Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Hosts Successful 101st Annual Banquet & Awards
The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce hosted its 101st Annual Banquet & Awards on Saturday, February 25, 2023, at the Great Bend Events Center. This year's event brought together nearly 400 guests to celebrate and recognize the hard work and dedication of the business community over the past year. The evening's festivities began with a warm welcome from the chamber's President, Jane Smith, who expressed her gratitude for the hard work and commitment of the chamber members, and Eagle Radio’s Matt Althouse as Emcee. Throughout the night, many chamber members were featured and highlighted for their contributions to the community. During the evening, the following awards were presented: NextGen Leader of the Year: Presented by the 2021 recipient, Chuy Loera, to this year's winner, Megan Hammeke. This award recognizes a young professional who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and has made significant contributions to the community. Citizen of the Year Award: Presented by 2018's recipient, Barry Bowers with Spectrum CPA, to Scott Donovan. This award honors an individual who has gone above and beyond in their service to the community and has made a significant impact on the quality of life in Great Bend. Business of the Year Award: Presented by Maggie Harris, Barton Community College Chief Communications Officer, to Dry Lake Brewing. This award recognizes a local business that has shown exceptional growth, innovation, and community involvement. The Legacy Award: Presented by Josh Gant, Director of Ancillary & Support Services at the University of Kansas Health System in Great Bend, to Golden Belt Community Foundation. This award honors an organization that has made a lasting impact on the community and has demonstrated a commitment to improving the lives of its residents. We would like to extend our congratulations to all the award recipients and thank them for their contributions to the Great Bend community. Their hard work and dedication are an inspiration to us all. Guests were treated to a delicious dinner of smoked pork tenderloin by A&G Catering, accompanied by scalloped potatoes, green beans, and homemade bread by Great Bend Coffee. Each table was set with a charcuterie board, salads, and desserts by RePerks/Tellers. The food was a highlight of the evening and received rave reviews from guests. The Mirror of Memories Star Photobooth, created by Rana Lune Boutique, was a hit with guests, who enjoyed taking photos against the beautifully crafted backdrop. Josh Blankenship Media created the video graphics and the printed program, adding to the professional and polished atmosphere of the event. Shelly Arnberger assisted with decor, and Charlie's Place provided the bar services, ensuring that guests had a great time throughout the night. The Jay Bennett Jazz Band provided live music throughout the evening, adding to the celebratory and lively atmosphere of the event. The energy and excitement in the room were palpable as guests mingled, networked, and celebrated together. The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce would like to extend its sincere thanks to all those who contributed to the success of the event. The 101st Annual Banquet & Awards was a night to remember, and we look forward to continuing to celebrate and support the businesses and individuals who make our community great. Many thanks to this year’s Presenting Sponsors: Barton Community College, Spectrum CPA, and the University of Kansas Health System in Great Bend; Chamber Ally and Experience Sponsors: First Kansas Bank, Equity Bank, Great Bend Tribune, and Nex-Tech. Special event sponsors included TCI Answering Service and KanEquip. For a full list of sponsors, and more information on the event and award winners, visit www.greatbend.org.
Citizen of the Year
Business of the Year
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.”
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.
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.