Chamber Honors Business Leaders

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The Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards luncheon Tuesday, recognizing several businesses and individuals in the community.  

Chamber Director Cecelia Jenkins was named Citizen of the Year and April Sage of KeyBank was named Chamber Volunteer of the Year. The Rotary Club of Yelm, represented by President Tom Dewell, was named Nonprofit of the Year.

Businesses in five categories based on its size were named Business of the Year. They are: Allstate Insurance, Ronelle Funk, for 0-5 employees; Nisqually Valley News, Michael Wagar, for 6-10 employees; Jason’s Greenhouse, Jason Witherow, for 11-20 employees; McDonald’s of Yelm, Joseph Bravo, for 21-49 employees; and JZK, Inc., JZ Knight, for 50 or more employees.

Yelm Mayor Ron Harding presented Jenkins with her award for Citizen of the Year.

“I humbly accept this on behalf of all of you because every one of you deserve the same award,” Jenkins said.

Harding said Jenkins has been the Chamber director for the past 15 years and worked 42 years in the Yelm School District, and been involved in various programs in both organizations.

Jenkins started the Chamber Education Foundation, an organization that awards scholarships to local youth and provides new books to school libraries each year and started a variety of programs, Harding said, including Project Community Santa, Backpacks for Kids, the Clothing Connection for Kids, and the Yelm Business Partnership Program.

“These are legacies that will be hard to be matched by anybody that have had a significant impact on our community,” Harding said.

Jenkins received a statue, “the key to the city” — a key-shaped pin — and, to Jenkins’ delight, a Hawthorn pen.

Jenkins has been clamoring for a Hawthorn pen for years, Harding said. More than 80 years ago, people in the community brought trees from Oregon and planted them along Yelm Avenue. Those are the city’s historical Hawthorn trees, he said.

When those trees are trimmed, Harding takes some of the trimmings and has pens made out of them.

“I think it’s important for those members of our community to always have a little piece of our community and our history with them,” Harding said. “And that’s why I like to tell them you’ll always have a little bit of Yelm with you no matter where you go.”

Jenkins said she walked to school every day for 12 years as a child under the Hawthorn trees.

“I wanted the pen,” she said. “He (Harding) wouldn’t give it to me, but today he had to give me one,” she said with a laugh.

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