Chamber honors citizens, groups
at annual awards night
LUM — It was a packed house for the Imlay City Chamber of Commerce’s annual Dinner Dance Gala on Saturday night at Castle Creek Golf Club. The assembled were there to honor the chamber’s 2019 award recipients-Citizen of the Year Ron Rickard, Merit Award winners Barb Yockey and Frank Demske and Organization of the Year honoree Ag Community Relief.
Rickard’s family members, law colleagues and friends in attendance contributed to the big crowd. The longtime Imlay City resident, business owner and community volunteer was honored for his involvement with the Imlay City Rotary Club, Young Life and Zone Productions, Imlay City School Board, local churches and more.
Nominator Ian Kempf said that Rickard has been “involved in just about everything in Imlay City” since moving here 45 years ago but he’s more than just a presence at events-Rickard is that person who always goes the extra mile.
Neighbor and friend Eric Ebert praised Rickard for his selfless heart and mentoring abilities while Pastor Rodney Sanderson Smith shared stories of how Rickard had impacted countless lives and his capacity for showing faith in people. State Rep. Gary Howell and Sen. Kevin Daley presented Rickard with a special state tribute. Howell thanked Rickard for “doing what was right for the community.”
“It’s been such a great honor to have been your neighbor for 45 years. We can’t imagine any place where we could be more loved,” Rickard said before turning his admiration to the people in the crowd, saying “Thank you all for what you do for the community.”
In comments made prior to Saturday’s Gala, Rickard said he considered the Citizen of the Year award one of the high points in his life, comparing it to when he received his law degree from Wayne State University.
Rickard is a partner in the Rickard, Denney, Garno, Leichliter & Childers law firm with offices in Imlay City, Lapeer and Romeo.
He said said he feels it’s important to give of his time and resources for the sake of his neighbors.
“The quality of the community depends on the quality of the people in that community. The reason why my family is so honored to live here for 45 years is because of the people like all those who have been honored in the past with this recognition,” Rickard said.
Dana Walker presented the award to the “dynamic duo” of Yockey and Demske.
The couple, married for 28 years, moved to Imlay City in 2000 and have served in various capacities since then. Both are members of the Friends of the Polly Ann Trail group, have served on city boards and commissions, given of their time for various community events including serving as parade announcers for the Busker Fest. Walker praised the couple for their energy, being team players and “willingness to have fun.”
Yockey said, “We’re thrilled and honored by this. I never expected to be standing here today.”
Demske added, “This is a very special community that we’re proud to be a part of.”
In a written statement, Yockey said, “Frank and I both feel strongly that we need to give back to the community whenever we can. We can’t be more thrilled to live and work here and want to give back because of all of the gifts that this community has given to us, and it’s also the right thing to do.”
Randy Jorgensen delivered impressive stats regarding what Ag Community Relief has accomplished in their short history. Just since 2017, the group has raised $750,000 to help farmers and ranchers impacted by natural disasters, established scholarship programs for FFA and 4-H members and even extended their efforts across the globe to help the ag community impacted by wildfires in Australia.
“Our community is very proud of you,” Jorgensen added.
Founder Matt Schaller accepted the award along with board members Eddie Fahley and Christy Gordon. Schaller thanked his friends for backing his idea some three years ago and praised them for continuing to “go above and beyond.”
“This community has been stellar,” Schaller added.
The Gala included dinner, dancing and music provided by the band, Remix.