By Sally Voth
The Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce honored several of its members and cherished its past during an elegant dinner Friday at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.
It was the chamber's 68th annual dinner and awards ceremony.
Incoming Chairman Jim Eastham gave a history of the organization while showing vintage photos and postcards from Front Royal's and Warren County's past. He explained that in 1926 Congress voted to authorize the creation of Shenandoah National Park.
That led to the construction of Skyline Drive, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Corps also built the courthouse, town hall, fire department and two new bridges, Eastham said.
The first chamber of commerce was created in 1940, but World War II caused an interruption, he said. However, post-war Front Royal became a tourist destination.
Eastham showed pictures of the numerous hotels and motels that sprouted up in the region, as well as some of the then well-known restaurants and gift shops.
Through it all, Eastham said, the chamber was there, promoting area businesses.
Today, the chamber is using the information highway to help its members, he said.
"In addition to our new website, it's being designed to connect our members with the world," Eastham said. "The chamber is positioning itself as the first stop of the virtual visitor's introduction to our community. Our goal is to link our members to prospects on that next click."
Emcee Mike O'Dell said one of the chamber's core jobs is recognizing those whose "contributions make this community a better place that we all love to call home."
He named Front Royal police detective Jason Ryman as the Public Safety Award winner. Among the contributions he's made to the community are teaching at the Citizen's Police Academy, training bank employees in case of robbery, and supervising security during downtown business events, O'Dell said.
The Humane Society of Warren County was named the Nonprofit of the Year. O'Dell said the society had a record year last year in terms of adoptions of cats and dogs. He added the group offers vaccine clinics, microchipping and education.
Warren Memorial Hospital and the Warren Memorial Hospital Foundation were recognized as the Education Contributor of the Year.
The hospital's contributions have included donations of concussion testing kits and automated external defibrillator equipment to schools, training high school staff in first aid and CPR, and partnering with Blue Ridge Technical Center on the certified nursing assistant program, according to O'Dell.
Warren Memorial Hospital Foundation has given $21,000 in two years in support of Warren County and Skyline high schools' Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences Program, and annually gives about $20,000 in scholarships to graduates, O'Dell said.
Jean's Jewelers was recognized as the Business of the Year. O'Dell cited the store's "high quality" products and "outstanding customer service." Owner Jean Plauger has supported the Blue Ridge Arts Council, the Humane Society, Harmony Place and St. Luke's Community Clinic.
Plauger said it was a pleasure to be a part of the chamber.
"It's all about the community," she said.
Katie Tewell was named the Citizen of the Year.
"She's willing to take on more than is ever expected," O'Dell said. "The word 'no' is not in her vocabulary...She balances her own family and children with so many other co-workers, friends and organizations. She's that fabled sister that everyone wishes they had."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org