you face obstacles, you find a way to work through it,” Kevin continued. “Kris is great coach, has a good work ethic and is an excellent role model for young people.” More background Kris is a 1997 graduate of Great Bend High School and earned an associate’s degree in general studies two years later at Barton Community College. He went on to receive his bachelor’s in psychology in 2001 at Kansas State University and a master’s in history in 2015 at Wichita State University. From 2002-16, he was in law enforcement at Hutchinson, where he was a school resource officer for the school district. “Kris enjoyed law enforcement but wanted to be able to spend more time with his sons,” Kevin said. Jan Westfall, community leader who nominated Kris for the NextGen recognition, said “he is dedicated to this community and wants to continue to be a vital part of its growth and success. Kris wants to build for the future, not only for himself but for his two boys. “It is important to Kris to show his children the benefits of supporting your community and getting involved in civic groups, church and school activities.” Westfall also noted the extent of his community involvement. Kris is vice president of the Noon Lions Club; vice president of the USD 428 Education Foundation board; Family Crisis Center board member; and active member of Prince of Peace Parish and supporter of Holy Family School where his children are students. “On top of all that, Kris finds time to be a college basketball official and volunteers as a youth coach of basketball, baseball and football,” Westfall pointed out. Sonya Rein, another nominator, said “Kris has spent his life serving others in many capacities; he has a passion for helping others. He exemplifies the Edward Jones mission, which is to partner for positive impact, improve the lives of our clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. “His Edward Jones branch continues to rise in the ranks of Practice Level Management,” continued Rein, senior branch office administrator. “And most important, Kris is a dedicated single dad who is a perfect fit for the NextGen Award criteria.” The award is sponsored by the Barton County Young Professionals, a chamber program. ABOUT NEXTGEN LEADER OF THE YEAR AWARD The NextGen Leader of the Year award is presented annually to an individual creating a meaningful impact as a rising leader in Barton County, Kansas. Nominees are leaders in their work environment, as well as in the community. This award is presented by the Barton County Young Professionals, a program of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. Additional criteria include: •The nominee must be affiliated with a member of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. •The nominee must have lived in the Great Bend service area for at least three years. •Nominee must be seen as a leader in their work environment, as well as in the community. •Nominee must create a meaningful impact in the community and be seen as a rising leader. Previous NextGen Award Recipients 2022 Megan Hammeke 2021 Chuy Loera 2020 Andrea Bauer 2019 Ryan Fairchild 2018 Rachel Mawhirter 2017 Jason Mayers 2016 Regan Reif 2015 Matt Hiss 2014 Dr. Nels Lindberg 2013 Kristy Straub 2012 Cody Lee

Citizen of the Year: Mark Bitter

Mark Bitter is well known about town even though he is often described as the “behind-the-scenes guy.” He quietly goes about his business, while helping make things happen. Mark has played a big role in everything from Final Fridays to the huge downtown-loft project. These ventures, plus many others, are the reason Mark was recognized as Citizen of the Year during the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. “Despite his many contributions to Great Bend, Mark is kind of an introvert,” said Chris Bitter, his wife. “He certainly doesn’t like the spotlight.” Well, he got it anyway when he was presented with the special honor in front of hundreds of guests. Mark and Chris own Kustom Floor Designs, 1515 Main, which opened in 1979; both work at the family business. When trying to verbalize the reasons Mark deserves the award, one event stands out in the minds of Chris and their daughters, Cori and Lacey - the gathering after the Home for the Holidays Parade. “Mark said “wouldn’t it be cool to have a party?’” Chris recalled. “That led to families gathering for hot dogs, hot chocolate and carriage rides; and it continues to grow. “Mark always insists these community events be free of charge. He wants to engage the community and start family traditions. When he sees young people with families come home for the parade, Mark wants to find ways to encourage them to move back. That was the mind-set with Final Fridays too.” Chris pointed to another illustration of Mark’s drive to help Great Bend prosper. When he is out of town, he checks out the businesses and amenities in other downtowns. “His mind is always thinking about how we could incorporate something of value. And he has me doing the same thing. When I am out of town, I snap pictures because I know he wants to see what I saw.” The loft space downtown is a big focus now. “This was a vision of Mark’s when MyTown bought the Zarah Building. When he first saw the space, it was a mess to say the least. But he was undeterred. “Mark is aware there are negative comments about the lofts but he has a unique ability to shake them off. He constantly looks at the positives and always says that challenges and problems are opportunities. “People don’t have any idea about the hours and hours of research that go into a project like this. He continues to learn and knows it will work.” Bitter’s daughters Cori and Lacey didn’t have a difficult time elaborating on the extent of their dad’s commitment to Great Bend. “He doesn’t just talk,” Lacey said. “He figures out solutions; he wants to find ways to fuel the business community. But it’s not just that. He also is concerned about the quality-of-life aspects of Great Bend.” During his research on the lofts, Mark has zeroed in on municipal codes, demographics and the availability of grant funds. “You cannot imagine what has gone into this,” Lacey commented. Cori, who is the painter and finisher at Kustom Floor, noted that her dad mentors so many people in all walks of life. “Again, it’s not just the business side of things. He also mentors about personal development and leadership, while encouraging others to be their best. He wants his neighbors to lead meaningful lives. “What really stands out is that Dad has helped other contractors get their licenses even though they will be our competition. He looks at this as building for generations to come.” Cori and Lacey’s brother, Klint, now works for the family business too. Other insights Sara Arnberger, president of Great Bend Economic Development, mentioned four words that come to mind when she thinks about Mark: inspiration, passion, perseverance and community. “From the moment I met Mark, his innovative ideas and unwavering commitment to our community have propelled me to new heights,” Arnberger said. “Engaging in conversation with Mark infuses one with empowerment and optimism for our collective future. “Mark’s tireless efforts laid the groundwork for Great Bend’s prosperity, fostering the success of numerous events, projects and businesses. His enduring faith in our community, even during times of slow progress, serves as a beacon of resilience and hope. His contagious enthusiasm inspires me daily, and enriches the fabric of Great Bend.” Sheryl Cheely, MyTown board member, echoed some of Arnberger’s comments and mentioned Mark’s “love of Great Bend. He quietly raises money and is open to discussions about how to make our town better. “During the last 15 years, Mark has helped make MyTown work, with many contributions to Final Fridays and the after-parade party. He also worked with me to bring the Dolly Trolley to Great Bend. Mark is a very good businessman who has his employees’ respect and an eye for making things look beautiful.” ABOUT THE GREAT BEND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CITIZEN OF THE YEAR AWARD The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce annually recognizes outstanding service by an individual who contributes to the quality of life within the community of Great Bend. This award recognizes an individual who has given their time, talent, energy, and shown outstanding service to the community and members of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, or persons who have excelled in their chosen profession giving of their time and talent to enhance the culture and work environment around them. Previous Citizen of The Year Recipients 2022Scott Donovan 2021Dr. Perry Smith 2020Randy Smith 2019Mike Johnson 2018Barry Bowers 2017Mark Mingenback 2016Dan Bonine 2015Jim Johnson 2014Jan Westfall 2013Roger Murphy 2012Rick Ball 2011Glen Opie 2010Wally Straub 2009Bob Dema 2008Sheryl Cheely 2007Bob Parrish 2006Bill Berryman 2005Terry & MelEasa Stueder 2004Ron Koelsch 2003Danny Biggs 2002Jean Cavanaugh 2001Orville Huss 2000Mark Calcara 1999LeRoy Dringmann 1998Don Whelan

Business of the Year: Spectrum CPA

It’s not just professionalism in the field of accounting that earned Spectrum CPA Partners the Business of the Year Award. It’s also the employees’ genuine concern for the community they serve. “I know this sounds cliché, but this is an amazing group of people,” said Barry Bowers, Spectrum partner. “They are exceptional employees who take care of their clients, while also being plugged in to the needs of their community.” For example, Operation Christmas Child has grown every year because of the employees, most of whom are long-time Barton County residents. They also serve Meals on Wheels, and support non-profits, civic clubs and churches. “If we didn’t have these people on staff, we wouldn’t have this award,” Bowers said. “This recognition is about everyone here, the business as a whole. We are selective about who we hire and it pays off every day. It’s great when you don’t mind coming to work.” In addition to Bowers, Cynthia Lockwood is a partner and Joni Haines is the administrator. Staff accountants are Rick Warnken, Tammy Curtis, Kayla Wimmer, Sheri Yager, John Lane, Ally Stocker and Santiago Talamantes. Penny Dreiling is the receptionist. Lockwood noted these colleagues comprise the team that offers a full-service menu of accounting services at 1400 Polk. This includes: payroll services; QuickBooks training; business consulting and planning; bookkeeping; income-tax services; investment tax planning; financial and estate planning; and human resources consulting. “We also continue to create new services as we stay up-to-date with the many changes in technology,” Lockwood said. “These changes happen at warp speed, while we offer more services electronically and remotely.” Spectrum appreciates not just the award itself, but also the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors it, she said. “This really is for the whole community and everyone appreciates it. “We come together at the annual banquet and celebrate the business community’s many successes. This is bigger than just one company; it speaks to the whole community.” Nominators Those who nominated Spectrum for the Business of the Year Award shared a few comments. Mark Mingenback, local businessman, said “Spectrum is an excellent example of a truly local firm being a great corporate citizen. It offers an outstanding professional team of CPAs, staff accountants and support staff.” Mingenback also noted the company’s “significant involvement with many local projects, along with financial donations. Employees give countless volunteer hours to the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, Samaritan’s Purse, Great Bend Foundation, Golden Belt Community Foundation, Boy Scouts and the Chamber. I’m sure there are many more. “The bottom line is that Spectrum’s staff members live here and genuinely care about Great Bend’s prosperity.” Scott Donovan of Eagle Radio also noted that “it truly is the entire team that deserves this recognition. I see Spectrum staff at events all the time. When they sponsor a table for a worthy cause, and it fills up, they sponsor another table. This team really knows how to give back.” On the business side, Spectrum accountants understand what customer service is all about, Donovan added. “They add services that are requested by their clients and fulfill the needs of the business community. If you need help with payroll services, they can do that. If you have questions about running a company, tax advantages or profit sharing, they offer a business consulting service. “A trusted partner is hard to find but Spectrum is that partner for many companies in Great Bend and beyond.” Haley Ruble of FreeStyle Marketing echoed comments from Mingenback and Donovan, while noting “Spectrum stands as a beacon of excellence and community commitment, deserving of every accolade – especially the prestigious Business of the Year Award. What sets Spectrum apart is their financial expertise and unwavering dedication to the community. “Their ongoing support of non-profits and participation in local events exemplify their role as more than just a business entity. They are a true community partner.” And it is not just a “mere corporate responsibility; it is a genuine passion ingrained in their ethos,” Ruble continued. “Spectrum contributes to causes that uplift and empower those in need. This commitment is not just a one-time gesture but a sustained effort, which fosters a sense of trust and goodwill.” Furthermore, she noted, Spectrum’s involvement “serves as a testament to their belief in the strength of community connections. They contribute to the vibrancy of our local culture and economy and showcase their business acumen and their genuine interest in fostering a thriving economy. Spectrum is more than a financial-service provider. It is a cornerstone of community development.” ABOUT THE GREAT BEND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD The Business of the Year Award is an annual award showcasing companies demonstrating excellence in the marketplace. Companies who are chosen for Business of the Year are members of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and have demonstrated excellence in the following areas: •Customer Service – A company ensures quality customer service experience every time. •Shown growth. •Positive response to adversity •Community Involvement – A company involves itself in business and non-business-related activities in the Great Bend community. •Innovative Business Practices – A company constantly improving its products, services, and programs to best serve its customers, vendors, and employees. Previous Business of the Year Recipients 2022 Dry Lake Brewing 2021 Bryant Funeral Homes 2020 Mind Sculpt Games 2019 TCI Answering Service 2018 Keller Real Estate & Insurance Agency 2017 Great Bend Children’s Clinic 2016 Countryside Veterinary Associates 2015 Eagle Media Center 2014 Great Bend Co-op Association 2013 Great Bend Regional Hospital 2012 Rosewood Services Inc. 2011 Tim Miller Enterprises 2010 Kustom Floor Designs Inc. 2009 Eldridge Fencing Inc. 2008 Business Management Inc. 2007 Great Bend Tribune 2006 Central Kansas Medical Center 2005 Venture Corporation 2004 Adams Brown, Beran & Ball Chtd. 2003 Great Bend Feeding Inc. 2002 CPI Qualified Plan Consultants Inc. 2001 Doonan Corporation 2000 Farmers Bank & Trust NA 1999 Dillons Stores 1998 Stickney Distributing Inc. 1997 Office Products Inc. 1996 Fuller Brush Company 1995 Becker Tire & Treading Inc. 1994 Straub International 1993 Marmies of Great Bend

2022 Award Winners

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NextGen Leader
Megan Hammeke

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Citizen of the Year
Scott Donovan


Legacy Award
Golden Belt Community Foundation


Business of the Year
Dry Lake Brewing

NextGen Leader: Megan Hammeke

Just taking a glance at Megan Hammeke’s title at the Great Bend Recreation Commission could be seen as an indication of why she was selected for the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce NextGen Leader Award. As marketing, aquatics and program director, Hammeke’s reach extends throughout The Rec and into the community. Chris Umphres, The Rec director, like others in the community, was not surprised that Hammeke was honored with the award. “Megan is very involved in her hometown community, and is well-liked and respected,” Umphres said. “She does a great job and doesn’t have to be micro-managed. She knows what to do and just does it. Megan has a real passion for her work. At the same time, Umphres added, Hammeke has found the balance between work and home. “Family is big to Megan and she shares a lot of her time with them,” Umphres said. Hammeke has a bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Performance from Fort Hays State University. She also is certified as a Park & Recreation Professional and is nationally certified as an Aquatics Facility Operator. Marissa Woodmansee, director of Juvenile Services, has known Hammeke professionally and personally for about 15 years. “We have worked together, especially through Central Kansas Partnership and her involvement in Youth Crew,” Woodmansee said. “And our kids went to school together. Megan is such a deserving person – a hidden gem because of all the different roles she plays.” Mentor to others Sheridan Beaumont has known Hammeke for most of her life and ultimately worked for her at Wetlands Waterpark. “Not only was Megan a great boss, she is a great friend,” Beaumont said. “The many hours we spent together were full of teamwork and fun. She created so many opportunities for us to laugh while we learned. “Megan also taught me about leadership and instilled in me a passion for safety on the job. Her mentorship has meant the world to me. Her guidance has shaped me, and so many others. Megan’s hard work and dedication shine bright. I truly cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.” Andrea Bauer, USD 428 director of public information, also noted Hammeke’s work at the waterpark. “She is often the first boss for up to 30 teenagers but goes beyond her official role. Megan becomes a mentor and positive influence for young people today and for years to come. “She also makes meaningful connections with the special-needs community and senior citizens by offering programming for these populations.” Bauer, who nominated Hammeke for the award, noted many other reasons she should be recognized but summed it up by saying “Megan works tirelessly to propel our community forward. She has a magnetic personality that draws people together in meaningful ways. “At The Rec and beyond, she advocates for our youth and invests time in their development. She is a servant leader who is always willing to roll up her sleeves and get the work done.” Family Ryan Hammeke, Megan’s husband, realizes his wife is recognized for what she does on the job and as a volunteer “but she puts so much extra into her efforts that most people never see.” For example, she writes to former waterpark employees in the off season while they are back at school. She just wants to check in with them and show appreciation for their work. “Megan has created a culture at the waterpark that attracts teenagers to become part of a team,” Ryan said. “But she also teaches the responsibilities that come with a job and career. She volunteers for multiple committees with the sole purpose of improving our community.” While others comment about Hammeke’s love for her family, Ryan sees it first-hand. “She is the best mother and wife, and has a special relationship with each kid. Whether it is dance, wrestling, swimming, basketball or something else, she is right there cheering them on. Their children are Emma, 11, and Easton, 8. “Megan is my best friend and even during busy seasons at work, she makes time for us,” Ryan commented. “She loves camping at the lake with family, including her parents, David and Stacey Brenner, and extended family. And we get together with close friends, while letting all the kids be kids.” Ryan also noted that since his wife plays so many roles in her job, some don’t see the “other Megan.” “She is a blast to be around,” he explained. “Megan strikes an incredible balance of being a fun-loving girl, singing at the top of her lungs and dancing, while also being a driven professional woman. The lucky ones get to see both sides.”

Citizen of the Year: Scott Donovan

When Scott Donovan’s name was mentioned as a possible nominee for the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award, Barry Bowers said it was “almost embarrassing” that Donovan hadn’t yet received this recognition in the past. Bowers, a close friend of the award winner, noted that Donovan’s energy and community involvement more than qualify him for this honor. “And, on top of that, he is just an all-around good guy,” Bowers said. “He would do anything for you; it is just the kind of person he is. You don’t hear negative comments about him.” Donovan specializes in sales at Eagle Radio and his background is chock-full of service on local boards and committees. His real name is Darrel Bieker, but because he is Scott Donovan while on the air, that is how most people know him. Those who know Donovan may not even realize the extent of his commitment to his family and volunteerism. “He is hyper-involved,” Bowers commented. “Scott has turned commitment into an art form. But he is not just a name on lists of board members and volunteers. If he agrees to do something, he will work at it. He is not a resume-builder. Scott thrives on the energy and the people around him. Donovan and his wife, Mary have been married for 27 years and have two adult children. Michala Bieker, 25, teaches first grade in Salina; Emma Bieker, 21, is a graduate student in social work in Kansas City. “The balancing act between home, work and volunteering is not easy,” Mary acknowledged. “It is a continual work in progress.” Mary also noted that she and Scott have had opportunities to move elsewhere but chose to raise their children here. “He has chosen to ‘bloom where you are planted,’” she explained. “He has been planted here and made it his life choice to help others be successful here too. “He has a servant’s heart,” she continued. “It is not about what you can do for him but what he can do for you. I think people don’t have a clear idea of how much time he freely donates to so many events with no expectation of pay. He is skilled at building relationships, which has helped him positively impact local people and businesses through the many hats he wears.” Mary summarized the reason for her family’s personal strength. “Our lives are centered around our faith in God. We have been very blessed by Him and that allows service to others.” Nominators Leonard Kaiser and Jon Prescott nominated Donovan for the Chamber award. Kaiser has known him since the late 1980s and served with him on boards and councils at Prince of Peace Parish, CASA, Knights of Columbus and others. “Without a doubt, Scott is driven by relationships and service to his family, community, friends and church,” Kaiser said. “He uses God’s gift of his voice and donates his energy and time to so many events. Service is truly his middle name.” Prescott noted “there is so much more to this man than what you hear on the radio. Over the last 40-plus years, he has given his time, dedication and resources to projects, charities, organizations, and most importantly, people.” Prescott collaborated with Donovan’s wife on a list that outlines his volunteer work. The list includes: Order of the Arrow Boy Scouts of America Section Chief; Sunflower Diversified Services board and past president; Kansas Association of Broadcasters board and past president; March of Dimes Walk America; Barton County Relay for Life; American Cancer Society; Optimist Club; Noon Lions Club; Great Bend Zoological Society board; CASA board; B-29 Memorial Committee; Chamber Ambassadors and various committees; Prince of Peace Parish and Holy Family School councils; Knights of Columbus; United Way of Central Kansas; Citizen’s Police Academy; Big Brothers/Big Sisters; and Great Bend High School Site Council. He has been active in the Barton County Fair, 3-i Show, Great Bend Farm & Ranch Expo and Great Bend Job Fest. In addition, he has served as emcee for the Hoisington Labor Day Parade; Great Bend Home for the Holidays Parade; CASA auction; Sunflower Charity Gala; Chamber annual banquet; Barton Community College auction; and many more. In 2008, Donovan received the Great Bend Greater Award from the Kiwanis Club and in 2006 his family was recognized by the Dodge City Diocese as the Knights of Columbus Family of the Year. “Scott has been a giver his entire life, putting the needs of others before his own,” Prescott summarized. “He genuinely makes a difference in the lives of those living in Great Bend, Barton County and beyond.”

Business of the Year: Dry Lake Brewing

Dry lake Brewing has only been open for about two years now, and it’s already a challenge to think of Great Bend without it. It has cemented itself as the prime place for locals to get together for a pint and/or cocktail or grab a bite to eat from one of the many amazing food trucks that frequent the back parking lot. When someone strolls through the DLB door, they can be assured they will be well taken care of by the staff because at this brewery they not only serve up drinks, but they also aim to serve up a memorable experience every time. This experience is something that founders Ryan Fairchild and Kevin Burkey keep at the forefront of their minds when they plan or produce anything at DLB. “First off, we just want to say ‘thank you,’” Fairchild said. “From both Kevin and I, from our families, from our staff. Everybody's been really supportive. People were willing to give us a chance and that’s huge.” Burkey agreed that every person who stepped through their doors helped him know they made the right decision to open a brewery in GBK. “Opening was overwhelming,” he said. “The response was fantastic. We had a couple of months where we were worried we were going to run out of beer. We’ve enjoyed being the first stop on the craft beer journey for some people. Great Bend has always been more of a ‘Bud Light’ community, and I think we've had a lot of people that start out with our Cheyenne Bottoms Pilsner that’s similar to what they were used to and have slowly migrated to find a new favorite. It’s been really cool to watch that journey.” The founders left nothing to chance and did their homework to ensure that their dream lived up to the hype they created in their minds, and it all started with meticulous research, which just happened to include travelling to a lot of breweries and, of course, sampling beers. “We talked to a lot of other breweries and the support from all the other breweries meant so much to us,” Fairchild said. “Talking to other people in the industry, and just kind of having been around different bars and breweries ourselves and seeing what we liked and what we didn't like, but also having detailed conversations with other brewers and owners and seeing what worked and what didn't work and just doing the research helped us start out on a positive note.” Burkey was quick to add that a key element to their success has been their staff. “I've been to bad breweries, and it comes down to two things either as bad beer or bad people,” he said. “So, to be a good brewery, you need both good beer and you need good people serving it and also good people making it, and good people promoting it. I think we make good beer. I think we've hired the right people and we’ve got a good crowd. People that absolutely care about us. They want to see us succeed.” Fairchild said one major priority is to make sure their staff is friendly and educated about the beer so they can help people who may have never tried craft beer figure out what they may like. With up to 12 beers on tap, even the most seasoned craftie-head can have a tough time deciding. “Whether this is your first time here or your 100th time here, we want you to feel welcome and comfortable,” he said. “We stress engagement to our staff, and we want you to feel at home.” Over the past two years, Dry Lake has grown its fanbase. It’s had to add capacity for more beer and introduced 16-ounce cans to go, so the proof is in the beer. It has hosted concerts, comedy nights, trivia nights, the Bike Brew Q pumpkin smash charity event, and sporting-event watch parties that have all created lasting memories for their customers and themselves. As the second anniversary celebration on May 6 approaches, the pair knows that while community is key to their success, their families and specifically their wives, Marisa Fairchild and Kelci Burkey, have been the lynchpins that have held the dream together.

Legacy Award: Golden Belt Community Foundation

Central Kansans probably didn’t realize it at the time, but in the early days of establishing the Golden Belt Community Foundation (GBCF) they hit the trifecta. While countless local individuals and businesses are responsible for GBCF’s success, three groups of community members came together at just the right time. They are the 37 founding donors, first board of directors and the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF). Christy Tustin, executive director, said the three groups that helped create GBCF “set us up for success. This started in 2001 when the Kansas Health Foundation became involved in community philanthropy by helping build and support community foundations. “The Kansas Health Foundation said ‘if you raise $300,000 in seed money, we will match it dollar for dollar.’ The founding donors stepped up and made this happen.” GBCF was incorporated in 1996 but there was no office location yet. However, bylaws and other administrative work were completed and Janet Siebert was the first part-time volunteer director; Catherine Brening came next. The first office was at 1307 Williams - the Chamber’s previous location and GBCF’s current site. “GBCF bought our current location from the Chamber as an investment in ourselves and our communities; we have come full circle,” Tustin said. The investment seems to have paid off. Today, total assets are approximately $30 million, with more than 200 funds under management. Grants totaling $10.8 million have been awarded since 2002 and $1.8 million raised over nine years of Giving Tuesdays, supporting more than 100 organizations and funds. Grants have reached into nearly every community in Barton, Pawnee, Rush and Stafford counties. “These numbers point to our legacy,” Tustin commented. “We are giving back to our communities in a big way. Just last year, $2 million in grants was awarded to local non-profit agencies, parks, playgrounds, schools, senior programs, food banks and many other entities in the social-services network. “The non-profits are the boots on the ground that make things happen. We connect all these pieces that make up a community.” Examples of GBCF’s recent programs include the Come Home Reverse Scholarship program that strives to recruit professionals to the area and uses funds to help pay off their student loans, and the Farmland Giving Program that allows gifts of farmland to be donated and managed by GBCF with the income supporting the charitable causes chosen by the donor. In addition, GBCF partnered with Great Bend Economic Development in applying for tax credits for construction of the new childcare facility. “GBCF was able to accomplish all this by encouraging donations at all levels,” Tustin noted. “No gift is too small to create an impact. Over the years, we have received gifts of cash, land/real estate, stock, life insurance and coin collections.” Tustin emphasized that the process for giving is easy, no matter the size of the gift. “The simplicity of donating is one of our benefits,” she said. “You can make one gift and support all the things you care about. We handle all the paperwork.” GBCF is the only charitable entity in the area that encourages broad community-endowment building. This ensures resources are available for needs that can’t be envisioned today. The Kansas Health Foundation GROW project launched in 1999 in an effort to keep philanthropic dollars in Kansas. KHF funding supports: match challenges and assets growth; health and wellness funds; philanthropic leadership training; and preparation for the complexities awaiting foundations in the future. The 37 founding donors, which include 27 individuals and 10 businesses, met the first challenge by raising the seed money. “I am grateful and owe much of our success to the KHF for its thoughtful insight and to our first board of directors for taking on this challenge,” Tustin commented. “We appreciate those first donors who invested with the hope and promise that GBCF would become a sustainable resource. “Today, I know that GBCF has met that expectation and will continue to build its legacy as new opportunities to build community wealth and philanthropy present themselves.” Today’s board concentrates its efforts and dedicates a portion of available funding to three strategic areas – childcare, mental health and economic development philanthropy, along with competitive grant programs that support many other causes and needs.

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